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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

What Should I Feed My Cat ?

Ron Hines DVM PhD
Good nutrition and a balanced diet are essential for health. People often ask me what they should feed their cats. Over the years, I have made some observations on the health of cats fed an enormous variety of diets. Here are some of my conclusions.
In the last few years, raw meat diets have become popular. I am hesitant to recommend them because I have seen several catteries contaminated with Salmonella infection which I believe was caused by feeding raw meat. All of the known vitamins, present in raw meat, have been supplemented in name-brand diets.
Cats have not evolved from strict meat eaters in the way dogs have. In their nutritional needs, cats are much the same as their wild ancestors. They are particularly well suited to digesting animal protein but unable to utilize dietary fiber. Cats do best on a diet, which is twenty percent protein, nine percent fat thirty-five percent carbohydrates and a maximum of ten percent fiber.
Cats are not big drinkers. They drink less than dogs do – possibly because they descend from desert sand cats. This may also be the cause of their susceptibility to urine crystals and subsequent lower urinary tract disease.
Canned vs. Dry Cat Foods
Given their choice, most cats prefer canned diets. The aroma, flavor and palatability of dry diets do not match that of canned. Cats are creatures of habit and quickly get accustomed to a flavor and consistency of diet to the exclusion of all others. Which ever you buy, be sure the label says that the diet meets the National Research Council’s guidelines on feline nutrition and is certified by the Association of American Feed Control Officials. Over the years I have found that cats fed dry diets have less tartar build up on their teeth and less gum disease surrounding the teeth. With time, gum inflammation associated with canned diets causes the tissues surrounding the teeth to recede and the teeth to loosen. With time, bacteria moving through the blood stream from infected gums cause damage to the kidneys and liver. Dry cat foods have greater caloric density – that is they are richer. This is because canned food contains about 75% water. I do not suggest semi-moist diets because of the large amount of preservatives they contain.
How Much To Feed Your Cat
Cats vary greatly in the amount of food necessary for optimal weight and health. Most adult cats I see are overweight. Overweight cats store their fat on their tummies so they may not appear fat to their owners. Growing cats and kittens require considerably more food per pound body weight to thrive than adults or senior cats do. The following table is an estimate of how much your cat should eat. It is not precise because the compositions of various brands differ

Body Weight
Ounces of Dry Food
Ounces of Canned Food
10 weeks
2.0-2.4 lbs
2.5-3.0 oz
7.3-8.9 oz
20 weeks
4.2-5.5 lbs
2.8-3.7 oz
8.0-10.5 oz
30 weeks
5.5-8.4 lbs
2.8-4.2 oz
8.1-12.4 oz
40 weeks
6.4-8.4 lbs
2.6-3.4 oz
7.6-9.9 oz
Adult Active
4.8-9.9 lbs
2.0-4.0 oz
5.7-11.8 oz
Adult Inactive
4.8-9.9 lbs
1.7-3.2 oz
5.0-10.3 oz
Senior Adult
4.8-9.9 lbs
2.3-4.3 oz
6.7-7.7 oz
5.5-8.0 lbs
2.8-4.4 oz
8.1-13.0 oz
Giving Milk*
4.8-8.8 lbs
6.1-11.1 oz
17.8-32.4 oz

Nutrient Requirements of Cats
Cats are natural meat eaters and cannot be maintained on vegetarian diets or diets that rely heavily on grains. Such diets are deficient in essential amino acids, fatty acids and vitamins. Cats are finicky eaters who choose their foods on the basis of taste, aroma, texture and moisture content rather than meeting their nutritional needs. Cats are unusual in that they cannot convert the carotenes found in leafy plants into vitamin A as humans can. Their natural source of vitamin A is liver. Vitamin A is necessary for membrane health. Cats deficient in vitamin A are more susceptible to respiratory tract infections, eye and skin disease. Niacin or nicotinic acid is also essential to your cat’s health. A lack of niacin causes inflammation of the intestines, rough skin and hair coat, oral ulcers and increased susceptibility to infection. Most mammals can synthesize niacin from the amino acid, triptophan. Cats have lost that ability and must obtain all their niacin from their diet. Cats must obtain the fatty acid, arachidonic acid from their diets. Animal fats are a good source of arachidonic acid. Unlike most mammals, cats cannot synthesize taurine from cysteine and methionine. They must receive all of it through the muscle meats in their diet. Lack of sufficient taurine causes blindness and heart enlargement. In addition to these special nutrients, cats have a higher protein and fat requirement than dogs and many other mammals.Although high fiber diets are not natural for cats, some dietary fiber is important for gastrointestinal motility. Dietary fiber also seems to aid in preventing hyperglycemia and diabetes that are common in older cats. Too much fiber can prevent the absorption of vitamins and minerals and lead to diarrhea.
There are twelve minerals that are essential for cats. One of these, calcium, is essential for the formation of bone and teeth and as a signal between cells. Kittens that do not receive sufficient calcium have pinkish, translucent teeth a bowlegged stance and knobby painful joints. Partial bone fractures in these kittens are common. Most of the kittens I see with this condition were the offspring of nutritionally deprived feral (wild) cats. Others received a diet that was primarily meat or fish. Meat is low in calcium and high in phosphorus. High phosphorus interferes with the absorption of the little calcium that meat contains. Older cats on low calcium high phosphorus meat diets suffer from tooth and bone problems.
An average sized adult cat weighing nine pounds should consume about 240 kilocalories a day. Neutered cats need less than intact animals. Cats like to munch on and off throughout the day so I suggest dry foods be available at all times. When food is available at all times, cats will eat ten to twenty small meals a day. Younger cats tent to self-regulate their caloric intake and stay lean. But twenty to forty percent of cats become overweight when feed free choice. As cats age, feed them a diet that is less caloric. One needs to consider at cats age and body condition when planning a diet. Problems occur in multi-cat households because it seems that there is always one cat that needs to eat more and another that needs to eat less. The only way I have found to solve this problem is to feed different cats in different closed rooms of the house several times a day. Give them about twenty minutes at a feeding. Thin cats should be encouraged to eat one-and-a-half times a normal ration. This can be done with treats or pungent flavors. Feed chubby cats foods that are advertised as lower caloric or just feed them less. Chubby cats are more susceptible to diabetes and liver disease. If these cats are fed only two thirds of the food they presently consume, weight loss will be gradual and gentle. One can also feed a lower caloric cat chow to accomplish the same thing.
Food Quality
Cat foods differ primarily in their source of protein. Generic cat foods use less expensive sources of protein. Because of this, the quality of protein in generic and house brand cat foods is poorer. Do not be led astray by considering only the percent protein. Percent protein tells nothing about the quality and digestibility of the product. Excluding premium, niche and specialty brands sold through pet shops, the quality of cat diets is reflected directly in the price you pay for the food. Cats love the taste of fish. However, an overactive thyroid gland or hyperthyroidism as well as premature aging have been associated with feeding fish-flavored cat foods. It is not clear if the problem is that poor quality, rancid fish are used in animal foods or if there are constituents in fish themselves that cause the problem. Some nutritionists theorize that the high level of unsaturated fatty acids in fish lend themselves to the formation of free radical groups upon spoiling. If you must feed fish-flavored cat foods, supplement your cat with 25-50 units of vitamin E per day and one milligram of thiamine. Please see Threads:

Source: All Creature Care