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Cat Food: A Complete Nutrition Guide For Your Cat

What food is best for a cat? Cats are amazing creatures, unique and one of a kind. The uniqueness of these animals manifests itself in almost all aspects of their existence, including their specific nutritional requirements.

Cat food

Wild cats and domestic cats are strict predators that must depend on ingredients derived from animal tissues in order to meet their specific nutritional needs.

We still very often treat cats as small dogs, and the nutritional differences between these two species are unfortunately underestimated.

In their natural environment, felines consume their prey rich in protein, with a moderate amount of fat and a minimum amount of carbohydrates, therefore they are biochemically adapted to increased protein metabolism, and are less able to convert carbohydrates than canine or other omnivores.

Enclosing cats in homes and creating friendly, purring pets out of them is all that has been achieved during the several thousand-year-long process of cat domestication.

The nature of the hunter is still one of the most important features of these animals, and the specific anatomical and physiological conditions determine the type of preferred food.

And it is precisely around dietary issues in cats that I want to focus on in this study.

I will outline the key factors in the optimal nutrition of the obligatory predator in the home environment, and discuss some diseases that can be caused by a poor diet and I will briefly describe what to consider when choosing a cat food.

Finally, I will also mention the veterinary food for cats, which are dedicated to animals with various health problems. I invite you to read!

  • Cats' nutritional requirements
    • Protein
    • Amino acids
    • Carbohydrates
    • Fats
    • Vitamins
    • Mineral compounds
    • Water
  • The cat's energy requirements
    • Kittens' energy needs
    • Energy needs of pregnant and lactating cats
    • Adult cats' energy needs
  • Types of cat food
  • Commercial feed
  • Dry cat food
  • Semi-moist food
  • Canned wet cat food
  • How to read cat food labels?
  • How to choose cat food?
    • What to look for when choosing cat food
    • Now for some details
  • Food additives in cat food
  • Cat food prepared at home
    • Types and sources of meat
  • Raw meat diets
  • Switching from dry food to a canned or home cooked diet
  • The influence of diet on the health of cats
    • Obesity
    • How to fight obesity in a cat?
    • Diabetes
    • Fatty liver (fatty liver disease, liver lipidosis)
    • Chronic kidney disease
    • Urolithiasis / idiopathic cystitis / urethral obstruction
    • Tartar and dental diseases
    • Food intolerance and inflammatory bowel disease
    • Cat Asthma / Allergic Respiratory Disease
    • Constipation in a cat
    • Anorexia
  • Veterinary cat food
    • Cat food is prescribed for kidney disease
    • Veterinary food for cats used in diabetes
    • Specialized diets for intestinal problems

Cats' nutritional requirements

Nutritional needs of cats

Animals need different types of nutrients to survive:

  • proteins,
  • fatty acids,
  • carbohydrates,
  • vitamins,
  • minerals
  • and water.

A cat's unique nutritional requirements depend, among other things, on its size, clinical condition and life stage.

Better understanding of how felids use each nutrient in their food and how much they need can help you choose a healthy diet for your pet.

Protein

Dietary protein contains several specific amino acids that cats cannot make on their own.

These are the so-called. essential (exogenous) amino acids that must be supplied with food.

You should here:

  • arginine,
  • histidine,
  • isoleucine,
  • leucine,
  • lysine,
  • methionine,
  • phenylalanine,
  • taurine,
  • threonine,
  • tryptophan.

These amino acids are building blocks for many biologically important compounds and proteins. Additionally, they provide the carbon chains needed to produce glucose for energy.

The fundamental difference in energy metabolism mentioned in the introduction forces cats to use protein to maintain adequate blood glucose levels (even if dietary protein sources are limited).

Kittens have a protein requirement 1.5 times larger than young animals of other species.

However, adult cats need it already 2-3 times more protein in the diet than adult representatives of omnivorous species.

Such high protein requirements may result from increased nitrogen or essential amino acid requirements.

When it comes to adult cats, the increased need for protein can be attributed to both factors, while in the case of kittens, the need for nitrogen plays a major role (their need for essential amino acids is similar to that of young animals of other species).

In terms of energy and structure, cats are therefore largely dependent on the supply of protein in the diet. Most omnivores experience a decrease in the activity of aminotransferases and other enzymes involved in protein catabolism when fed a reduced protein diet.

One study has shown that this is not the case for cats:

regardless of whether they were fed a high or low protein diet, the adaptation of transaminases or urea cycle enzymes was minimal.

Another study suggested that cats have a limited ability to adjust protein utilization to dietary protein intake, however the main finding in this study was the increase in protein oxidation in cats fed high-protein diets. Protein oxidation was not decreased in animals fed moderate protein foods (low-protein diets have not been evaluated).

Overall, these studies confirm that cats continue to consume protein for energy production and other metabolic pathways (e.g. in the urea cycle) even in the face of low protein availability in the diet.

Protein malnutrition may occur more quickly in cats compared to other animals, especially in sick, injured or anorectic animals.

Amino acids

In addition to their increased protein requirements, cats also need larger amounts of certain specific amino acids in their diets:

  • taurine,
  • arginine,
  • methionine,
  • cysteine.

These specific amino acid requirements were most likely based on the fact that their natural diet is rich in these specific compounds (apart from the eleven essential amino acids).

Their synthesis takes place in the organisms of omnivorous animals, so why cats are deprived of it?

A likely reason for the lack of synthetic pathways for these amino acids may be that they are redundant (as they are present in large amounts in natural prey) and therefore energy inefficient.

In addition, cats are unable to store these amino acids.

In fact, the use of taurine, methionine, arginine and cysteine ​​is higher in cats than in dogs or other animal species.

Taurine

Taurine is a sulfur-containing amino acid.

It is not a typical protein amino acid, but it is essential for the proper vision process, the proper functioning of the heart muscle and the nervous, reproductive and immune systems.

Cats cannot synthesize an adequate amount of it from common precursors (methionine and cysteine), so it is an essential compound that must be supplied with food.

Additional matters that complicate the nutritional requirements of taurine include:

  • The activity of the enzymes needed to synthesize this compound in cats is minimal.
  • Moreover, in these animals there is a constant loss of taurine into the bile as they only couple the bile acids with taurine.
  • Protein Source - Taurine is found in animal proteins, but must be supplemented when plant-based proteins are the basis of the diet.
  • Manufacturing processes - heat treatment reduces the bioavailability of taurine.
  • The content of sulfur-containing amino acids in the diet. Taurine is synthesized from sulfur-containing amino acids (methionine, cysteine), but in cats, this method of obtaining the amino acid will not meet their needs.
  • Amount of dietary fiber in the diet - A high-fiber diet increases the need for taurine.

In most cats, clinical signs of taurine deficiency do not appear until an extended period of time, even after several months.

The most common symptoms are:

  • blindness (central retinal degeneration),
  • reproductive problems,
  • weak or dead kittens,
  • development of dilated cardiomyopathy.

Deficiency is diagnosed by measuring the concentration of taurine in whole blood.

The reference range of taurine in the blood is > 300 nmol / l. Concentration lower than 160 nmol / l testifies to a deficiency of taurine.

Arginine

It is an essential amino acid in dogs and cats, however, unlike dogs, cats are unable to synthesize enough ornithine and citrulline (for conversion to arginine). So it must be available in their diet.

In addition, these animals constantly consume large amounts of arginine in the urea cycle (this cycle in cats is not inhibited during periods of food retention or when feeding on a low-protein diet).

In cats and kittens fed an arginine-free diet, clinical signs of hyperammonemia appear, such as:

  • drooling,
  • neurological disorders,
  • hyperesthesia,
  • vomiting,
  • tetany,
  • coma,
  • even death.

Arginine deficiency is rare in cats fed a proper diet because animal tissues are rich in arginine and citrulline, however, in the case of cats fed a diet based on plant protein, supplementation with this amino acid is advisable.

The addition of arginine may also be helpful in anorectic cats suffering from liver lipidosis.

The recommended dose of arginine, reported by the literature, is 250 mg per day.

Methionine and cysteine

Cats' demand for these amino acids is also higher than that of dogs and other animals.

In cats, methionine and cysteine ​​are gluconeogenic amino acids that are catabolized to pyruvate and then oxidized for energy.

In dogs and other animals, these amino acids, in addition to various important applications, are primarily converted into taurine, homocysteine, and S-adenosyl-methionine and its metabolites, which are important antioxidants and free radical scavengers.

Cysteine ​​in cats is also needed for the production of hair and felinin, a specific sulfur-containing amino acid found in the urine of these animals. The highest concentrations of felinin are found in non-castrated cats, while much lower levels of this amino acid are found in the urine of castrated cats and kittens.

Despite the increased demand for methionine and cysteine ​​in cats, they are very rarely deficient in these amino acids as they are abundant in animal tissues. So if your cat is being fed a species-appropriate diet, there is no need for concern.

However, deficiencies may occur in anorectic animals or animals fed a diet based on plant-based proteins, as well as in patients fed enteral formulations intended for human use.

Deficiencies of these amino acids are manifested mainly in the form of a weak coat.

Tyrosine

The amino acid, which is considered conditionally exogenous in cats, is not an essential amino acid in other animal species.

It plays an important role in the synthesis and homeostasis of melanin, which is present as a pigment in the hair and skin.

Tyrosine is synthesized from phenylalanine (an amino acid found in many proteins), but cats' diets may not contain enough of it for the synthesis of tyrosine and then melanin.

Tyrosine deficiency is most often seen in black cats, and the symptom is a reddish-brownish discoloration of the hair.

Fortunately, this effect can be reversed by giving your cat a food rich in animal protein.

Carnitine

It is a vitamin-like substance, increasingly recognized as conditionally essential.

Its main role is to transport long-chain fatty acids, which are transferred to the mitochondria (energy centers of the cell).

Cats are able to synthesize carnitine from lysine and methionine, the main source of which is meat and dairy. In cats, synthesis takes place in the kidneys, unlike other animals (e.g. dogs) in which the compound is formed in the liver.

Carnitine is produced with the participation of several B vitamins and iron, so its synthesis may be limited in sick and / or anorectic animals.

In humans, carnitine deficiency leads to the accumulation of lipids in the liver and its dysfunction. A similar relationship may occur in cats with liver lipidosis, as evidenced by the fact that the use of a carnitine supplement accelerates regeneration and extends the survival time of sick cats.

Carnitine also increases lean muscle mass and promotes weight loss in obese cats.

The recommended carnitine dosage for obese cats with liver lipidosis is 250-500 mg / day.

Carbohydrates

It is obvious that cats have a higher protein requirement than dogs and other omnivores.

But what about carbohydrates and fat?

Cats are evolutionarily programmed to consume small amounts of carbohydrates, as evidenced by anatomical and physiological conditions.

The first physiological adaptation to reduced carbohydrate consumption is lack of salivary amylase - the enzyme responsible for initiating the digestion of carbohydrates.

Also, the low activity of intestinal and pancreatic amylase and the reduced activity of intestinal disaccharidases that break down carbohydrates in the small intestine confirm the fact that cats are naturally programmed to eat meat.

This does not mean that cats do not eat carbohydrates at all. In fact, these animals are extremely efficient at using simple sugars.

These digestive differences may mean that high carbohydrate intake in the diet can have adverse effects, such as. reduction of protein digestibility or lowering the pH of feline feces (which is caused by incomplete fermentation of carbohydrates in the small intestine, which in turn intensifies microbial fermentation in the colon and the production of organic acids).

The metabolic functions of the cat's liver influence the metabolism of disaccharides. In most animals, hepatic hexokinase and glucokinase are active and are responsible for the phosphorylation of glucose for its storage or oxidation.

In cats, the function of hepatic glucokinase is minimal and its activity is not adaptive (i.e. it does not increase when the diet is high in carbohydrates).

Additionally, in cats, the activity of hepatic glycogen synthetase (the enzyme responsible for converting glucose into glycogen for storage in the liver) is minimal.

The likely cause of the low activity of these enzymes is the cat's specific metabolic program, which uses gluconeogenic amino acids and fat for energy instead of carbohydrates.

What is the conclusion from this?

Cats have a limited ability to rapidly minimize hyperglycemia when there is a high glucose load in their diet.

In carnivores, glucose levels are more consistent (there is less fluctuation in postprandial sugar levels) because glucose is released in small but continuous boluses over an extended period of time through the catabolism of gluconeogenic proteins.

Therefore, excess dietary carbohydrate that is not stored as muscle glycogen or used for energy is considered fat.

Cat liver does not contain fructokinase - an enzyme necessary for the metabolism of simple sugars. As a result of eating a diet rich in simple sugars, they lead to an excessive increase in blood glucose and fructose levels.

Finally, cats are not interested in sweet-tasting foods, unlike dogs and humans.

Cats prefer food that smells of animal products (e.g. fats or meat). This is important to keep in mind when feeding cats with anorexia.

Fats

In the food of carnivores, fat makes up most of the fuel necessary for energy.

Additionally, it is a key ingredient in improving the palatability of food, making a fat-rich diet much better accepted by cats.

Meat foods that contain fat are a source of unsaturated fatty acids such as acid:

  • linoleic,
  • linolenic,
  • peanut,
  • eicosatrienic.

Most species can convert linoleic acid to arachidonic acid, which is the major precursor to leukotrienes, prostaglandins, and thromboxanes.

They can also convert α-linolenic acid into eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid, however cats lack the enzyme activity (called desaturases) that are required for the synthesis of arachidonic, eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic acids.

A possible reason for this may be that cats' natural diets are high in arachidonic acid.

The maximum amount of fat in a healthy cat's diet can be high without any known side effects. In many cat foods, 50% or even more of the energy comes from fat.

In turn, the minimum fat content should be about 9% of dry matter.

Essential fatty acids are essential for the maintenance of a healthy cat's skin and coat. Fatty acid deficiencies from the so-called. the omega-3 families can lead to abnormalities in the nervous system or visual disturbances.

Omega-6 fatty acids also have important functions in the body. Tissues and organs involved in the storage (fat), metabolism (liver), mechanical work (muscles) and excretion (kidneys) are made up of cells with large amounts of these acids in their membranes.

Vitamins

Vitamin requirements are also specific for cats.

First of all, these animals require an increased amount of many water-soluble B vitamins, including thiamine (Vit B1), niacin, pyridoxine (vitamin. B6), and in some situations also cobalamins (vit. B12).

The latter vitamin is especially important as it is an essential cofactor in all transaminase reactions that are constantly active in cats.

Cats can synthesize niacin, but their need for niacin is four times higher than that of dogs.

However, deficiency of B vitamins is rare in cats eating a proper, species-specific diet - that is, one rich in animal tissues in which vitamin B is found at high levels.

Since most of the water-soluble B vitamins are not stored (except cobalamin, which is stored in the liver), it is essential for your cat to eat a proper diet to prevent deficiencies.

Thiamine deficiency can occur in anorexic animals and cats that eat a diet rich in thiaminase (found in high amounts in fish and other seafood), with severe muscle weakness.

Then supplementation with vitamin B complex is necessary.

Vitamins A, D, E and K are fat-soluble vitamins of which cats have a special need for vitamins A and D.

Vitamin A is found only in animal tissues and must be provided as a biologically active form in the diet of cats.

Due to the lack of the necessary intestinal enzyme, they cannot convert beta-carotene (present in plants) into retinol, which is the active form of vitamin A.

Vitamin A plays an important role in many physiological processes, such as. proper vision, bone and muscle growth, reproduction, and is responsible for the proper functioning of epithelial tissue.

Vitamin A deficiency is rare in cats because it is stored in the liver. In fact, deficiencies only occur in cats with severe liver failure or gastrointestinal disease that leads to fat malabsorption.

Supplementation with this vitamin should be carried out very carefully as toxicosis may develop, causing hepatotoxicity or causing hepatitis.

The recommended dose of oral vitamin A in cats deficient in it is 400U / kg body weight per day.

Dietary vitamin A levels that are too high, as a natural consequence of feeding cats large amounts of liver, can cause hypervitaminosis A, a condition characterized by various changes in the skeletal system.

Vitamin D must also be provided with the diet.

Cats do not produce calcitriol because they lack 7-dehydrocholesterol, which is necessary for the synthesis of this vitamin.

Vitamin D is abundant in the livers and adipose tissue of animals, and cats therefore meet their needs with a meat-based diet.

The primary function of vitamin D is maintaining calcium and phosphorus homeostasis, with particular emphasis on the absorption and deposition of calcium in the bones.

Vitamin D deficiency is very rare in cats, and if this occurs, supplementation should be made very carefully and only in cats with hypocalcaemia.

The recommended daily allowance of vitamin D3 in cats is 0.03-0.06 mcg / kg m. c orally. In cats treated with calcitriol, serum ionized calcium levels should be measured.

Vitamin E is another fat-soluble vitamin that you should pay attention to as it is sometimes deficient.

Diets high in polyunsaturated fatty acids (contained in fish oil) can increase the need for this vitamin by up to 3 or 4 times.

Vitamin E stabilizes unsaturated fats.

When a cat ingests significant amounts of unsaturated fatty acids without adequate amounts of antioxidants (vitamin E), fat peroxidation and subsequent necrosis may occur. Adipose tissue becomes hard and turns yellow to orange-brown in color.

This condition is known as pansteatitis (inflammation of the fatty tissue) or yellow fat disease. Most commercial cat food contains vitamin E, but this may not be sufficient if the cat also gets generous amounts of tuna or other fish in addition (cod liver oil is high in unsaturated fatty acids and low in antioxidants such as vitamin E).

The clinical symptoms of pansteatitis are mainly:

  • fever,
  • anorexia,
  • sensitivity when palpating the abdominal cavity and chest,
  • you may feel small lumps in the subcutaneous tissue.

The last fat-soluble vitamin - vitamin K - is also important, but cats are rarely deficient. Insufficient amounts of this vitamin may occur in animals with long-term anorexia, liver disease, or severe bowel disease with impaired fat absorption.

Mineral compounds

Minerals are needed to maintain the acid-base balance, osmotic pressure and tissue structure.

They are also essential for many enzymatic processes.

While the content of certain elements in cat diets may meet the minimum requirements, you should always consider them bioavailability. Compounds that may affect the absorption of minerals are e.g. phytic acid and chitin.

If e.g. phosphorus in the diet comes mainly from plants, it will be available to the body in only approx thirty%, since it is likely to relate heavily to phytate.

Likewise bioavailability zinc - a component of many enzymes - is limited in the presence of high amounts of phytate and fiber in the diet.

In turn, adding minerals to the diet in the form of supplements may result in interactions between them, e.g. an excess of one element may limit the absorption of another (excess phosphorus in the diet reduces the bioavailability of iron).

Calcium and phosphorus are essential for strong bones and teeth.

It is extremely important that these minerals are included in the diet in a certain ratio. The optimal ratio of calcium to phosphorus is 1.1: 1 down 1.5: 1.

Diets composed primarily of red meat (hearts and skeletal muscles) can significantly disrupt this ratio, with the risk of developing it secondary hyperparathyroidism.

Beef heart has a ratio of calcium to phosphorus equal 1:40, and the horse 1:10.

A significant excess of phosphorus in these foods can lead to insufficient calcium absorption, which in turn can lead to hypocalcemia.

Low calcium levels stimulate the parathyroid glands to release parathyroid hormone to restore normal serum calcium levels.

However, the increased level of parathyroid hormone causes more bone resorption (this is where the body tries to obtain the calcium it needs), which in turn causes bone loss.

Cats also need other minerals such as magnesium, potassium and sodium for conduction of nerve impulses, muscle contraction and cell signaling.

Many elements that are only present in small amounts in the body (e.g. selenium, copper, molybdenum), supports many different enzymatic reactions.

The requirements for each of these ingredients may change with the age of your cat.

Calcium

Participates in:

  • formation of bones and teeth,
  • blood clotting,
  • transmission of nerve impulses,
  • muscle contraction,
  • cell signaling.

Deficiency symptoms:

  • secondary nutritional hyperparathyroidism,
  • loss of bone mineral density, which can lead to pathological changes in the lumbar vertebrae and pelvic bones,
  • bone ache,
  • pathological fractures.

Phosphorus

Participates in:

  • skeleton formation,
  • is part of the structure of DNA and RNA,
  • it is important in energy metabolism, locomotion and in maintaining the acid-base balance.

Deficiency symptoms:

  • hemolytic anemia,
  • movement disorders,
  • metabolic acidosis.

Magnesium

Performs enzymatic functions, is responsible for:

  • durability of cell membranes of muscle and nerve cells,
  • secretion of hormones,
  • the mineral structure of bones and teeth.

Symptoms of magnesium deficiency:

  • poor growth,
  • muscle cramps,
  • seizures.

An excess of magnesium promotes the formation of urinary stones in the presence of a high pH.

Sodium

It plays an important role in:

  • acid-base balance,
  • regulation of osmotic pressure,
  • transmission of nerve impulses.

Deficiency symptoms:

  • anorexia,
  • stunted growth,
  • excessive thirst and drinking,
  • excessive urination.

Potassium

It plays a role in:

  • acid-base balance,
  • transmission of nerve impulses,
  • enzymatic reactions.

Deficiency symptoms:

  • anorexia,
  • neurological disorders,
  • severe muscle weakness.

Chlorine

It takes part in the acid-base balance and is responsible for the osmolarity of extracellular fluids.

With an excess of chlorine, it comes to increased potassium excretion.

Iron

It takes part in the synthesis of hemoglobin and myoglobin and in energy metabolism.

Deficiency symptoms:

  • growth disturbance,
  • pale mucous membranes,
  • lethargy,
  • weakness,
  • diarrhea.

Excess iron may manifest itself as vomiting and diarrhea.

copper

Participates in:

  • formation of connective tissue,
  • iron metabolism,
  • the formation of blood cells,
  • the formation of melanin,
  • myelin formation,
  • defense against oxidative damage.

Deficiency symptoms:

  • reduced weight gain,
  • reproductive disorders.

Zinc

Participates in:

  • enzymatic reactions,
  • cell replication,
  • protein and carbohydrate metabolism,
  • wound healing,
  • other skin functions.

Deficiency symptoms:

  • skin changes,
  • growth retardation,
  • testicular atrophy.

Manganese

Plays a role in:

  • enzymatic reactions,
  • bone development,
  • neurological processes.

Selenium

It takes part in the defense against oxidative damage and the immune response.

Iodine

It plays an important role in:

  • synthesis of thyroid hormones,
  • cell differentiation,
  • regulating the metabolic rate.

Deficiency symptoms:

  • enlargement of the thyroid gland,
  • excessive tearing,
  • drooling,
  • runny nose,
  • dandruff.

Water

Cats' need for water reflects their previous lifestyle as desert animals and their development path as strict predators that obtain most of their water by consuming their prey.

Cats are less responsive to thirst and dehydration than dogs or other omnivores and adjust their water intake to the dry matter content of their diet.

This means cats eating commercial dry foods consume about half as much water (in the diet and through drinking) compared to cats eating canned food or domestic food.

Eating moist food increases water consumption and urine volume, and by diluting the urine, the levels of minerals that can cause urinary stones are reduced.

Older cats tend to produce more concentrated urine, so increasing their water intake becomes even more important in them to avoid dehydration and the development of prerenal nitrogenemia.

On the other hand, feeding with canned food or a soft, cooked diet promotes plaque build-up.

The cat's energy requirements

The cat's energy requirements

Cats need energy to stay active.

Various physiological conditions such as growth, pregnancy, lactation and exercise increase this need.

Energy (measured in kilocalories) comes from three main components of the diet:

  • carbohydrates,
  • proteins,
  • fat.

Carbohydrates, while not essential in the diet, provide an abundant source of energy.

The main sources of carbohydrate in commercial cat food are:

  • cereals,
  • legumes,
  • other plant products.

Severe illness or injury may increase your cats' energy requirements.

Kittens' energy needs

Before weaning, kittens need 20-25 kcal for every 100 g of body weight.

The introduction of complementary feed should be started with 2.5-4 weeks after birth, because mother's milk is not enough for kittens.

Energy needs of pregnant and lactating cats

Mothers usually feed their kittens through 7-9 weeks and they lose weight during this time (regardless of diet).

It is therefore important that a pregnant female cat is fed in such a way as to allow her to gain weight by 2% 40-50% by the end of pregnancy.

The energy needs of nursing mothers usually increase with the size of the litter. Basically, kittens that have more than 2 kittens need one 2 to 2.5 times more calories than they needed at the time of mating.

Nursing cats should have constant and unlimited access to tasty, high-calorie food.

Adult cats' energy needs

The energy requirement for a normally active adult cat is 100 kcal / kg m.c.

For adult indoor indoor cats and / or sterilized cats, the average maintenance requirement for energy is estimated at 75 kcal / kg m.c.

Types of cat food

Types of cat food

Careful consideration of the diet you are giving your cat can have enormous health benefits, including avoiding many serious, painful and costly diseases.

Unfortunately, choosing the right, well-balanced cat food is not easy, and the fact that there are various commercial diets available on the market in a variety of forms and flavors does not make the task any easier.

The brief description of the individual nutrients in a cat, contained in this article, is intended to make the reader aware of what this unique animal really needs. Understanding these specific requirements is crucial if we want to start feeding our ward with a diet appropriate for him.

Let's first get acquainted with the most common types of cat food.

Commercial feed

Commercial feed

Commercial cat food comes in a variety of forms.

These can be dry, semi-moist and canned food.

The water content of these foods varies between:

  • 6-10% in dry foods,
  • 15-30% for semi-moist feed,
  • an average of 75% for canning.

These products differ from each other:

  • water content,
  • protein level,
  • caloric density,
  • deliciousness,
  • digestibility.

Dry cat food

Dry cat food

Depending on the specific formula, the mixture of ingredients in dry foods is combined, extruded and dried in the form of small croquettes.

The ingredients for this type of diet may include:

  • different types of meat and / or animal by-products,
  • cereals and / or their mill products,
  • fish,
  • fiber source,
  • milk products,
  • vitamin and mineral supplements.

Croquettes in dry foods are often coated with flavor enhancers such as animal fat to make the food more attractive to the cat.

Dry food is relatively inexpensive, and the fact that it does not dry out makes cat keepers more likely to reach for it.

It is comfortable and can "lie" in the bowl for a long time, which is conducive to feeding at will.

It may be less palatable and acceptable to cats than semi-moist or canned food, and depending on the type and quality of the ingredients, it may also be less digestible than other types of diets.

However, there are dangers in giving your cat only dry food:

  • Dry foods are not stored in the refrigerator, but in warehouses, on store shelves and in home cabinets for weeks or even months before pets consume them.
    During this time, bacteria, mites and even fungi can grow.
    Of course, the way food is stored is important. Such food should be stored in a cool, dry place, however storing food for a long time reduces the activity and effect of many vitamins and promotes the rancidity of fats.
  • From a clinical point of view, the water content of dry foods is too low.
    This can predispose your cat to serious and often life-threatening urinary diseases. One of them is very painful obstruction of the urethra caused by urolithiasis.
  • The carbohydrate content is too high which may predispose your cat to:
    • obesity,
    • diabetes,
    • intestinal diseases.
  • In many dry foods the type of protein does not meet the expectations of the strict predator, which is the cat.
    Unfortunately, in order for dry food to be inexpensive and widely available, it is often included in its composition too high proportion of plant proteins compared to proteins of animal origin.
    Cats are obligatory carnivores - their diet should therefore be meat and animal organs, not plants or grains.
  • Dry food is very heavily processed, exposed to high temperatures for a long time, which can affect its qualitative composition, as well as the quantitative content of individual vitamins, minerals, fatty acids and other important components.
  • Dry food can be contaminated with fungal mycotoxins or mites and their faeces.
    This can lead to gastrointestinal disorders (vomiting, diarrhea), and the presence of mites predisposes to the development of allergic diseases.

Semi-moist food

Its main ingredients are meat and animal by-products.

This food contains a much higher moisture content than dry food, but lower than canned food.

Other ingredients such as soybean meal, grains and preservatives are also added for the final form of the feed.

This food may be more attractive to some cats. The disadvantage of this type of product is that it dries quickly after opening the package, and therefore the breakdown of vitamins is faster and the fats become rancid.

Canned wet cat food

Wet food for cats

Canned food has a moisture content of 72-78%, making it a good source of water in the diet.

Such products provide energy from protein, fat and carbohydrates in quite significant amounts and are often labeled nutritionally complete.

It is also the most expensive type of cat food, but on the other hand - the tastiest and most willingly eaten.

Canned food has the longest shelf life unopened, but any unused portion of open food should be refrigerated to maintain quality and prevent spoilage.

These types of products are mostly meat and animal by-products as the main ingredients. Most canned food has relatively more fat and protein and less carbohydrate than semi-moist or dry food and generally contains more animal ingredients.

The digestibility of canned food is also higher than that of dry foods.

Unfortunately, some companies' products may not be nutritionally complete. So be sure to read nutrition labels carefully to make sure they are of high quality.

The most common canned foods:

  • foods that contain only animal by-products and no meat,
  • Cat food with meat first, followed by animal by-products,
  • diets that include not only meat and by-products, but also high-carbohydrate ingredients such as grains, peas, potatoes (and / or other vegetables).

How to read cat food labels?

The best way to compare individual foods and choose the optimal one for our pet is to read the information on the labels of cat food.

Pet food manufacturers are required to provide certain specific nutritional information on the packaging.

Food for pets should meet specific and very specific standards for a given species. In Europe, such a model is the document: "Nutritional guidelines for complete and complementary pet food for cats and dogs ", developed at the request of the European Pet Food Industry Federation (FEDIAF).

Mandatory information that must be included in the label of the pet food:

  • Product name,
  • the species for which the feed is intended,
  • the correct dosage method,
  • declared composition,
  • information about the presence of additives,
  • the amount of analytical components,
  • data of the entity responsible for the labeling,
  • batch number,
  • the net weight,
  • minimum shelf life,
  • contact details under which detailed information about the feed can be obtained,
  • ingredients on the food packaging should be listed in descending order by weight (so the ingredient with the most should be listed first),
  • manufacturers have to be very specific when naming the individual ingredients,
  • the label must contain crude protein, crude fiber, crude oils and fats and crude ash,
  • in the case of dry food, it is necessary to provide the animal with constant access to water.

A cat's nutritional requirements change at different stages of its life.

The label should therefore contain information that determines the stage of the cat's life cycle for which the food is complete and properly balanced - e.g. is it intended for:

  • kittens,
  • adult cats,
  • pregnant kitten,
  • nursing kittens, etc.

How to choose cat food?

How to choose cat food?

When choosing cat food, it is very important to read the list of ingredients.

Look for a food that lists meat, animal products, and / or seafood in the first few ingredients, as this indicates that the cat food most likely contains enough animal tissue to provide essential amino acids and fatty acids.

However, it is not only the content of the animal protein that indicates the quality of the food.

What to look for when choosing cat food

The protein and carbohydrate content of cat food

When analyzing the composition of cat food, as a general rule of thumb, choose food with a carbohydrate content of 40% or more) and a moderate amount of fat (approx 50% or less).

Unfortunately, pet food labels give very little useful information regarding the composition as they (in most cases) do not list the percentage of carbohydrates and only list protein, fat and water in terms of maximum and minimum.

For example: if the label indicates that the food contains a minimum 6% fat, there may actually be more. Any value listed as minimum and maximum is inaccurate and not very helpful.

Let's see an example.

Guaranteed analysis: Protein (min.) 10.0%, fat (min.) 6.0%, fiber (max.) 1.0%, humidity (max.) 78.0%, ash (max.) 1.8%.

If we add all of these ingredients, we get 96.8%. If we subtract it from 100%, we get 3.2% carbohydrates, however, these values ​​should be considered on the basis of dry weight.

To convert 3.2% to dry matter, divide it by the dry matter of the feed, which in this case is at least 22% (100% - 78% water = 22%).

Why at least 22%?

The water content is listed as maximum, so it can be less than 78%.

3.2% divided by 22% gives us 14.5% of carbohydrates in the dry matter of the product.

However, it is possible to obtain more detailed data on the composition of the food. Some pet foods provide this information either on packaging or on their websites.

The amount of essential ingredients in grams

Pet food labels, as a rule, do not contain the amount of essential nutrients in grams.

However, they must all contain a guaranteed minimum percentage of crude protein and crude fat, and a maximum percentage of crude fiber and moisture.

To convert these percentages into grams, it is enough to multiply the declared percentage by the weight of the daily portion of the cat.

E.g. if the cat eats 170 g feed per day and it contains 8% crude protein, it is food that provides him with: 0.08 x 170 = 13.6 g of protein.

No information on the food label

Pet food labels lack serious information compared to human product labels.

The so-called guaranteed analysis for protein, fat and water that can be found on the packaging of many animal products determines the content of these ingredients as the maximum and minimum, which is not very accurate information.

Additionally, the labels never mention the carbohydrate content, which is very frustrating as we try to keep it below 10%.

"Typical Nutrient Analysis " comes from an actual food batch study and many pet food manufacturers now make it available on their websites as well as for pet food packaging.

The number of ingredients can, in a way, help us choose the optimal food for our cat.

For example, if you don't see high carbohydrate ingredients on the label, such as. cereals, potatoes, peas, it can be assumed that the food is low in carbohydrates.

But what if such ingredients are present in the food?

We don't really know the actual level of carbohydrates as their content is not listed.

Without knowing the actual amount of each ingredient, we do not have any information about its effect on the nutritional profile of the pet food. Only the exact composition will answer this question.

Therefore, it is important not only to consider the ingredient list, but also to refer to the cat food composition table.

Composition of cat food related to protein, fat, carbohydrates

The composition of the food refers to the three basic ingredients of a food that provide calories, i.e. protein, fat and carbohydrates.

The most accurate way to evaluate a food is to include calories (EM - so-called. metabolic energy) from protein, fat and carbohydrate fractions.

It allows Compare different diets without worrying about their different water levels.

The percentage of calories from protein, fat and carbohydrates must add up to 100%. Therefore, if one of the fractions falls, one or both of the others must increase.

So if we want to keep carbohydrates below 10%, the remaining 90% is for protein and fat. As animal protein is expensive and fat is cheap, it is not surprising that Low carbohydrate foods on the market are high in fat.

Fortunately, most cats do very well on these types of diets. Indeed, cats process fats much more efficiently than carbohydrates.

"Breakdown " of the ingredients of the feed

There is a rule that ingredients should be listed in great detail on the label.

This allows manufacturers to breakdown of the grain fraction into smaller components, which lowers their position on the list, as the individual ingredients should be listed by weight.

However, if they are all added up their share in the diet often exceeds the first ingredient.

Meat content in cat food

Watch out for labels that say 95% meat.

This meat can be just that high-fat scraps of meat and it does not mean high and good quality protein.

Keep in mind that lean meat generally goes to the human market and high-fat meat goes to the pet food market.

Animal by-products in cat food have a worse reputation than they really deserve.

They are a normal part of a carnivorous diet and consist of nutritional organs such as. spleen or kidneys.

On the other hand, these products may also include chicken feet, claws, feathers with very low biological value.

Organs that show signs of disease such as infection or cancer are diverted from the human meat market to the pet food market and are referred to as unfit for human consumption.

It is undeniable that cats in the wild eat by-products.

However, the consumption of offal, skin, eggshell, intestine, or even feathers "fresh" should not be compared to a situation where animals are given food unfit for human consumption every day.

The advantage is that they do not contribute to the food unnecessary carbohydrate load and they are of animal origin, not of plant origin.

Carbohydrate content in feed

Pay attention to the carbohydrate content of the feed.

If their content in food is high, it means that a significant proportion of the protein in the food may come from plants, not animals.

Remember that whole grains are a source of carbohydrates and protein, so something like corn grain in food tells us that part of the declared protein comes from plants and not from animals.

Tricks used by food producers

Watch out for some tips that feed manufacturers use.

For example, the following ingredients are listed on the label:

  • chicken meal,
  • brewer's rice,
  • corn meal,
  • corn grains.

Many consumers will focus on the fact that, for example,. chicken is listed first on the list, making it the most numerous.

However, if we add up all the sources of cereals, it often turns out that there are more of them than the animal-derived ingredient that is listed first.

Chicken meal is technically meat, but it is processed over a long period of time at high temperatures and therefore has a lower nutritional quality. Meals are often found in dry foods.

Now for some details

  • The preferred way to feed a cat is to feed Fr as high as possible water content.
    So, if we reach for commercial karma, it is better if it is wet cat food.
    Most canned foods contain around 78% water, which helps your cat to stay hydrated (considering her low thirst). In my (of course subjective) opinion, dry food can only be added to food.
  • It is safe to stick to poultry, e.g. chicken, turkey and rabbit (provided that the cat is not allergic to this type of protein) as the main components of the cat's diet.
  • Liver - is desirable in the diet, but not as the first ingredient. It is rich in vitamins A and D, which are easy to overdose.
    Liver poses only about 5% of a cat's natural diet. Unfortunately - due to the fact that it is an inexpensive product, it often does the main ingredient in some feeds.
  • Fish - they are a source of valuable polyunsaturated fatty acids, so it is worth serving fish meat from time to time (of course, from a proven source).
    However, it should be remembered that there are some dangers associated with their administration:

    • the fish have high allergic potential (manifested by skin allergies and inflammatory bowel diseases and sometimes asthma),
    • in their meat they happen toxin contamination (mercury),
    • polybrominated diphenylethers (PBDE - fire-resistant chemicals) - are powerful factors affecting the endocrine system, including the thyroid gland; unfortunately - they can be present even in high concentrations in fish,
    • cats get used to fish food very easily, which results in reluctance to eat other types of meat.
  • Beef Most cats are very good at digesting this protein, but for some it may be a serious food allergen.
  • Ash - is what remains when all protein, fat, carbohydrates, fiber and water are removed in the combustion process.
    It is part of the dry matter. The higher the ash content, the less actual food (calories) in dry matter. So if we compare two feeds with the same dry matter, the one with lower ash content is richer in nutrients.
  • Seeds. Wheat is very hyperalergic an ingredient that is often added to cat food.
  • Grains and potatoes should be absent in the cat's diet, but they are cheap (cheaper than meat), so they make a great ingredient in many commercial cat products.
  • All kinds should also be approached with caution sauces, because they contain high carbohydrate thickeners.
  • Soy It contains phytoestrogens and has a potentially negative effect on the thyroid gland.
    Given the prevalence of hyperthyroidism in cats, soy shouldn't have anything to do with cat food.
    Unfortunately - it is present in many pet foods because it is inexpensive.
  • When considering allergies, the very list of ingredients listed on the label can actually be useful, because in this case we are not interested in how many allergenic ingredients are in the food.
    The most important thing is that they were not in the food at all.
    The most allergenic ingredients for a cat seem to be:

    • fish,
    • seafood,
    • beef,
    • lamb,
    • corn,
    • wheat,
    • soy.
  • Preservatives are important ingredients that we must pay attention to.
    Butylhydroxyanisole (BHA et al. E 320), butylhydroxytoluene (BHT, et al. E 321), ethoxykin (EMQ, et al. E324) are questionable in terms of security.
    Many pet food companies are withdrawing these substances from their products.

Food additives in cat food

Commercial cat foods also include various types of substances that are not required for animals, but are added to foods for a specific purpose. These can include:

  • Chondroprotective substances - used by the body to rebuild articular cartilage.
  • Antioxidants - prevent oxidative damage to nutrients and other compounds in the body and inhibit the formation of free radicals.
  • Herbs and plant agents are used in pet food to provide smell and taste, but also have a healing effect on the body.
  • Flavors and extracts derived from animal tissue, such as poultry or fish, which are considered natural flavors.
    A wide range of flavors can be obtained from other products of plant and animal origin, e.g. with eggs, herbs and spices.
    With the exception of artificial smoke and bacon flavors, synthetic substances are rarely used in the production of most pet foods.
  • Dyes are synthetic compounds used to replace or enhance the natural color of food.

There are many healthy, well-balanced products on the market that you can confidently feed your pets with.

It is only important that the choice of a specific cat food is as conscious as possible and takes into account not only the nutritional needs and quality composition of the food, but also the nutritional preferences of the cat concerned.

The richest and healthiest diet is useless if the cat simply does not eat it.

Fortunately, pet food manufacturers make every effort to ensure that their products are tasty and attractive to cats.

As you can see, each type of commercial cat food has its own advantages and disadvantages.

Some keepers feed their cats with a home-made diet.

Opinions on this subject are divided.

Opponents of such nutrition believe that even if the intentions are commendable, it can do more harm than good. Often the cat is fed on one dominant food, which makes the diet unbalanced and can lead to a deficiency of certain ingredients and an excess of others.

Therefore, they recommend feeding their cats with canned food as a complete and balanced diet.

Others suggest feeding a mixture of two or more types of food.

Proponents of a home-prepared diet (including numerous nutritionists and veterinarians) believe that this food is the closest to a cat's natural diet, and therefore more nutritionally appropriate for cats.

Various, often very complicated, recipes for the optimal diet for a cat are available on the Internet, and some of them effectively deter enthusiastic owners.

It is worth noting that a great deal of knowledge is required to properly compose a nutritionally complete cat food.

Therefore, I always say that the best way is to consult a qualified person veterinary nutritionist, who will individually determine the diet for your mentee. Specialists in the field of animal nutrition are well-versed in diseases that affect cats and are able to adapt their nutrition to the activity, age and clinical condition of our pets.

Cat food prepared at home

Homemade cat food

If you are considering feeding your cat with homemade food, consult a qualified veterinary nutritionist.

Before making such a decision, it is also worth getting acquainted with a few important issues related to preparing food yourself at home.

Types and sources of meat

The food market has a huge selection of different types of meat, but you should always be cautious about what the sellers offer us.

Remember to buy products from trusted producers. The meat should be there free of antibiotics, preferably from organic farming.

Of course - the costs may exceed intentions and good intentions, but it is worth putting some effort into buying proven and healthy meat.

For the preparation of cat food, the following are most often used:

  • chicken or turkey leg with bone and skin,
  • chicken livers,
  • carcass of a rabbit.

These products are closest to what a cat would eat in the wild.

Of course, other types of meat such as horse meat, lamb, fish and beef may be added, but in reasonable amounts.

When feeding with beef, remember about calcium supplementation.

Raw fish should never be fed large amounts as they contain them thiaminase, which may be the cause of your cat's thiamine deficiency.

Thus, feeding the poultry is easier and has a favorable bone-to-meat ratio.

The wild cat's diet is quite simple:

they eat other small animals, often leaving the stomach, intestines, and some bones.

They don't eat a lot of grains, vegetables, and fruits, and these ingredients are often found in significant amounts in some recipes and in many commercial pet diets.

Homemade cat food - practical tips

  • The diet should be supplemented with fish oil, taurine, vitamin E, and (sometimes) a complex of B vitamins and other ingredients recommended by veterinary nutritionists.
  • If your cat is thin and needs extra calories, one way to get these extra calories is to leave all of the skin on the meat.
    If, on the other hand, the cat is chubby or has had pancreatitis, approximately 80% of the skin should be removed.
    When feeding a healthy cat, about 50% of the skin is removed from the meat.
    One suggestion for very picky cats is to add a little bacon fat to individual meals.
    These animals need an adequate amount of animal fat in their diet.
    1 teaspoon of bacon fat is approximately 38 kilocalories. You shouldn't have given more. Even less than 1 teaspoon will be enough and the added effect will be an increase in palatability, which is important for picky cats.
    If you are not using whole carcasses of chickens or rabbits and are using chicken parts instead, use all (mostly dark) meat - thighs, as dark meat has a more adequate amount of fat than white meat.
    Breast meat does not contain enough fat to supplement your entire diet, but it is advisable to use it as long as it does not exceed about 25% of the total weight.
  • As for fruits and vegetables in a cat's diet, there appears to be a strong anthropomorphic need to add vegetables to a carnivore's diet.
    We find it difficult to accept the idea that while vegetables may be good for humans, they are not a nutritional necessity for carnivores and often cause problems in a cat's digestive tract, especially if fed in large amounts.
    Cats lack the digestive enzymes needed to efficiently convert these ingredients (especially in raw form) into a useful form.
    Many people persist at the booth serving large amounts of vegetables, relying on the fact that the cat would eat them along with the stomach and intestines of its victim. Unfortunately, it is forgotten that the plant contents of the stomach are pre-digested by the own enzymes of the prey, enzymes that the cat does not have.
    In addition - the amount of plant matter in the average bird or mouse is extremely small, and often the stomach or intestines are not even eaten by the cat.
    Nevertheless, some keepers provide the cat with vegetables. No problem if the amount is really small (around 5% by weight).
    If you choose to use a small amount of plant products, don't eat them raw. Scald or briefly boil the vegetables beforehand to help break them down into a more useful form for carnivores.
  • As for cereals - no, don't add them to the cat's diet.

Raw meat diets

Feeding the cat with meat

Feeding cats with raw meat is still controversial.

And should it??

After all, in nature, these animals do not have grills or stoves. Wild cats do not always consume their prey in its entirety immediately after killing it, so such meat is not necessarily eaten fresh.

The opponents of raw food are afraid of bacteria and parasites.

On the other hand, opponents of the cooked diet suggest their choice by losing valuable nutrients during the heat treatment of food.

So why not work out some kind of compromise without having to take a radical all-or-nothing view?

Unfortunately, neither of these groups is concerned with how meat is harvested and prepared, and sees that a balance can be found between the two.

And what is our goal?

The goal is to feed your cat a diet that is intended for carnivores - while staying as close as possible to the food form and composition that cats could eat in the wild.

In order to neutralize bacteria on the surface of the meat, it should be thoroughly rinsed before grinding or serving to the cat.

They can also be scalded with hot water or partially baked.

Fortunately, our cats' digestive tract is designed to cope with a much higher bacterial load than the human digestive tract.

Cats differ from humans in their susceptibility to food poisoning. They have a much shorter gastrointestinal transit time than humans: approx 12-16 hours for a cat, compared with 35-55 hours for human. This is very important because the more time the bacteria spend in the digestive tract, the more they multiply, posing a risk of intestinal disorders.

However, not all sources of raw meat are created equal.

Avoid serving raw minced meat bought in a supermarket. But if we rinse a piece of meat, burn it, and then grind it and give it to the cat in this form, it will be much safer.

Properly prepared raw or semi-raw meat food can contain significantly fewer bacteria than many commercial dry foods.

Keepers are often scared or overwhelmed by the idea of ​​making food for their cat. In fact, however, it's actually quite simple, as long as you follow the recipe.

You can make cat food once a month or a couple of months and freeze it, so it doesn't mean life slavery in the kitchen.

Meat must be the main component of a cat's diet, but it does not have enough calcium (such as to ensure an adequate ratio of calcium to phosphorus), and calcium is a critical component of a cat's diet.

The overall level of phosphorus should not exceed approx. 1.5% dry matter.

Remember:

bones are calcium and meat is phosphorus.

When a cat eats a mouse or bird, it gets a naturally balanced diet as it eats both flesh and bones. Always remember that calcium is not an optional supplement, but a very critical component of your diet.

Meat is rich in phosphorus but does not contain much calcium, so calcium must be supplied, but in the right proportion to the phosphorus in the meat.

The most obvious and optimal way to add calcium to your diet is grinding bones together with meat.

Note that small wild cats eat mice and baby rabbits, they usually eat whole carcasses - including the entire skeleton of prey. On the other hand, larger cats, such as lions, remove flesh from bones, leaving much of their prey's skeleton uneaten. This fact illustrates that there is a wide variation in the amount of bone material used by wild cats.

So on the one hand, the logical and easiest way to ensure the optimal ratio of calcium to phosphorus in your diet would be to feed your cats the entire carcass of the animal you choose as the basis of your diet.

However, given the fact that cats are constipated with raw food, as well as life-threatening obstruction of the urethra, and looking at large wild cats that do not eat all the bones of the victim, it is better not to give all the bones found in whole chickens, turkeys and turkeys. or rabbits.

The solution may be to use poultry thighs that have a lot of meat in relation to the bones.

You can reduce bone feeding even further by removing 30% of the bone (e.g. grinding 10 thighs, remove 3 bones from them). You can also add poultry meat (and some fat and skin) boneless to the whole rabbit carcass.

Rabbit carcass has a high bone-to-meat ratio, so it is good to dilute the bones with poultry meat and skin.

Rabbit is also meat with a very low fat content. Fat is an important component of the diet of carnivores, so it is worthwhile to enrich the diet by adding poultry to the diet.

The added value is that doing so lowers the price of food, as poultry is cheaper than rabbit.

This is only very general information that is intended to prepare you for the preparation of your own diet at home.

However, remember that the exact recipe, containing the type of ingredients and their specific amount, will be prepared only by a qualified veterinary nutritionist.

Switching from dry food to a canned or home cooked diet

Changing the cat's food

Okay, the decision to switch to a canned or home-made diet (under the supervision of an animal nutrition specialist) has already been made.

But what if your client is emotionally connected with his favorite croissants and he absolutely does not intend to give up his eating habits??

Indeed - cats are very resistant to all novelties, so - to convince a furry dog ​​to a new, healthy diet - you need time, patience and a bit of tricks.

One of the reasons why cats like dry food so much is the fact that in the production process croquettes are covered with a thin layer of fat, which is a brilliant carrier of taste and smell.

Another problem is the crunchy texture of croquettes, which is fundamentally different from soft canned or cooked food, and cats can be very resistant to changing the texture of their food.

How to convert your cat from dry to wet food?

  • Start by feeding your soft food in increasing amounts.
    Gradually reduce the amount of dry food so that it is completely weaned off within a week.
  • Some cats may develop softer stools when switching to wet food.
    As a rule, they return to normal within a few days, but if the diarrhea is prolonged and is associated with a change of diet, the introduction of wet food will have to be extended to several weeks.
  • The average cat should eat about 180-220 calories a day - depending on lean body mass and activity level.
    The necessary daily caloric intake should be divided into 3-4 meals per day.
    Remember that high-protein, low-fat and low-carbohydrate foods are very low in calories, so always check the food table and adjust the amount of food to your cat's requirements.
    Follow this simple rule when adjusting the amount of food to your cat's requirements:
    Too fat? Feed less.
    Too skinny? Feed more.
  • Now for stubborn cats.
    If you are unlucky and your cat does not recognize the fact that it is a carnivore, you need to spend more time and patience with it.
    Some animals that have been fed dry food throughout their lives may be resistant to changing their diet and require several weeks or longer to switch to wet food.
    In cats resistant to change, it is necessary to take advantage of the natural feeling of hunger, so stop feeding your cat food between meals.
    You need to set specific times of eating at which your client will be able to eat their meal safely.
    Surely your pet will not want to try anything else if its bowl is full 24 hours a day.
    Cats don't need food all the time. It's really okay if they feel hungry between meals. Of course - you have to be desensitized to their pleas and be adamant, which can be difficult.
    In fact, this is where many caregivers give up and fill their bowl to the brim with their favorite dry food.
    If you can't stand the begging meowing and look into the expectant cat's eyes, get out of the house. Your cat will certainly not starve for a few hours. However, never try to withhold food for long periods in the hope that the cat will be tempted by new food.
    Leaving a cat (especially an overweight cat) for a long time may result in the development of liver lipidosis. The cat must eat. But not necessarily every now and then.
  • Most cats lose weight when switching to wet food.
    A cat should never lose more than 1-2% of body weight per week.
    You should periodically (at least once a month) weigh your pet, especially if it is over 10 years old. This will help you safely switch to a wet diet, and also indirectly control the condition of the pet (many cats lose weight quickly in chronic diseases, so losing it quickly may be the first symptom of poor health).
  • Accept the fact that you will be very frustrated at times and waste the food you put under your mentee's nose.
  • If your cat has had access to dry food all day, take the food and schedule meals 2-3 times a day.
  • Allow the food to dry for 20 minutes, then remove any uneaten portion.
    Repeat in 8-12 hours (depending on whether you are feeding 2 or 3 times a day).
    During the first few days of switching to the new diet, offer your cat wet food in between meals or along with dry food.
    The more stubborn individuals may not even touch this food. But don't be discouraged - all cats will sooner or later eat canned food or meat if their handler is determined, methodical and patient enough.
    Once your cat is comfortable with the new meal schedules, you will notice that it is more enthusiastic about food and more willing to try something new.
  • When the cat switches to the new, moist food, it can be fed 3-4 times a day. Small cats in the wild eat 8-10 small meals a day.
  • Once you have established your meal schedule, you will likely need to feed a little less to induce your natural feeling of hunger. Hunger can make your cat try something different from what it has eaten before.
    However, do not try to starve the cat. When he eats only meals (not the usual daytime snacks), try introducing only canned or cooked food. If he does not eat it, do not absolutely try to sprinkle dry food on it. Offer canned food in a couple of hours.
  • If the kitten still doesn't even want to look at the new food, offer him a different canned / different meat / different food manufacturer flavor.
    Sometimes the key issue is simply to "shoot " into the fur's taste preferences.
  • Playing with your cat before eating can increase its appetite.
  • Cat's sense of smell is much more sensitive than ours.
    Cats can smell dry food in the cupboard and stubbornly stick in front of it with buttery eyes. I suggest placing a bag of dry food in a refrigerator or in an airtight container. As long as they can feel it, they will not give up asking for it.
  • Adding a small amount of tuna to the food (only "for smell ") or another favorite dish (eg. cooked chicken) can encourage your pet to eat something new.
  • Make sure every meal is warm enough.
    Cats prefer to eat at the temperature of "mouse bodies ".
  • Try sprinkling Parmesan on your food.
    Many cats love this cheese and are encouraged to eat soft food.
  • Try it out FortiFlora for cats. It's a probiotic made by Purina that many cats are crazy about.
    Try to sprinkle it on the food you want to convince your cat to.
  • Try mixing canned food with dry food.
    Even if the cat initially chooses the croquettes and leaves the canned food, it will get used to the smell and texture, even if it initially carefully avoids new pieces.
  • One way is to gently apply a little canned food to your cat's gums, but only if it doesn't upset him.
    I am far from forcing cats to do anything, because usually the effect is counterproductive.
    However, if you feel this won't make your pet angry, give him some food to try.
  • Be patient.
  • Is it possible to just soak dry food in water?
    Yes, but such food should be eaten as soon as possible.
    I have already mentioned that dry food can contain many bacteria and mycotoxins. Moisture promotes the multiplication of microorganisms, so if your cat does not eat the soaked food within 20-30 minutes, discard the food.

Cat keepers often argue that canned food is too expensive, but considering the cost of treating diseases that result from water deficiency in a cat's diet, it should be reconsidered whether it is really worth saving on food.

The most important diet-related facts that have a huge impact on the health of our pet are as follows:

  1. Cats are strict carnivores, meaning they must get their protein from animal flesh and organs, not plants.
    Cats do not have certain specific metabolic pathways that are needed to utilize plant-based proteins to the appropriate extent necessary to meet their needs.
    Not all proteins are created equal - vegetable proteins do not contain the entire set of essential amino acids.
  2. Cats are by nature low thirst and need to consume water with food.
    The natural "sacrifice " of the cat in nature is approx. 70-75% water, while dry food has a water content of around 5- 10%.
    Unfortunately, against the pious wishes of their owners, cats will not make up for this deficit by drinking water from a bowl.
    The water content of cooked foods or wet canned foods is around 78%, so it is closest to your cat's natural diet.
  3. The urinary tract and kidneys are much healthier thanks to the large amount of water flowing through them.
    Moist diets, such as home-cooked or canned diets, will substantially increase your cat's water intake throughout the day.
    Basically - that is, in such an amount that is impossible to achieve only by leaving the bowl of water next to the food. The higher the water intake during the day, the greater the increase in urine volume and dilution, which in turn contributes to a significant reduction in the risk of urolithiasis in cats.
    The lack of intense thirst in cats with low water content leads to moderate but chronic dehydration.
  4. Carbohydrate can wreak havoc on the sugar / insulin balance of cats and may predispose them to diabetes.
    In nature, a cat would eat a high-protein, high-moisture, meat and organ based diet with moderate levels of fat and only 1-2% carbohydrate.
    Average dry food contains 30-50% carbohydrate.
    Cats lack certain metabolic pathways and lack a salivary enzyme called amylase.
    Cats don't need carbohydrates, so they don't have the enzymes needed to digest them.
    Feeding strict carnivores with grains or plant-based carbohydrates does not make any sense.

The influence of diet on the health of cats

How the diet affects your cat's health?

There is a very strong link between the way we currently feed our strict predators and the many diseases that affect them.

You need to realize that we - as caring guardians of our pets - can have a real impact not only on their well-being and health, but also on their life expectancy.

A proper diet, adapted to the nutritional needs of the cat, seems to play the first role in the prevention of many diseases, such as (among others):

  • obesity,
  • diabetes,
  • feline urological syndrome.

Obesity

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It is estimated that 25-33% feline is overweight or obese.

Indeed, obesity is one of the most common eating disorders in dogs and cats.

There are many factors that predispose to this state of affairs. These are among others:

  • gender (male vs female, but also castrated and non-castrated animal),
  • age,
  • activity (cats at home and outside),
  • feeding style (feeding with designated meals vis free access to food).

Neutered animals of both sexes require fewer calories (estimated 25-30%) than non-castrated animals.

Castration may increase food intake, especially in cats.

Additionally, many cat keepers prefer to feed their pets with dry food, which is available ad libitum.

Active, lean cats that effectively regulate their food intake can be fed at will.

However, many inactive cats are not allowed to be fed this way as they tend to overeat (mainly due to the increased fat content and high palatability of commercial dry foods).

The causes of cat obesity are varied.

These can include:

  • hormonal changes (e.g. as a result of castration),
  • boredom, very common in domestic cats,
  • type of diet (e.g. dry food based on carbohydrates),
  • inactivity and therefore reduced energy expenditure,
  • overfeeding.

Regardless of the cause, obese cats are predisposed to many other health problems, such as:

  • diabetes (overweight cats are four times more likely to develop diabetes than cats of optimal weight),
  • joint problems,
  • lameness,
  • diseases of the lower urinary tract,
  • liver lipidosis,
  • non-allergic skin diseases.

Incorrect diet

Obviously, one of the most important factors in the development of obesity in cats is a poor diet.

Cats kept exclusively at home and eating energy-dense, high-carbohydrate dry food receive much more energy than they can efficiently use.

Any carbohydrate ingested that is not used for energy is processed and stored as fat.

Compulsory carnivores are designed to meet their energy needs through a high-protein, moderate-fat diet with (or without) a small amount of carbohydrate.

Typical wild cat prey, such as a mouse, bird or rabbit, consists of 3-5% of calories from carbohydrates.

A dry diet usually contains 35-50% carbohydrate calories - so there is a big gap between what is in nature and what we serve our cats.

Using dry foods flood the cat's digestive tract with about 5-10 times more calories from carbohydrates than what can be found in its natural sacrifice.

Carbohydrates are minimally used by these animals for energy production, and those that are not consumed are converted and stored as fat.

The "light" diets available on the market were aimed at reducing the content of fat as a nutrient, which resulted in the need to increase the content of protein, carbohydrates or both.

Since animal protein is more expensive than carbohydrate, feed manufacturers are targeting the latter, making these diets more species unsuitable.

This is why many cats that are fed this type of food are still obese.

Many caregivers, not seeing the effects of weight loss, reduce the amount of food given, believing that this will limit caloric intake.

But that's not the way. Limiting the amount of food you eat that is not appropriate anyway is not the answer.

Diets with limited energy potential (e.g. low-fat, high-fiber, slimming diets) can cause weight loss, but it is often detrimental to lean body mass.

Many of them contain high concentrations (> 15%) of insoluble fiber which increases stool weight and volume as well as faecal water loss.

This increases the risk of dehydration in cats that do not consume adequate amounts of water, and additionally has a detrimental effect on the digestibility of nutrients (e.g. proteins).

Overeating

Another important issue with cat obesity is the way cats are fed dry food.

Many of them get ad libitum food - that is, the croquettes are in the mica all day, and our client approaches it and eats it whenever he wants.

Some cats regulate their food intake adequately, but many, unfortunately, do not.

There are three main reasons cats tend to overeat.

  1. First of all - dry food is usually very tasty, which is to encourage cats (especially picky ones) to eat it.
  2. Second - the obligatory carnivore is to be saturated after eating a meal consisting of the right amount of protein and fat. Carbohydrates are not very good (unlike protein and fat) a signal transmitter to the brain.: "I am full, I can finish eating ".
  3. The third reason is very prosaic - it is because of boredom, cats - especially those who stay only at home - overeat.

How to fight obesity in a cat?

How to fight obesity in a cat?

To understand how to fight obesity in cats, you first need to understand how to properly feed your cat.

As with humans, cats do not become obese if they eat a healthy, species-appropriate diet and their caloric intake is balanced by their energy expenditure.

Before starting a weight loss program, it is a good idea to establish your cat's condition in advance.

This is best done by looking (Body Condition Score) and palpating specific areas of the body.

If these areas become excessively visible, it is a sign of a loss of muscle mass that could indicate a protein deficiency in the diet (literally: protein malnutrition).

The key is to slowly aim for 1-2% weight loss per week.

The overweight cat took months to reach its current state, so now it will take several months to safely lose weight.

  • You should be able to feel the ribs easily with a little layer of fat on them.
  • When looking at the cat from above, the waist should also be noticeable. They shouldn't have any fat pads visible above your shoulders, and if you grab your skin you shouldn't feel thick fatty tissue underneath.
  • The upper body (back and neck) should be well-muscled and not too protruding (too thin) or hard to feel (too fat).

It's worth remembering that loose skin on the underside of a cat's belly is not necessarily a sign of being overweight.

Successful weight loss requires maintaining lean body mass as it is a determinant of your basal energy metabolism and is a major factor in achieving a healthy weight.

High-protein, low-carbohydrate canned foods are usually the best dietary option.

Most dry foods are high in energy and have a higher carbohydrate content (> 25% dry basis) because starch is needed to form durable croquettes.

Typical nutritional values ​​of canned kitten food are 45-55% protein, 8-15% starch and 15-25% fat with a small amount of dietary fiber (

Supplementation is also used to support weight loss carnitine even in cats that are not deficient in this substance.

In one study, it was shown that an additional amount of carnitine in the diet increases lipid metabolism and further reduces the time needed to achieve safe weight loss.

Therefore, in obese cats starting their adventure with slimming, it is advisable to administer carnitine in a dose 250 mg per day.

However, it should be remembered that pet food companies add carnitine to their dietary weight loss products, so this should be taken into account when considering supplementation.

As far as possible, play with the cat with the help of various toys.

This will not only burn excess calories, but also kill boredom.

Some people hide food bowls in different parts of the house to encourage cats to look for food. In this way, they create a substitute for natural "hunting" for prey.

How much should be fed?

There is no definite answer to this question, as each cat has different food metabolism and energy needs.

The safest way is to contact a veterinary nutritionist who will develop the most optimal feeding regimen individually for your cat.

One way is to calculate (if possible) how many calories your cat is currently receiving per day. Then take 80% of those calories as a starting point.

An optimal slimming diet should be:

  • rich in protein (over 40% caloric),
  • moderate in fat (less than 50% of calories),
  • low in carbohydrates (less than 10% of calories),
  • rich in water.

Unfortunately, few ready-made foods on the market meet these requirements.

Why?

Because fat is cheaper than protein.

Calories from protein + fat + carbohydrate must be 100%.

If we want our food to have a low carbohydrate content (optimal for a species such as a cat), e.g. less than 10%, this leaves 90% of the calories to be shared between protein and fat.

For economic reasons, low-carbohydrate cat food generally has a higher level of fat.

The water content of the food is also very important if we want our cat to lose weight.

It turns out that cats lose weight much more easily when they eat moist, high-water diets than when they eat dry food.

Many cats on light diets either lose weight at all or lose muscle tissue with fat loss.

This is not the purpose of losing weight. The aim is fat loss while maintaining muscle mass.

If you are considering using a grain-free, high-protein, low-carbohydrate dry food to lose weight, remember that these diets are very high in calories and often lead to weight gain, as well as are harmful to the health of the urinary tract due to their water depletion.

Diabetes

Diabetes of the cat

About 65% of all diabetic cats have type II (non-insulin dependent) diabetes mellitus.

However, these cats may be either transiently or permanently insulin dependent at diagnosis.

This is the fundamental difference between cats and dogs as the overwhelming majority of dogs have type I (insulin dependent) diabetes.

The causes of this complex disease are still unknown, but we do know that many cats with diabetes significantly reduce their insulin requirements if their dietary carbohydrate levels are lowered to levels that are more species-appropriate than those found in many commercial products.

There are numerous cases successful diabetic remission in a situation where cat keepers they remove all dry foods and all high-carbohydrate canned foods from their diet.

A high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet and a low-fiber diet are very beneficial in managing cats with diabetes.

In obese diabetic cats, such diets reduce postprandial hyperglycemia, but also reduce overall insulin requirements.

In addition, high-protein and low-carbohydrate canned diets cause weight loss, which will ultimately reduce obesity-induced insulin resistance.

Unfortunately, in some diabetic cats (especially when hyperglycaemia, inhibiting pancreatic beta cells through glucose toxicity or insulin resistance are long-term phenomena), pancreatic beta cells do not function properly.

Nevertheless, reducing the amount of starch in the diet will significantly reduce the need for insulin (endogenous and exogenous) in sick cats.

So the sooner obesity and hyperglycaemia are diagnosed and corrected, the more likely it is that the damage (or inhibition of function) of pancreatic beta cells will not be permanent.

Fatty liver (fatty liver disease, liver lipidosis)

Cats that for some reason do not eat for more than 3 days are at risk of developing this serious and often fatal disease.

Overweight or obese cats are most susceptible to fatty liver, but lean cats also have lipidosis.

Liver lipidosis can also develop when a cat consumes 50% or less of its daily caloric requirements for an extended period of time (i.e. not eating).

Fatty liver is one of the most common metabolic problems in this organ that affects cats, especially obese or stressed cats.

The etiopathogenesis of this disease is still not fully understood.

It is believed to be the result of a combination of several factors, including excessive mobilization of peripheral lipids (as a result of the release of cortisol and catecholamines, which occurs especially in stress and disease) and the subsequent development of disorders in lipoprotein formation and triglyceride mobilization.

Various nutrients may be involved in the pathogenesis of lipidosis, including:

  • taurine,
  • carnitine,
  • arginine,
  • threonine,
  • citrulline,
  • choline,
  • non-esterified fatty acids,
  • B vitamins.

Since it is not fully known which of these factors (or any of them) are key to the development of the lipid and lipoprotein disorders that characterize this disease, further research is needed.

Nevertheless, successful treatment of hepatic lipidosis relies on early intervention and, in most cases, compulsory nutrition using a probe to provide the right nutrients.

In cats who successfully initiate aggressive early treatment, the prognosis for survival is long 90%.

In contrast, animals that do not receive such treatment have a chance of survival 10-15%.

When considering the appropriate diet for a cat with lipidosis, it is worth taking into account the fact that a good-quality protein of animal origin reduces the accumulation of lipids in the liver and maintains nitrogen and energy balance.

The clinical signs of lipidosis therefore result from the need for protein and other nutrients that cats get from a meat-based diet (e.g. carnitine, arginine, vitamin A and some B vitamins).

Feeding a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet helps to maintain your cat's optimal weight and therefore reduces the likelihood of disease.

Carnitine improves lipid oxidation, arginine is essential for the proper functioning of the urea cycle and protein metabolism, and B vitamins are essential cofactors that are needed for many protein and lipid metabolism.

In general, the most important in the prevention and treatment of lipidosis are:

  1. Quick identification of endangered cats.
  2. Adequate obesity treatment program.
  3. Aggressive treatment of anorectic cats.

It should not be forgotten that cats are carnivores and need good quality protein even with liver failure.

Chronic kidney disease

Kidney failure in a cat

This disease is the leading cause of cat mortality.

Chronic dehydration may play a major role in triggering or worsening feline kidney disease.

Cats that eat a diet consisting of dry food have a less than optimal water balance, especially those that simultaneously suffer from chronic renal failure.

Keeping a cat with kidney failure properly hydrated is essential, as are appropriate changes in nutrition that can reduce uremia symptoms and slow disease progression.

The goal of the kidney diet is to reduce the end products of protein metabolism that are eliminated by the kidneys.

Some people suggest that in kidney failure less than 25% of calories should come from protein.

Others argue that the protein content of the food should be sufficient to cover the cat's needs, but at the same time reduced so as to maintain blood urea nitrogen at a level of no more than 60 mg / dL.

In patients with clinical signs of uremia (presenting azotaemia and hyperphosphataemia), it is recommended to reduce the amount of protein in the diet.

In patients without uremic symptoms, a low-protein diet is controversial, but many sources recommend limiting dietary protein regardless of the stage of the disease.

A high-protein diet has been shown to increase glomerular filtration rate and blood flow through the kidneys, which can be harmful and lead to further kidney damage.

Limiting protein in the diet is not only to reduce the amount of toxic metabolites of protein metabolites, but also to slow down the progression of kidney failure.

Additionally, such a diet is phosphorus restricted, which reduces the risk of developing it hyperparathyroidism and osteodystrophy.

As the disease worsens, the kidneys lose their ability to excrete phosphorus, leading to hyperphosphatemia.

As a result, the serum parathyroid hormone levels rise, which may cause further damage to the renal tubules.

To prevent the cat's body from using its own proteins, it is important that the pet consumes the correct amount of calories.

Feeding small meals several times a day instead of one large meal can help reduce the body's own protein catabolism.

You should also be sure that your cat is getting the right amount of water.

If there is a strong one proteinuria, and the animal is hypoalbuminaemic, adding egg or cottage cheese to the diet may help.

If present polyuria, it causes an excessive loss of B vitamins in the urine, therefore diets designed for patients with renal insufficiency often contain supplements of these vitamins.

Urolithiasis / idiopathic cystitis / urethral obstruction

Cystitis is an extremely common and extremely painful problem in cats (especially cats).

Urinary stones are very common and can lead to life-threatening obstruction of the urinary tract.

Cystitis can lead to inappropriate urination (passing urine outside the litter box), and stones - apart from being extremely painful - can even lead to blockage of the urine flow, rupture of the bladder and death of the patient.

Urination disorders, haematuria, cystitis, urethral obstruction - all these symptoms are found at feline urology syndrome, the incidence of which is unfortunately high.

It is estimated that without proper diet and treatment 50-70% cats will have a relapse.

Various factors may contribute to the etiology of this clinical condition, such as:

  • infection,
  • alkaline urine pH,
  • age of castration,
  • hormonal imbalance,
  • high levels of ash in the diet,
  • high levels of magnesium, phosphate or nitrogen in the diet,
  • low water consumption,
  • obesity,
  • eating dry food.

Urine reaction is an important factor that plays a role in the formation of crystals.

In the wild, cats produce acidic urine at a pH 6.0-7.0 due to the meat diet.

Large amounts of plant ingredients in cat foods often result in a neutral or alkaline urine.

After a meal, the urine pH rises and is raised for one hour or more.

This increase in alkalinity can lead to the formation of crystals in the urine.

To minimize the formation of crystals, it is recommended to keep the urine pH below 6.6.

In such an environment, the crystals remain in the solution, above pH 7.1 crystallization occurs spontaneously.

Hence, there is a very important issue to be resolved:

Is it better to feed the cat ad libitum (constant access to food) or is it better to give him 1-2 meals a day?

Feeding at will means your cat eats 10-20 small meals a day, and with each meal the urine pH rises and remains elevated for a short time.

If one or two large meals are served, the urine pH increases more with each meal and remains elevated for a longer period.

However, it is worth remembering that urine pH is not only the frequency of meals, but also the type of food and the mineral composition of the diet.

The main cause of feline urological syndrome is stones and / or crystals in the urinary tract.

Bacteria and viral infections are less frequently involved, and when a urinary tract infection is present, it is often secondary and not the cause of the disease.

Almost in 90% in cases, the stones are made of struvites (magnesium ammonium phosphate crystals).

Cat urine usually contains high levels of ammonia and phosphate ions due to its high protein diet.

Three factors can play a role in the formation of urinary crystals in a cat:

  • High consecration of stone-forming components in the urine.
  • Favorable urine pH.
  • Retention of urine in the urinary tract.

Deposits can obstruct the urethra or irritate the urinary tract, leading to increased mucus secretion and the formation of a mucous plug that closes the lumen of the urethra.

Urine minerals play an important role in crystal formation and can be influenced by:

  • diet,
  • digestive efficiency,
  • kidney function,
  • urine volume.

Most commercial cat foods made from soybean meal and bone meal contain a lot magnesium, and its level in food may be closely related to the concentration of magnesium in urine.

However, dietary magnesium may not be very bioavailable and is less absorbed and used than expected.

When it comes to the general condition of the kidneys and urinary tract, the role of water in the prevention and treatment of diseases related to this system cannot be overestimated.

When a cat is on a dry (water-depleted) diet, it produces more concentrated urine with a reduced volume (often up to half of what a cat eating moist food produces).

This predisposes you to show up crystals in urine, and this in turn increases the risk of occurrence urolithiasis.

Additionally, highly concentrated urine can irritate the walls of the bladder, which makes it more painful cystitis.

Keep in mind that cats have very little thirst and are used to taking water through their food.

Therefore, it is better to give a moist food (canned or cooked), to which you can additionally add water, in order to keep the right amount of water flowing through the urinary tract and thus help maintain its health.

It is very beneficial to add 1-2 teaspoons of water (pure or as tuna juice, chicken or beef broth) to each meal.

Water fountains can also help to provide the cats with water, but it is still best to simply feed your cat with moist food.

Many foods dedicated to cats suffering from lower urinary tract diseases are developed with the target acidification of the urine.

Attention! Diets low in magnesium can, in fact exacerbate painful cystitis.

Additionally, acidifying diets often promote formation oxalates, which can also lead to hypokalaemia (low blood potassium) which in turn can cause or worsen kidney disease.

In addition to the water in dry food, there is also a correlation between the consumption of a high-carbohydrate diet and the formation of struvite crystals because carbohydrate diets produce alkaline urine.

Diet is not the only issue with cystitis, but is an important factor in its etiology.

This is important to us because we have a real influence on what we give our cat to eat.

An extremely important factor that often causes inflammation of the urinary bladder is stress.

Therefore, the most important issues related to the prevention of bladder disease in cats can be summarized into a few words:

a proper diet with sufficient water and avoid stress.

While the water content of the diet can be easily controlled, the issue of stress is not always easy to solve because sometimes we don't even know that the cat is undergoing it.

Tartar and dental diseases

Tartar in a cat

When cats devour their prey in the wild, they tear the flesh apart, separating it from skin, bones, tendons and ligaments.

This is far from the consistency of a dry food, yet giving cats dry kibbles is recommended by veterinary dentists.

The idea behind dental dry food is an abrasive action to remove plaque.

However, it is forgotten that such croquettes are hard and often break with little or no abrasive effect on the teeth.

Second, a cat's jaws and teeth are designed to rip meat apart, rather than chew hard croquettes.

And third - many cats will ingest most of the dry food before they crush it sufficiently.

There are many factors that contribute to oral conditions in cats, such as genetics, viruses, diet, poor dental hygiene, and more.

The fact is that neither dry croquettes nor canned food come close to imitating what a cat will eat in the wild, and therefore birds, rabbits, mice.

Given what the cat eats in the wild, it is much better to feed part of the diet with large pieces of meat (as large as possible to make the cat chew) or stomachs (tough and fibrous). Raw meat is harder to chew than cooked meat.

What does the cat eat in the wild?

Remember to scald raw meat beforehand to kill any superficial bacteria.

Plain meat without bones or any other source of calcium is insufficient as there is little calcium in the meat. When a cat eats its natural prey, it eats the flesh together with the bones.

Calcium is in addition to most commercial pet diets, so you can safely feed 15-20% of your daily calories in the form of regular meat.

All dental diets are dry (water-depleted), all high in carbohydrate, all contain ingredients unsuitable for species, and even if they have any measurable effect on dental health, they do harm to the rest of the body.

So it's a good idea to feed your cat for its overall health, not just one part of it.

The best way to promote your cat's oral health is still to brush their teeth regularly.

Food intolerance and inflammatory bowel disease

Ibd in the cat

Food intolerance is a non-immune cause of gastrointestinal disease in cats, such as vomiting and diarrhea.

It can be caused by many substances present in cat food, e.g.:

  • different sources of protein and carbohydrates,
  • fragrances,
  • preservatives,
  • food additives such as dyes or fillers.

In such a situation, the treatment consists in excluding the allergenic substance from the diet.

In contrast, IBD in cats is an idiopathic, immune-mediated inflammatory gastrointestinal disease that can be controlled by diet and pharmacology (immunosuppressants, anti-inflammatory drugs).

However, we still do not have a clear understanding of this disease.

It is likely that IBD is triggered by a response to food, bacterial, or parasitic antigens in the lumen of the gut by cells of the gastrointestinal immune system.

As a result of as yet unknown mechanisms, this inflammatory response becomes abnormal and permanent, leading to:

  • chronic severe inflammation (IBD),
  • loss of normal functions of the digestive tract (vomiting, diarrhea),
  • and sometimes the development of cancer (lymphoma).

There is no conclusive evidence of a major role for bacteria as the cause of IBD in cats, but several physiological aspects and gut microbiological characteristics may support this.

Well, in cats, the amount of bacteria living in the intestine is greater (about 109 microorganisms) compared to dogs and humans (

The causes of the increased amount of bacteria in the cat's digestive tract are unknown, but it may be due to their meat diet and a shorter (compared to dogs based on body size) digestive tract.

Increased numbers of bacteria in the gut have been suggested to improve the digestion of proteins and fats present in the diet typically consumed by cats.

Conversely, a diet high in carbohydrates and fiber may affect the number of bacteria in such a way that unfavorable or pathogenic species multiply excessively.

IBD can cause vomiting, diarrhea and / or constipation in a cat.

One of the symptoms of the disease may also be frequent vomiting of hair balls.

Sometimes the only clinical symptom noticed by a caregiver is loss of cat weight.

The treatment involves steroid therapy, however, a very sensible start of treatment should be a diet appropriate to the species.

Dry foods contain a significant amount of carbohydrates, which is not conducive to the treatment of this disease.

It has been reported that simply excluding carbohydrates and switching to home cooked food can solve gastrointestinal problems.

Cat Asthma / Allergic Respiratory Disease

What are the symptoms of asthma in a cat?

The etiology of asthma in cats may include factors such as storage mites, which are present in dry food or too gluten.

Therefore, eliminating dry, low-carbohydrate foods and introducing a home-made, meat-based diet may be effective in reducing the severity of respiratory symptoms (such as coughing and difficulty breathing).

In typical management of asthma clinical symptoms, steroid therapy is used, but at the same time, dietary causes of allergic symptoms in a cat with asthma should be ruled out.

Constipation in a cat

Why cats are constipated?

Symptoms of constipation in a cat may include:

  • pushing on the faeces, stretching without passing the faeces,
  • crying and meowing in the litter box, symptoms of nervousness when passing faeces,
  • diarrhea - sometimes liquid or semi-liquid stool can accompany dry and hard stools,
  • excessive interest in the anal area, licking
  • defecation outside the litter box - may be a symptom of constipation, but may also be associated with other (medical or behavioral) problems; these cats associate the litter box with pain and develop an aversion to it, or they get discouraged and - trying to kill themselves in the litter box - end up elsewhere; make sure you don't confuse constipation with urethral obstruction - your cat's behavior may be similar in both conditions.

Great care should be taken when dealing with a cat that does not defecate on a daily basis as it does not necessarily mean constipation.

If you don't see any abnormalities other than a reduced frequency of bowel movements, it most likely isn't constipation.

Remember that cats on a lean diet (i.e. highly digestible, low in fiber) often do not defecate daily.

If your cat shows signs of constipation, you must contact your veterinarian.

It is important to determine if your pet has any other medical problems that may be causing or contributing to constipation.

E.g. kidney disease can cause dehydration, and hence it is only a step away from problems with passing stools.

Bowel diseases (quite common in cats) can also manifest themselves in difficulties with defecation.

So what is the normal consistency of a cat's droppings when consuming a species-appropriate diet?

Cat droppings consuming a species-appropriate diet are often dry and brittle, which is not necessarily abnormal and disruptive to the cat.

In the wild, cats that eat a species-appropriate diet do not produce soft, copious, smelly droppings.

Still, some cats experience constipation when they eat a diet that is appropriate for the species.

One of the reasons may be that you are adding too much bone to your food.

Another reason may be that stools on a lean diet are smaller in diameter than those on a high-fiber, high-residue diet.

Cat's intestines are not used to dealing with differences in stool "weight" and peristalsis slows down.

Normally, bowel movements are stimulated when the colon is full (distended). When cats have been fed diets that produce more stool volume for years, the signal to defecate may not be strong enough (the colon may not be sufficiently distended) to induce defecation.

The longer the feces are in the colon, the more water is drawn out of it (as this is one of the main roles of this part of the gut - conserving water and recovering it from the feces).

Then the faeces become drier and drier, which leads to constipation in cats.

The issue of constipation should be considered in terms of the water content of the stool and the volume of the stools.

Overall, any constipation in cats will benefit from the increased water content in their stools. For this, lactulose is often used in cats to draw some water into the colon. This increases the water content of the stools.

Another way is to increase the fiber content, which absorbs water like a sponge and swells, thereby increasing the bulk of the stool.

Anorexia

A variety of medical conditions can lead to anorexia in your cat - these can include:

  • infections,
  • metabolic disorders,
  • injuries and much more.

Long-term lack of food intake can lead to liver lipidosis and jaundice.

The main goal of managing anorexia nervosa in cats is to keep the cat's protein and energy intake sufficiently to meet the body's needs and prevent fatty liver disease.

The easiest and safest way is to feed the animal through the digestive tract.

Therefore, stimulating the appetite, force-feeding and probe feeding are the methods that are recommended if the cat is refusing to eat food on its own.

If your intestines are not working properly, you may need parenteral nutrition.

To encourage your cat to eat and to stimulate its appetite, you can gently heat the food.

Sometimes cats stop eating with upper respiratory tract infections.

Then it may be sufficient cleansing the nostrils of residual exudate, whereby the sense of smell is restored. Being able to sense your food is important in stimulating your appetite.

Very tasty cat food can also help.

Force-feeding is acceptable as long as it does not add too much stress to the cat.

The latter method can work with weak animals and - if done gently and patiently - is often very effective, but stronger cats can struggle with this feeding procedure.

However, in many cases, feeding with a gastric tube is recommended.

Veterinary cat food

Veterinary cat food

Veterinary foods are specially balanced diets for animals that can be prescribed and should only be sold by veterinarians.

In the past, they could only be purchased from a doctor, now they can be purchased online, and often in stationary pet stores.

And these types of products should be handled more like medicine than typical food.

Medicinal foods are dedicated to patients with specific ailments, and thanks to a specific composition, they are intended to support pharmacological treatment.

And this is a good assumption because in some situations you do need to change your diet.

Personally, I think that it would be ideal if the new type of food was determined on a case-by-case basis by a qualified and experienced companion animal nutritionist who would look at the specific patient (his medical history, test results etc.) and will create an optimal diet for him.

However, this is not always possible and not always necessary.

Well, the producers of animal feeds have met the expectations of both veterinarians and animal caregivers and have developed a number of products that can not only be used for specific disease entities, but also have a therapeutic effect on many of them.

Thus, prescription foods have become a permanent fixture in clinics and veterinary surgeries.

Often recommended by doctors, veterinary diets include:

  • diets used in dermatological problems,
  • kidney feed,
  • liver diets,
  • diets for cats with diseases of the urinary tract,
  • slimming food for cats,
  • dental diets,
  • hypoallergenic diets,
  • pancreatic feed,
  • convalescence diets,
  • food used in diseases of the joints,
  • diets for heart disease,
  • diets for gastrointestinal problems,
  • specialized feeds recommended for diabetes.

These types of foods should be given to cats only with the consent and explicit recommendation of a veterinarian and only for a period designated by him.

The discussion about veterinary diets is beyond the scope of this article, but I would like to draw the reader's attention to a few of them, which - in my opinion - are the most important and enjoy the greatest interest.

Cat food is prescribed for kidney disease

Since kidney disease is one of the most common diseases in cats, this type of food is massively recommended by veterinarians.

There are many companies on the market that produce such products, and the leading ones are:

  • Hill 's k / d;
  • Purina NF;
  • Royal Canin Veterinary Renal.

The task of the kidneys is to remove unnecessary and / or harmful products from the bloodstream, which are mainly the result of protein metabolism.

With impaired renal function, toxic metabolites of protein metabolism accumulate in the body, causing clinical symptoms of the disease.

Kidney diets are low in protein, which is to reduce the concentration of toxins in the body and thus relieve the diseased kidneys.

However, for cats, it may not be that simple

Some researchers believe that kidney diets do not significantly reduce the burden on the kidneys, nor do they delay disease progression.

They explain this by the fact that cats' organisms have limited control over protein metabolism and will process a similar amount of protein regardless of how much protein is present in the food.

Additionally, cats with kidney disease often have poor appetite and may refuse to eat low-protein foods.

One should also not forget about a very important issue:

adequate protein intake is associated with maintaining a healthy lean body mass, which promotes the health and longevity of the cat.

Many experts believe that older cats usually need even more protein than their younger kin.

Due to the fact that they don't have much control over protein metabolism, cats fed low-protein diets can still break down as much protein as those fed high-protein diets, but this protein will come from their own muscles, reducing lean body mass.

Undeniably, however, the kidney diet has a beneficial effect on blood phosphorus level, and it is he who is associated with many clinical symptoms.

Therefore, when feeding sick cats, great importance should be attached to maintaining lean body mass.

It is important that the cat actually eats the food offered to it and that its weight is kept at a healthy level.

If he is enthusiastic about the kidney diet, the super-limited phosphorus level can actually make him feel better.

However, if the pet does not want such a food, offer him something that he will accept without resistance.The most important thing is to maintain the cat's appetite, monitor renal parameters and body weight.

Veterinary food for cats used in diabetes

The type of diabetes that is most common in cats is similar to the most common type of diabetes in humans.

In human medicine, the mainstay of treatment of type 2 diabetes is diet modification. Shouldn't that be the case with cats??

The answer to this question is ambiguous.

Diabetes mellitus is a disease characterized by high blood sugar levels.

Current feline dietary foods for the treatment of diabetes in cats contain high levels of protein and low levels of carbohydrates because the body is easier to metabolize carbohydrates into glucose.

This makes sense and modifying the diet does help diabetic cats.

However, diet alone is often insufficient to control hyperglycemia, and the vast majority of patients require insulin administration (at least in the initial stages of treatment).

Diabetic diets available on the market include:

  • Hill 's m / d;
  • Purina DM;
  • Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Diabetic Formula.

Specialized diets for intestinal problems

Cats with non-inflammatory bowel disease or food intolerance may show:

  • chronic, recurrent diarrhea,
  • vomiting,
  • weight loss,
  • decreased appetite.

The first and most basic treatment for these disorders is to modify the composition of the food.

Use of highly digestible prescription diets (such as Hill 's i / d, Purina EN, or Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Gastrointestinal) or diets restricted in certain hypoallergenic ingredients (e.g. Hill 's z / d or d / d, Purina HA or Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Feline Anallergenic) may be effective in managing clinical symptoms.

It is often necessary to experiment with several diets to find one that works for a cat with IBD or an intolerance.

Summary

What food is best for a cat?

While a simple feed change will not solve all medical problems in cats, it is extremely important to make it clear that nutrition has a huge impact on the health and life of these animals.

Nutrition plays a key role in obesity, diabetes, lipidosis, and possibly IBD.

Of course, the etiopathogenesis of most of these diseases is multifactorial - they are influenced by various genetic, environmental and other stimuli - but the unique nutritional needs of cats should not be underestimated, because - unlike omnivorous dogs - they are true carnivores.

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