This article reviews the benefits and disadvantages of semi-moist, dry, and canned cat foods. Semi-moist foods are not generally recommended as a sole diet due to their high sugar and sodium content, as well as the addition of artificial colors, preservatives, and flavor enhancers. Dry food, or kibble, is easy to portion control and can be fed in puzzle toys. Canned food is a good option but more expensive than kibble and may contribute to periodontal disease. Feeding a combination of canned and dry daily is recommended.
The goal of feeding growing kittens is to lay the foundation for a healthy adulthood. Portion feeding is recommended to maintain a good body condition. Proper nutrition is critical to the health and development of kittens, regardless of breed, and it directly influences their immune system and body composition. An optimal growth rate in kittens is ideal; it is a slow and steady growth rate that allows the kitten to achieve an ideal adult body condition while avoiding excessive weight and obesity. Growing kittens need higher amounts of all nutrients in comparison to adult cats, but excess energy calories and calcium can create serious problems. Preventing obesity must begin during the weaning stage and continue through to adulthood and old age. Together with your veterinarian and veterinary healthcare team, you can help your kitten grow into as healthy of an adult cat as possible.
Over 50% of cats in North America are either overweight or obese, so paying attention to the balance between activity and calorie intake is important
Mature, senior, and geriatric cats often require different nutrition than adult cats due to their changing ability to digest nutrients and underlying medical conditions. Senior diets vary widely in nutrient profiles as there are yet no established standards. Recommendations for senior cat diets need to be based on clinical examination and discussion between veterinarian and owner. It is very important to ensure adequate water intake for senior cats.
Orphaned kittens will need extra care for survival to compensate for the loss of their mother. Kittens must be kept warm, very clean, and fed frequently using an appropriate amount and type of formula by bottle or less often tube feeding. To ensure nutrition is adequate, daily weight checks should be performed for the first 4 weeks, then weekly thereafter. Kittens must be stimulated to urinate and defecate. Environment, feeding instruments, and the kitten must be kept meticulously clean as they are more susceptible to infection than kittens cared for by their mother.
Interactive feeders that require a pet to think and work for their food call upon the natural instinct to hunt or forage. Besides being fun, these food puzzles may help both physical and behavioral problems in cats and dogs. When used correctly, interactive feeders may benefit pets that eat too quickly, become bored when alone, or suffer from separation anxiety.
Special attention needs to be given to a cat’s nutrition before and during her pregnancy to promote a healthy birth and healthy kittens. It is important to maintain a good body condition throughout pregnancy as her weight increases. A good quality kitten or all life stages diet is recommended during the entire pregnancy; ideally one evaluated using feeding trials. This diet is usually fed throughout the lactation period, but attention to body condition is essential here as well, and the diet may need to be restricted if there is a small number of kittens or the cat starts becoming overweight. Weaning is usually aided by feeding significantly less food for a few days while restricting access to nursing to decrease milk production.
Feeding your cat can be easily accomplished with mealtimes on a set schedule. At least two meals per day are best for your cat. The use of food toys or interactive feeders adds interest to your cat’s mealtime. Routines help your cat adjust to changes that may occur in your home as well as allow you to monitor her health.
With all cancer management strategies, providing optimal nutrition for your cat is essential. The metabolic effects of cancer will persist after treatment but with your veterinarian’s guidance, you can adjust your cat's nutrient profile and potentially avoid some of these negative side effects. Carbohydrates promote cancer cell growth, while cancer cells have a difficult time using fat as an energy source, so foods that are relatively high in fat and low in carbohydrate may benefit cats with cancer. The effects of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy will be considered when your veterinarian advises a nutrient profile, formulation, quantity, and delivery method for your cat.
The food you feed your cat is the largest factor you can control to give them optimal health. The diet formulation should change over your cat’s life as she moves through the different stages of kitten, adult, senior, and geriatric. The diet type should change over their life as their needs will be different at different ages. The diet type can help manage or improve many medical conditions. Your veterinarian is always ready to help you make the best nutritional choices for your cat.