What does a completed, balanced, and consistent diet look like?
The best food for your cat is based on age, breed, health status, strictly indoor or not, and activity level, your veterinarian can help with making that decision. Cats require an essential amino acid called taurine which is necessary for normal heart function, vision, and reproduction. Other animals like dogs can make taurine from other amino acids in the body, but cats cannot. Since taurine is only found in animal protein, cats need meat-based diets to meet their nutritional requirements. They are considered strict carnivores, and therefore cannot survive on a vegetarian diet. Make sure you give measured portions as directed by the staff at your veterinary clinic. Use the same cat food consistently, since variety can lead to uncomfortable digestive upset.
Each cat is different and therefore may require different feeding styles and schedules. Some cats prefer to be fed in meals but others prefer to nibble at food all day. If you have more than one cat, you may need stick to individual feeding format since different cats may require different diets to keep them healthy. Keeping a bowl full of food can least to weight gain and obesity, especially in a multi-cat household. Talk to your veterinarian about different feeding strategies to keep your cat(s) healthy for a long time!
Your cat should always have free access to fresh, clean water needs to be changed daily. Some cats prefer to drink from water fountains. You can usually find these in veterinary clinics or pet supply stores. Avoid giving your table scraps to cats, some foods meant for human consumption can cause harm to your cat. Offering milk or milk products can result in vomiting, gas and diarrhea since cats lack the enzyme lactase, that helps breakdown lactose in milk.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT NUTRITION AND EXERCISE
Should I worry about my cat’s weight?
Obesity in cats is very common in North America. It puts them at increased risk for several chronic conditions, such as diabetes, osteoarthritis, and Hepatic Lipidosis, a very serious disorder. Help your cat achieve and maintain a healthy weight by finding the right balance between food and exercise. Watch your cat’s weight and body condition and talk to your veterinarian to determine what and how much your cat should be eating each day. As a general rule, treats should be given in moderation and should represent no more than 10% of a cat’s daily food intake. The majority should come from a nutritionally complete cat food.
How can I be sure my cat gets plenty of exercise and play?
When we consider exercise and activity for cats, one of the first questions that pop up is whether cats should be kept strictly indoor or should they be able to go outside. This is a very important decision that needs to be discussed with your veterinarian as these lifestyles can have both risks and benefits. Click here to learn more about the risks of an indoor vs. an outdoor lifestyle for your cat. Regular activity for your cat will help ward off obesity and can prevent undesirable behaviour by providing both physical and mental stimulation.
Whether cats are strictly indoors or go outside, play should be included to build a bond and provide more chances to burn energy. Cats often like to play in the early morning or later in the evening, often when we are trying to rest. Schedule play time before and after a work day so that everyone’s needs are met.
There are an overwhelming number of options available as toys and games for cats. Talk to your veterinarian about which ones are cat safe and stick to toys that were made for them, including balls, toy mice, fishing-rod style toys, etc. It is a good idea to have several toys on hand and switch them up after a few days to maintain interest since cats enjoy a variety.
Be aware that your cat may not be able to distinguish a toy from something that could pose a danger, for example, balls of yarn, sewing thread/string, dental floss and even holiday tinsel can look like fun to them but may have serious consequences if swallowed.
What about indoor exercise?
When we choose to make our cats indoor companions, we have a responsibility to provide the stimulation, play, and exercise that nature would have provided outdoors. Some of the things to offer your cat with are several scratching and climbing posts, ledges that they can climb on, and even access to elevated playing areas. You can purchase a variety of cat “playhouses” or adapt indoor spaces with accessible areas where cats can climb and play.
Things that can stimulate your cat to move around include hiding small toys and treats in some of the play areas, throwing small cat balls or even playing with a laser pointer! Taking responsibility of our cat’s activity and exercise is an important step in ensuring that they have a happy and healthy life.
The health information contained herein are provided for educational purposes only and are not intended to replace discussions with a healthcare provider. All decisions regarding patient care must be made with a healthcare provider, considering the unique characteristics of the patient.