Frequently Asked Questions - Food
I often get asked my thoughts on what to feed cats. Here's most of them. Please remember that I am not a veterinarian, so if you have any medical concerns with your cat, consult your vet.
What brand of food is the best to feed my cat?
That's a tough question. I'll start off by saying that if your cat has any sort of medical condition - for example, kidney disease, urinary crystals, or diabetes - you should keep them on the food recommended by your vet. This is especially true of cats with urinary issues.
However, if you have a perfectly healthy, normal weight cat, you do have some options. Personally, I don't like grocery store food. Now, some cats do great on that food their whole lives, but I've found that things like Wiskas or Fancy Feast tend to lead to overweight kitties.
When it comes to pet store vs veterinary, though, the differences aren't as pronounced. The important thing is to find something that your cat likes and digests well. So, is your cat's coat nice? Are the litter box activities normal (ie. no constant soft stool)? Are their teeth doing well? (see below for info on wet vs dry and dental care).
** Important caveat! This is not true of a cat with a history of urinary crystals or stones. YOU MUST FEED THE PRESCRIPTION DIET FOR THIS CONDITION. I cannot stress this enough. Yes, it is likely to cost more than pet store food, but consider this: in the long run, it will cost less than having to have your cat sedated to either unblock them or remove bladder stones (not to mention the stress on both you and your kitty if they need emergency surgery). In male cats, preventing crystals is especially critical. Crystals can block their urethra and this is a medical emergency. If your cat has had an incident with crystals and your vet has put you on specific food, DO NOT switch it without speaking to them first. **
There are great foods out there. Veterinarians are a good source of information. I know some people get worried that the vet just wants to sell their food to make money. Honestly, the food there is good - my cats all eat Royal Canin's veterinary line of food. However, a good vet will be willing to work with you and if you tell them you'd prefer to purchase food at a pet store, they should be able to help you. A good pet store will also have a lot of information about the foods they carry and will be able to help you find something that works for both you and your cat.
Do I need to feed my cat wet food?
I would and I do. Backing up... there was a theory for a while that cats shouldn't eat wet food as it isn't as good for their teeth as dry. That's been pretty much abandoned as a recommendation. Regular dry food isn't any better or worse for teeth than wet unless you are feeding a specific dental kibble (the kind from a vet clinic).
Wet food has several benefits:
- it helps add moisture to your cat's diet. One theory at the moment is that a cat in the wild would get some of his/her water from prey animals. Your cat on dry food? Not so much.
- There's less carbohydrates. Cats are obligate carnivores, unlike dogs, who are omnivores (as are humans). That means that they don't go around munching grass or grains the way their prey does. Dry food has way more stuff in it that is not a normal cat diet
- Some cats can be very texture picky. So, if your cat has been eating only kibble for 15 years and is then suddenly diagnosed with kidney disease, you may have a bit of a problem. Cats with kidney disease should eat wet food, but your elderly feline may not want to eat it at this point as they may not realize it's food. Keeping them on a bit of wet their whole lives can help prevent this.
Dry food isn't bad though - I feed my cats a mix. They get dry food in the morning and wet food at night. I find that works as a balance between cost (as dry is cheaper) and health.
My cat is overweight. What should I do to help him/her lose weight?
I've been through this with one of my cats. If there's one piece of advice I can give you it's this: MEASURE YOUR CAT'S FOOD. I cannot stress this enough. See your vet and have them calculate out the amount of kilo calories your kitty needs per day. If you want a recommendation of a diet food, they'll have some good ones at the clinic. However, if you have a brand you like from the pet store, bring a bag with the nutrient info on it and they should be able to help you figure out a feeding plan. Make sure that if you want to give treats that you subtract some food to compensate.
But what if you have more than one cat? I do too. They'll need to be split up for feeding. If you're already doing meal feeding, this isn't too hard. I got my cats used to their new food spots in a couple of weeks - they are creatures of habit and food is their greatest motivator. You just have to be consistent and make sure there's a door you can close. And don't worry, you can find spaces to split them up - I live in a one bedroom apartment and have three cats. They all eat in separate rooms and do just fine.
If you aren't doing meal feeding, start. It probably won't be the most fun process for either of you, but it will be way better in the long run. Just feeding diet food is not going to help if your overweight kitty is eating more than the required amount each day by getting into your other cat's food. It's easiest to go to three or four small meals, then gradually down to two. Make sure that those meals only add up the total amount that your kitty should eat per day (so, for example, if you kitty should have one cup of food, four meals would be 1/4 cup each, two meals would be 1/2 cup each).
If you only have one cat and want to stay with free feeding, make sure that you don't put out any more than the prescribed amount for the day. So, no more filling the bowl when it's empty. if you find that your kitty has emptied his/her bowl by noon and is crying all night, try the above method of splitting the food into several smaller meals.
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