Feral cats have a diverse, protein-rich diet, which can sometimes be difficult for their domesticated feline friends to replicate. Fortunately, there are several guidelines owners can follow to ensure their cat’s meals are both nutritious and delicious.
Dr. Debra Zoran, a professor at Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, offers tips for mimicking a cat’s natural diet and finding the best option for your pet.
When it comes to feline nutrition, the words complete and balanced are key, according to Zoran.
Even though cats are carnivores, a meat-only diet will lead to fatty acid, vitamin or mineral deficiencies; therefore, commercial diets are usually the easiest option for owners, as they contain the nutrients needed to provide a balanced diet.
“Feeding cats a complete and balanced canned food will be the easiest way to have a high protein, low carb diet that will also help with calorie control and ensure your cat meets their daily water needs” , said Zoran.
The ability of canned foods to increase water intake is one of the main reasons Zoran recommends them over dry foods. cats that eat only dry food consume less water overall and are more prone to dehydration.
“Many indoor cats are prone to health issues, including urinary tract blockages and constipation, due to dehydration,” she said. “Increasing water intake from eating canned foods is an important way to reduce the risk of these problems occurring or recurring.”
Dry diets also tend to be higher in fat, carbohydrates and calories, which may increase the risk of obesity.
“Dry diets have been shown to lead to obesity and diabetes in indoor cats,” Zoran said. “Indoor cats generally have fewer opportunities to exercise, have food available all the time, or are given too much food.”
In general, for healthy adult cats, the best option is a canned food with a protein content of 40% or more (greater than 10% if the can contains more than 78% water) and a carbohydrates of 10% or less. Another way to determine this is to make sure a carbohydrate source is not in the first five ingredients listed.
“Because every cat or kitten is an individual, just like people, they may have unique taste or texture preferences and dietary needs,” Zoran said. “Anyone who has more than one cat in their home knows that even if you want to give all the cats the same food (for convenience or simplicity), it’s not always possible.”
For this reason, she recommends tailoring each cat’s diet to their specific needs, life stage and preferences, in terms of flavor and texture, and ensuring that each cat only eats in his own bowl.
In addition to their usual canned diet, owners can sometimes treat their cats to small pieces of unseasoned cooked meat or catnip, which can be an excellent source of fiber.
The next time you buy food for your cat, take a moment to read the label and make sure your choice promotes your cat’s health and happiness. You’re sure to be rewarded with plenty of dinnertime purrs.
Pet Talk Listserv is a free news service from Texas A&M.