Our cats are important parts of our families, and it makes sense that we want to do everything we can to give them the best lives possible. As cat have unique dietary requirements compared to other common household pets, a well-rounded diet is commonly emphasized by experts as the most important way to positively contribute to their continued health. Still, many pet parents find it difficult to fully assess the quality of their cat’s diet, in part because of the sheer number of options for cat food on the market and all the different information that’s available. Here, Freshpet discusses a few ways that we can give our cats the best diet possible based on their needs.
Cats are obligate carnivores and need more protein than some other common pets because their metabolism quickly breaks down amino acids. To ensure that your cat is getting all of the protein that they require via their cat food, it is a great idea to choose options that you know have an efficient percentage of protein. This can be accomplished by selecting a premium, high-protein cat food.
While some pet parents are particularly vigilant about making sure that the cat food they purchase is devoid of harmful additives, many simply do not know what to look out for, and the list of what to avoid is always growing. Generally, it is a good idea to avoid chemical preservatives that can be potentially carcinogenic, including butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA), butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT), and ethoxyquin. Certain carbohydrate fillers can also cause health issues and, in some cases, do not have any benefit for maintaining your cat’s overall health. Corn, soy, and grain-meals are often cited as fillers to avoid when perusing cat food options.
Cats’ nutritional needs can differ at different stages of their lives. For example, a growing kitten will likely require a diet that is higher in protein, vitamins, minerals, and amino acids, whereas a senior cat may require less protein if they have certain health issues. Always choose a cat food that is formulated for your cat’s age and specific nutritional needs. If there is any confusion, a trusted veterinarian can provide insight on your choices specifically based on what your cat needs.
Cats typically do not drink much water on their own accord, a trait that stems from their ancestors that lived in the desert. Because of this, pet parents commonly choose fresh cat food options that are high in moisture content to ensure their cats get the water they require without needing to drink most of it. Cats that are dehydrated can develop a range of symptoms such as lethargy, depression, elevated heart rate, and loss of appetite. Dehydrated cats are also much more susceptible to urinary issues and bladder stone development. Remember that cats prefer moving water, so the addition of a bowl with a fountain could increase the amount of water that your cat drinks and supplement their hydration.
In our haste to introduce a cat food to our pets that we believe will be healthier for them, we sometimes forget that it is best to make gradual rather than sudden changes to their diets. This is because a sudden change in diet can cause an upset stomach that can quickly negate the benefits of the switch. Remember that the gradual change does not need to be difficult, and by simply mixing some of the new cat food in with the old during dinnertime, you can ease them into the change until they are completely switched. Some experts believe that this can be done over the period of a week but may take as long as ten days if your cat is older or particularly set in their ways. Be patient!
If you are planning on changing certain aspects of your cat’s diet, it is always a good idea to speak with your vet during your routine visits to get confirmation that you are on the right track. After all, cats’ dietary needs can vary from one cat to another and a vet will have a complete idea of what your cat may need to maintain their health. They can often speak from experience to inform you on what to look out for and what to avoid as you evaluate all your options. Your veterinarian can also assess your cat after you have made a change to ensure that their diet is continuing to have a positive impact.