cats are not like humans or dogs.
Cats are strict carnivores (meat-eaters) and have quite unique nutritional
requirements. They have higher protein requirements than most other
animals as well as specific requirements for nutrients such as taurine,
arginine, arachidonic acid (a fatty acid), extra niacin (a B vitamin)
and Vitamin A. Mostly, these nutrients are present in sufficient
quantities in animal-based proteins such as meat, fish and eggs
but are inadequate or unavailable in plants. Thus, cats are true
carnivores - and must consume animal protein in their diet to meet
these unique nutritional requirements and cannot be vegetarian.
also have quite unique feeding behaviours.
Domestic cats typically eat 10 to 20 small meals per 24-hour period
which mimics the natural feeding patterns of cats in the wild. This
pattern reflects the evolutionary relationship with cats and their
prey where repeated cycles of hunting throughout the day and night
are required to provide enough food. Cats can also be quite erratic
eaters consuming little food for several days then consuming a large
It is important to provide cats with proper
nutrition and care for each stage of their life from kitten-hood
through to old age, in order to maximise their health, longevity
and quality of life.
A kitten’s nutritional needs are different
from those of an adult cat and must be met by a small quantity of
food which is all a kitten’s stomach can accommodate. Kitten
foods should therefore be formulated with very high quality ingredients
- increased calories, protein, vitamins and minerals are necessary
for the dramatic growth occurring in the kitten’s first few
months of life. The right balance is crucial to avoid unnecessary
excesses of nutrients.
Kitten foods are designed to be fed from
weaning to 12 months of age. Pregnant and nursing queens should
also be fed kitten foods free-choice during the last third of pregnancy
and throughout lactation.
of the most common human foods offered to cats is milk.
This practice is best avoided because cats lack the enzyme to digest
the lactose in milk which can lead to diarrhoea.
Cats are considered ‘adults’
between 1 and 6 years of age. Adult cat foods are specifically formulated
for ‘normal’ weight adult cats. Certain nutrients such
as salt, minerals & protein should be controlled to avoid skeletal
and kidney diseases. The mineral magnesium should be restricted
and acidic urine should be produced in order to reduce the risk
of struvite crystals or stones. These can form in the urinary tract
which may cause Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD), a common
problem in cats. Feeding highly digestible foods with quality ingredients
helps to reduce litter box waste and odour, important for owners
of indoor cats.
Often cats become inactive when confined
indoors, or once they have been desexed. These conditions may make
animals prone to weight gain. In fact it’s estimated up to
30% of cats may be overweight or obese. In this situation, an ideal
‘light’ adult cat food should be fed. Check the food
has reduced fat and calories and increased fibre – this will
satisfy a cat’s appetite while avoiding obesity.
cats age they are more likely to develop health problems.
Areas of particular concern are obesity, kidney disease, urinary
tract health and dental disease. Senior cats are those aged 7 years
and over. It’s important you take your senior cat for regular
vet checks (every 6 months). This way, early disease signs can be
detected and addressed accordingly. In most cases, healthy senior
cats should receive a diet with fewer calories, a higher taurine
level, less phosphorous and a less acidic urine pH than foods for
younger adult cats. Foods for senior cats should also have a softer
kibble making it easier to chew.
In the last 10 years there have been significant
advances in the nutrition of cats. From foods that help control
hairballs, to ones that help clean your cat’s teeth. There
are a multitude of options often making it hard for pet owners to
select the best one for their pet. Remember, it is important to
choose a food that meets your cat’s individual nutritional
requirements based on age, activity level and general well being.
Premium foods offer complete and balanced diets with good quality
ingredients and controlled levels of minerals. If you still find
it hard to make a decision, then consult your vet or vet nurse.
They will be able to recommend the best food for your furry friend!
Article by Hill Science Diet
Level 1, 68-72 Waterloo Rd, NORTH RYDE NSW 2113
PO Box 1003, MACQUARIE PARK NSW 2113
Phone: (02) 8875 1600
Fax: (02) 9888 8241
Hill’s HelpLine: 1800 679 932
Veterinary Consultation Service: 1800 800 733