Professor Dick White, Founder and Principal of the specialist veterinary centre, Dick White Referrals, sees obese cats on a daily basis. Here, he answers your regularly asked questions and offers his cat diet tips to help prevent future weight problems.
1. How important is my cat’s diet?
Unlike dogs, the cat’s digestive system remains relatively un-adapted to domestication and still has some very important requirements including a high protein intake, specific amino acids (e.g. taurine which keeps their heart and eyes healthy and helps cats have kittens ), fats, vitamins (A, C, D & E) and calcium. Because of this, it is very unlikely that foods prepared at home can provide all of these nutritional needs for your cat – a commercial diet from a reputable manufacturer is by far the most practical choice.
2. Does the formulation of the diet make any difference?
The smell and texture of food are all important stimuli for a cat’s appetite; they respond to meat derived smells and tastes but do not however appear to be able to recognise sweet foods.
The formulation and temperature of the diet will also affect how your cat eats. Cats tend to consume dry food slower than moist sachet diets; they are less likely to accept food that has been heated.
3. I am out most of the day – is it OK to leave food out for my cat?
Cats are fairly reliable at controlling their daily intake of food and tend to have multiple ‘snacks’ rather than one large meal. Providing that the amount of food they receive does not regularly exceed their daily requirement, leaving food out for your cat is fine, especially if it is a drier formulation.
4. How should I ensure that my cat is getting enough fluid?
Some cats derive much of their water intake through their food however even if your cat shows no interest in drinking water it is important that all cats should have access to a supply of fresh water that is changed regularly. The popular belief that cats need milk as a supply of calcium is untrue; not all cats, especially Siamese and Siamese-crosses, will drink milk and others can develop diarrhoea because of lactose-intolerance.
5. Is it OK to alter my cat’s diet occasionally?
Cats seem to enjoy dietary variation and seem to be able to tolerate this better than dogs although they may be less enthusiastic about diets lacking in key nutritional components.
Remember, as your cat grows it will require different dietary requirements. Here are the PFMA’s (Pet Food Manufacturers Association) tips on feeding your cat through their lifetime.
- Kittens: Have small stomachs so need small meals quite often.
- Young cats: At around ten to twelve months kittens need to learn to eat adult cat food this should be done gradually over 3 to 4 days.
- Adult cats: If a cat stays indoors all day it needs less food than a cat that is able to go outside.
- Pregnant cats: Need more food than other adult cats – rising to 50% above normal at the end of pregnancy.
- Old cats: Cats over 8 years may be less active and aren’t so good at digesting their food so they might need food that is especially for older cats.