A QUALITY DIET–“YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT”
Besides keeping him indoors, the best way to assure your cat’s health and longevi- ty is to give him a good diet. It’s false economy to skimp on the quality of your cat’s food. Offer him the best cat food you can obtain. A few extra pennies for high- quality food will pay huge dividends in the quality of his health and life. Those pen- nies will save you hundreds of dollars in veterinarian bills
Your cat is an obligate carnivore. The primary component of his diet must be animal tissue—meat. Virtually everything about your cat, from the structure and function of his body to his biochemical makeup to the behavior blueprint laid down by his evolutionary development, calls for a meat-based diet:
Your cat has a short jaw, designed for gripping and holding prey. He has a relatively small number of teeth, optimized for up-and-down chopping, cutting, and tearing—and incapable of the side-to-side grinding motions typical of herbi- vores and omnivores
In the wild, small cats eat about ten small meals in a twenty-four-hour period. This habit of eating frequent but small meals is reflected in the structure of his digestive system. Your cat’s body cannot synthesize certain essential chemicals because he relies on being able to get them from prey. He must obtain these essentials, including the amino acids taurine and arginine, vitamin A, arachidonic acid, and niacin, from his food.
The importance of supplementing cat food with taurine was discovered only re- cently. A deficiency of this amino acid can lead to retinal degeneration, blindness, and serious heart problems. Adding taurine to cat food has saved the vision and lives of thousands of cats.
Your cat has a high-protein requirement—much higher than that of other mam- mals. A healthy adult cat’s diet should be at least 26 percent protein on a dry- matter basis—that is, excluding the water content of his food. Kittens need even more protein.
Your cat needs a high-fat diet—at least 10 percent on a dry-matter basis—for energy and to transport fat-soluble vitamins throughout his body. (More fat may be even better—cats, unlike humans, can handle large amounts of fat without harm.) Your cat also needs to obtain arachidonic acid, found only in animal fats, from his diet
- The Dangers of Vegetarian Diets for Cats.
Many people choose, for ethical or health reasons, to follow a vegetarian or vegan diet. This works for humans, because we’re omnivores—we can obtain the protein and other nutrients we need through various combinations of nonmeat sources. But a vegetarian diet cannot work for your cat. It’s unfair and unrealistic to impose human ethical standards on cats. And forc- ing a cat to eat a diet that isn’t based on meat imperils his health and his life
Choosing Cat Food
Choosing cat food can be a daunting challenge. Television and magazine adver- tisements tout dozens of brands, flavors, and varieties. Supermarket pet aisles tempt the shopper with packaging featuring handsome cats and loads of promises. Veterinarians sell special foods for a variety of medical conditions. There are spe- cial foods for kittens and seniors, foods that promise to keep your cat’s teeth clean, eliminate hair balls, and prevent urinary problems. There are bargain foods, mass- market brand foods, premium brands, and superpremium brands. Health-food stores, mail-order outlets, and the Internet offer still more choices, including “nat- ural,” “organic,” “raw,” and “whole-food” diets. What’s best for your cat? Unless your circumstances or your cat’s needs are unusual, you can’t go wrong with a readily obtainable, complete, balanced, high-quality food made by a rep- utable manufacturer, approved in feeding trials by the American Association of Feed Control Officers (AAFCO). Your cat’s diet should be appropriate for his health, condition, activity level, and life stage. And—he has to like it
- Life-Stage Feeding
Pound for pound, young kittens (two-to-six months) have twice the energy and nutrient needs as adult cats. Young kittens need to eat at least three meals per day. Until he’s a year old, feed your kitten a diet specially formulated for the needs of rapid growth and development. Then, gradually switch him over to an adult mainte- nance formula. Adolescent cats (six months to one year old) are still growing rapidly and need extra calories and nutrients. Be alert for any tendency towards overeating. Weigh your cat regularly, using a baby scale to note small changes. If he’s putting on too much weight, feed him controlled portions at set mealtimes, rather than leaving food out for him all the time. Obesity can start young and lead to a shortened lifetime of poor health. Senior cats—ten years old and older—often need easier-to-chew and easier-to- di-gest foods, and may also have chronic health problems such as diabetes, kidney disease, and weakened immune systems that can be managed through a well- planned diet. Some adult and older cats who’ve slowed down are prone to gaining excess weight and may benefit from a reduced-calorie or high-fiber diet .