A good diet is essential to helping cats live longer, healthier lives. In many ways, it acts as preventative medicine and will actually save you money by avoiding the complications that come with an illness caused by (or made worse by) a diet that isn’t appropriate for them. With the following tips, you can start to make small changes to your cat’s daily routine that will make a big difference in improving their overall health.
1. Opt for canned food over kibble.
Cats are strict carnivores, which means they must eat meat to be healthy, and dry food just can’t meet their needs as well as wet food. Kibble tends to be too low in the right kind of animal proteins, too low in water, and too high in carbohydrates. (Since cats are carnivores, they don’t need to eat carbohydrates.) This can have a negative impact on your cat’s health over time and cost you more money on your vet bills than it would cost you to just feed them a better diet. Canned food is a much better choice for cats because it tends to have more animal proteins, is high in water, and is lower in carbs.
For more information, visit CatInfo.org. This is a great resource with more detailed information on the best diet for cats.
Note: You may need to consult your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet if they have health conditions that determine what foods they should or shouldn’t eat.
2. Learn how to interpret pet food labels.
For more information, visit “Deciphering Food Labels”.
3. Accommodate for your cat’s specific needs.
If your cat has any health concerns, then your vet may recommend that you feed them a specific kind of food, add supplements/medications to their daily routine, etc. in order to help them manage their conditions.
4. If you decide to switch your cat’s food, make it a gradual change.
5. Avoid foods that can be toxic to cats.
Some common foods that cats should never eat are alcohol, chocolate, caffeine, dairy products, grapes/raisins, onions/garlic/chives, xylitol (which is common in sugar-free foods like candy, gum, and toothpaste), yeast dough, and medications not prescribed for them. For a complete list, visit the Pet Poison Helpline.
6. Ensure your pet stays at the ideal weight.
Obesity can negatively affect your cat’s health in many ways, including increasing their risk of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, arthritis, and more, but the good news is that it’s one of the most preventable diseases in pets. If you think your cat may be obese, talk to your vet about the best way to start getting them to a healthier weight (i.e. how to calculate the exact amount of food they should eat every day).
7. Rather than free-feeding your cat, feed them small, frequent meals (~5 portions) throughout the day.
Cats are carnivores, and in the wild they must hunt several times a day to stay healthy so it’s important to feed them small, frequent meals that mimic their natural habits.
8. Place portions of your cat’s food in different locations so they have to engage their mind and “hunt” for it.
9. Try puzzle feeders.
10. Provide you cat with fresh water each day.
11. Make sure your cat’s food and water bowls are in a separate location away from their litter boxes.
12. Place their food bowl away from their water. (Cats tend to prefer this.)
13. Try using a pet water fountain.
Since cats would naturally get most of their hydration from the animals they would hunt, they aren’t inclined to drink enough water on their own. One way to help keep them hydrated is to feed them canned food, but since many cats prefer running water, buying a pet water fountain may help to increase their water intake too.
14. Clean out your cat’s food and water dishes on a regular basis.
15. Opt for ceramic or stainless steel bowls over plastic bowls.
Ceramic and stainless steel bowls are a better choice for cats because plastic bowls tend to retain bacteria, and this can cause cats to develop acne on their chin. (Some cats may even be allergic to plastic which can worsen the condition.)
If you have any questions regarding your cat’s diet, then we welcome you to contact us at our veterinary clinic and boarding facility here in Lake Oswego. We look forward to hearing from you!