Cat Food and Dietary Needs
Whether you own a picky Persian or a ravenous Russian Blue, you’re not alone in worrying whether your cat is too greedy, too fussy, underweight or overweight. Whatever the breed, you need to be in the know about your cat’s nutritional needs and eating habits to ensure maximum health and fitness, and a sleek body shape that’s not carrying excess weight. Veterinary surgeon Daniel Chan, senior lecturer and head of nutritional support service at the Royal Veterinary College, answers some common questions on feline diet and weight.
1. My cat really doesn’t like wet food. Is it a problem if he only eats dry food, as I have noticed that he seems to be a bit chubbier lately?
Just as we have food preferences, so do cats. If your cat only eats dry food, it’s not necessarily a problem and doesn’t mean that he will gain weight – obesity results from a combination of too many calories and a lack of physical activity. You should always be aware of how much you are feeding your cat in terms of calories, and your vet should be able to advise exactly how much he needs. If you’re worried about your cat’s weight, a great tool to understand what weight your pet should be is the Cat Size-o-meter.
2. My cat loves being outside hunting and always brings ‘presents’ home for us. Do we need to worry about what she might be eating when she’s outside, and should we adjust the amount we feed her?
Cats that roam and hunt actually have a decreased risk of obesity. This is probably related to their increased activity, so you won’t need to reduce her food portion. Cats never eat carrion (decaying flesh), so the only health concern around eating prey is the possibility of picking up some parasites. For that reason, among others, cats that roam should be wormed regularly.
3. I’ve noticed that even though my cat is eating as usual she seems to be losing weight. Should I be concerned?
Generally speaking, any unexpected and unintended weight loss should be a cause of concern, as there may be a medical reason behind it. Your vet should be able to test for possible causes of weight loss, such as thyroid or kidney problems. Don’t just start feeding your cat more – underfeeding is rarely a problem we see.
4. I have two cats. The younger one gobbles down his kitten food in a matter of seconds and then hassles his older brother, trying to eat his adult food. What can I do?
We now know that there are certain nutrients needed during the different life stages, so diets are tailored for each one – kitten, adult and senior. For example, protein and calcium needs are highest during periods of growth and lactation, whereas when cats age they require fewer calories (to avoid gaining weight). So a kitten that eats adult food would not get enough calcium to develop bones properly, and an adult cat eating kitten food may gain excess weight. In households like yours, with multiple cats, it can be challenging to ensure they are eating the right diet, so it’s best to feed cats in separate rooms, with any uneaten food removed until the next meal. Don’t leave food out between feeds as they may eat when bored, increasing the risk of weight gain. Generally, it’s best to feed three or four smaller meals a day.