Understanding Your Cat's Eating Habits
Compared with humans, your favorite feline needs a high-fat, high-protein diet with certain animal nutrients. Cats usually eat many small meals throughout the day, so they easily adopt a free-choice feeding schedule to maintain their normal body weight. Dry foods are best suited for free-choice feeding because they stay fresh longer.
Nutritional Building Blocks
Cats need nutrients from animal-based protein sources. Providing the vitamins, minerals, protein, and other components found in a complete and balanced pet food can lead to a long and healthy life for your cat. It is important to avoid supplementing your cat's diet, as doing so may lead to a variety of health problems. When selecting a pet food, look for ones that offer the following nutrients:
- Animal protein from meat, poultry, fish, or egg sources to maintain strong muscular structure, vital organs, antibodies, and more
- Taurine, an amino acid found in meat sources such as chicken and fish, but not in plant proteins, to maintain healthy eyes, prevent heart disease, and promote healthy reproduction, fetal growth, and development
- Essential vitamins and minerals such as vitamin A, which can be found pre-formed only in animal tissues, and vitamin E to help support the immune system
- A precise balance of fatty acids to help promote excellent skin and coat health
- A fiber source, such as beet pulp, that will help maintain your cat's digestive system health
Special Dietary Needs
Pregnant or Lactating Cats
A cat's energy intake should be increased gradually by up to 50% over her maintenance intake through pregnancy. You can use kitten food to provide nutritional support during the last few weeks of gestation.
After birth, the mother cat's energy needs increase by 50% to 75% over normal in the first week to twice normal the second week and to three times during the third week. The third and fourth weeks are the most demanding because kittens are still consuming milk and have not begun to eat dry or canned food. Once kittens begin weaning, the mother cat should be tapered back to normal food portions to avoid unnecessary weight gain.
Food and energy requirements may vary for your adult cat. In general, indoor cats have less opportunity or need to exercise than outdoor cats. As a result, indoor cats are more prone to obesity, and regular exercise should be encouraged. You may want to control your cat's portions and choose a cat food made to help maintain weight.
Cats spend a considerable amount of time grooming. In the process, hair can be swallowed and build up in the stomach. If the hairball doesn’t pass into the intestines, a cat may try to cough it up. A special diet can help decrease the likelihood of hairballs, but you may decrease its effectiveness if you combine it with other foods.