October 20, 2020
11 Human Foods That Are Poisonous to Cats
Humans and cats both need diets that include water and protein, but that’s usually where the similarities end. Cats have starkly different nutritional needs and many human foods can be poisonous, causing digestive issues, vitamin deficiencies, anemia and even life-threatening conditions. So even though your curious cat might be intrigued by the smell of your dinner simmering on the stove, it’s crucial to know how the ingredients could affect their health. Read on for details:
11 Foods That Are Toxic to Cats
Wine, beer, liquor and food that contains alcohol can result in diarrhea, vomiting, breathing problems, tremors and other serious conditions. “Just two teaspoons of whisky can cause a coma in a 5-pound cat,” reports Fetch by WebMD. “And one more teaspoon could kill it.
The cacao seeds that are used to make chocolate contain methylxanthines, which are naturally occurring compounds found in many plants. Theobromine and caffeine are two types of methylxanthines that can be very toxic to cats.
Cats that experience chocolate poisoning usually show the following symptoms:
- Rapid breathing
- Elevated temperature
- Muscle rigidity
- Increased reflex response
- Cardiac arrest
Chocolate Toxicity Levels in Cats
The Spruce outlines the toxicity levels by different types of chocolate for an 8 lb. cat:
|Type of Chocolate
||Minimum Toxic Amount for an 8 lb. Cat
This chart lists approximate amounts. If your cat consumes any amount of chocolate, you should consult with your vet.
3. Dog Food
Dog food contains many of the same ingredients as cat food, and an occasional bite here and there won’t necessary be harmful. However, dog food should never be used as a substitute for cat food. Cats have specific nutritional needs that they get from cat food, such as high amounts of protein, vitamins and fatty acids.
Dog food should never be a substitute for cat food. Fetch by WebMD says that a steady diet of dog food could cause severe malnourishment in cats.
4. Grapes & Raisins
According to the ASPCA, grapes and raisins contain an unknown toxic substance that can cause kidney failure in cats. To be safe, the ASPCA advises pet owners to avoid feeding grapes or raisins to their cats.
Too much liver can cause vitamin A toxicity, a serious condition that can affect a cat’s bones and lead to death in severe cases. Fetch by WebMD notes that effects of vitamin A toxicity include deformed bones, bone growths on the elbows and spine, and osteoporosis.
6. Milk & Dairy Products
Cats become lactose intolerant as they mature, which means they have trouble digesting dairy products. Consuming high or frequent amounts of dairy products containing lactose can lead to gastrointestinal pain and diarrhea.
7. Onions, Garlic & Chives
Onions can break down a cat’s red blood cells, which can cause weakness, shortness of breath and anemia. Garlic (which is 5x as potent as onions) and chives can cause similar health problems.
Whether powered, cooked, raw or dehydrated, do not give your cat onions, garlic or chives.
8. Raw/Undercooked Meat, Eggs & Fish
Raw meat, raw fish and raw eggs often contain bacteria like Salmonella and E. coli that can be harmful to both humans and immunocompromised pets.
Fetch by WebMD explains that raw eggs contain an enzyme that decreases the absorption of biotin (a B vitamin), which can lead to skin and coat problems. Raw fish also contains an enzyme that destroys thiamine, another essential B vitamin. Without thiamine, a cat can develop neurological problems that could lead to convulsions or coma.
Are Raw Food Diets Safe for Cats?
There are safe ways to feed your cat raw foods. Prepared, raw diets made specifically for pets are regulated to ensure that they do not contain harmful bacteria. You can learn more about raw diets for cats in our blog post: Should You Feed Your Cat a Raw Diet? 11 Questions to Ask First.
9. Canned Tuna
Feeding your cat a steady diet of canned tuna can cause malnutrition because it doesn’t contain the necessary nutrients for a feline. Too much tuna can also increase the risk of mercury poisoning.
If your cat loves the fishy taste and smell of tuna, you can try feeding them a prepared cat food made with human-grade tuna. Pet foods designed to be fed on a regular basis are required to provide the vitamins and minerals cats need, so they will be getting the right nutrients while also satisfying their craving.
10. Uncooked Potatoes & Tomatoes
ModernCat reports that raw potatoes and tomatoes can cause gastrointestinal distress, but they have no toxic effects if cooked. However, green potatoes (cooked or raw) can lead to cardiac issues, hallucinations and paralysis, so make sure to keep them away from your cat.
11. Yeast Dough
The ASPCA says that “yeast dough can rise and cause gas to accumulate in your pet’s digestive system.” This can cause your cat’s stomach to bloat and become painful. Their stomach can potentially twist which would be a life-threatening emergency.
What to Do if Your Cat Eats Something Toxic
The most common signs of toxicity in cats are:
- Breathing problems
- Dilated pupils
- Drinking and urinating more
- Upset stomach
- Skin irritation
If you suspect that your cat may have eaten something toxic, you should:
- Watch for symptoms. Keep a close eye on your cat to observe any non-typical behavior or signs of stress.
- Call your vet. If it’s outside of your regular vet’s operating hours, contact an emergency vet clinic.
- Bring vomit or stool samples to the vet, if you are able.
1-800-PetMeds reports that “about 25% of poisoned pets recover within two hours.” Pets can often be treated at home under the guidance of a veterinarian or with advice from the ASPCA’s Poison Control Center.
Human Foods That Are Safe For Cats
Cheese can be high in protein, which makes it a nice occasional treat. As we mentioned, cats have sensitivity to dairy products that can cause gastrointestinal pain or diarrhea. If you give your cat cheese, make sure it is in a very small amount and not on a frequent basis.
Eggs can be a good source of protein for your cat, but make sure that they are cooked. Raw or uncooked eggs can contain harmful bacteria that can upset your cat’s digestive system.
Rich in omega-3 fatty acids, fish can help with arthritis, kidney disease and heart disorders. Choose canned or cooked fish and only give it to your cat as a treat every now and then. Just don’t give your cat raw fish, like sushi.
Cats in the wild eat high-protein, meat-based diets, and domesticated felines need the same kind of nutrition. However, if you wouldn’t eat a certain piece of meat, then you shouldn’t offer it to your cat.
Feeding your cat a meat-based diet is the best way to make sure that they are getting the nutrients they need. Always choose wet canned food and dry food that features high-protein, high-moisture, moderate fat and low carbs.
October 12, 2020
Should You Feed Your Cat a Raw Diet? 11 Questions to Ask First
Recent years have seen tremendous growth in raw food diets for cats and dogs. As obligate carnivores, cats can especially thrive on a complete, balanced and safely prepared raw diet. However, feeding your cat a raw diet is a significant responsibility — and it’s one that many experts advise against. Read on for the details.
What is a Raw Diet?
Raw can be a broad term, including freeze-dried or dehydrated options. Generally, a raw diet is one that includes animal protein (typically muscle meat), organs, bones and a fiber source. To be considered truly "raw," the food is not processed using heat.
What Are the Benefits of a Raw Food Diet for Cats?
For cats, a raw diet:
- Supports dental health
- Encourages water intake
- Provides more efficient protein due to lack of processing
- Includes lower carbohydrate levels to help prevent obesity/diabetes
There are currently many commercially available raw diets. With time and education, preparation can be done at home.
Are Raw Food Diets Safe for Cats?
The risks of well-known bacteria like Salmonella and E.coli are very real in raw diets. Although cats are less susceptible to these dangers due to shorter GI systems and therefore less exposure to harm, the risk of cross contamination is alarming — not to mention that these harmful bacteria can negatively affect cats.
Food safety and thorough cleaning procedures must be adhered to. High Pressure Processing (HPP), a food safety step using pressure rather than heat, is often used commercially to ensure safe nutrition. Cat parents should always adhere to the feeding guidelines and storage recommendations provided by the supplier.
What Health Concerns Are Helped By a Raw Diet?
As evolved desert dwellers, cats lack a strong thirst drive. The tendency of raw diets to contain more moisture offers added hydration, helping to alleviate some urinary problems and improve overall health.
Perhaps the most common health concern that can be helped by a raw diet is kidney disease. The kidneys, when healthy, work wonders metabolizing protein and processing waste. Heat processing damages the foods' amino acid profile, creating lower protein efficiency (usability by the cat) and waste to be processed by the kidneys. In turn, a diet free of heat damage can improve kidney health.
Who Should Not Use Raw Diets?
The risks of raw feeding are real — especially if pet owners are not able to prepare homemade complete, balanced and safe meals, or purchase and properly store raw meals.
Due to the risks to the animal and any humans cohabitating with them, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advise against feeding raw diets to pets.
Are Raw Food Diets Complete & Balanced?
Pet parents familiar with nutrition product labels have probably seen the term "complete and balanced" before. This term signifies that the product meets the required nutrient inclusion for a given animal's life stage — which is determined by AAFCO, the voluntary association that regulates the safety of animal feed in the marketplace by working with animal nutritionists to create guidelines.
Oftentimes a vitamin pack or nutritional supplement must be used to ensure a complete and balanced nutritional profile is achieved.
How Can I Prepare a Raw Food Diet?
While raw feeding may bring to mind thoughts of throwing a piece of raw meat or fish in the bowl for your cat, making a complete and balanced homemade raw diet is not that simple.
In fact, such a method is far from recommended. Rebecca Remillard, a board-certified veterinary nutritionist at the MSPCA Angell Animal Medical Center in Boston, warns that raw meat diets are neither safe nor nutritionally sound.
A serious danger of raw feeding is the risks posed to the human residents of a house. Food safety storage and cleaning practices must be followed. It is always best to consult an animal nutrition professional to develop a complete diet of protein from meat or fish, amino acids, vitamins and minerals, and proper water intake for your cat.
How Do I Transition My Cat to a Raw Diet?
Our feline companions are notoriously finicky when it comes to their diets, but providing them with the least processed nutrition possible is the best thing for them.
Transitioning to progressively less processed foods over time is usually the best bet. This can be accomplished by phasing in raw food leading to a completely raw diet. The Feline Nutrition Foundation is a non-profit dedicated to educating cat parents on the benefits of a raw diet, and offers an informative transitioning guide.
Why Not Just Use Dry & Canned Diets?
The aforementioned benefits of feeding your cat a raw diet are not often realized with a processed diet.
However, the barriers to feeding a safe, complete and balanced raw diet can keep cat parents from making the switch to raw. As with our own meals, a balance must be struck between convenience and healthy nutrition when it comes to providing your cat with a healthy diet.
What Are Raw Diet Alternatives?
While there is no perfect substitute for feeding a truly raw diet, the goal of providing the best nutrition possible can be approached in various ways.
Sometimes thought of as synonymous with raw diets are freeze-dried and dehydrated diets. The aim of feeding this way is to avoid heat-processed ingredients, or to achieve as minimal heat damaged nutrition possible. With RAWZ, we've worked with a team of animal nutritionists to develop raw-inspired, minimally processed nutrition options for cats.
What Do The Experts Say?
Speaking to PetMD, Jodie Gruenstern, DVM, believes a raw food diet may be even more important for cats than it is for dogs “because they are stricter carnivores than dogs.”
In the same article, Erika Halle, DVM, discussed how a raw diet can help with weight management. “Obesity is still possible with raw food, but much less likely than with processed, high carbohydrate food.” With diabetes and obesity being so prevalent among cats today, this is especially important.
October 9, 2020
8 Reasons Why Cats Meow [Plus FAQs & 8 Types of Meows]
Cats meow as a way of communicating with humans, but not all cat meows are the same.
There are different types of meows and the reasons for each can range from a simple greeting to an underlying health condition. Some breeds may be more vocal than others, and certain situations may cause a cat to be more talkative than usual.
From trills and chirps to yowls and howls, read on to learn why cats meow, how to stop a cat from meowing and the different types of meows.
8 Reasons Why Cats Meow
- They want attention or they’re lonely
Dogs aren’t the only ones who enjoy attention from their humans. Cats can be social too, and they will vocalize their need for attention until they get it. They may meow when they want you to pet them, if they want to play or even if they just want you to talk to them.
The ASPCA says that "cats who are left alone for long periods of time each day may be more likely to meow for attention." Maybe you came home from work and didn’t give your cat a proper "hello" or maybe they just need some extra playtime.
The transition from being an outdoor cat to an indoor cat could also inspire excessive meowing. As your cat makes the adjustment to life indoors, they may be vocal near doors when they want to go out.
2. They’re sick
Some illnesses, like kidney disease or an overactive thyroid, can cause cats to become extra vocal. Fetch by WebMD says "numerous diseases can cause a cat to feel hunger, thirst, or pain, all of which can lead to excessive meowing." A trip to the veterinarian can help you find answers.
3. They want food
Have you noticed your cat meowing more around feeding time? Some cats will become more vocal when they know mealtime is approaching as a way to remind you to feed them. If your cat meows every time you walk into the kitchen, it’s because she’s learned to use her meow as a way to beg for food.
4. They’re greeting you
A quick meow is your cat saying hello. They might do this when you come home from being away for a few hours or when they enter the same room you’re in.
5. They’re stressed
If there’s been a change in your cat’s environment — like a move, a new baby, a new pet, etc. — they may meow more as a sign of stress.
6. Their age
As cats age, they may meow due to confusion or cognitive dysfunction. Fetch by WebMD explains that these conditions can cause a cat to become disoriented and emit a melancholy cry for no apparent reason, especially at night. This is another instance where a trip to the vet is necessary.
7. It’s mating season
Unaltered cats (those not spayed or neutered) will make drawn-out meows (yowls) during breeding season. This is their way of communicating with each other — females yowl when they are in heat and males will yowl when they smell a female in heat. Getting your cat spayed or neutered will solve this yowling issue.
8. It’s nighttime
Nighttime meowing is common and frustrating, but contrary to popular belief it’s not because cats are nocturnal. They are crepuscular, which means they are most active at dusk and dawn.
ModernCat notes that many cats’ internal hunting clock is set for between 3 a.m. and 5 a.m., which may cause early morning vocalizations. If your cat wasn’t active enough during the day, they will also be more awake at night and more likely to meow for attention. Additionally, if your cat’s last meal of the day was too early, hunger might cause them to wake up earlier in the morning.
How to Stop a Cat from Meowing
It’s important to know that most cats will meow to some extent whether or not there is an issue. Some cats are just talkative and there may not be anything you can do to stop them from meowing.
What you can do is figure out why your cat is meowing, determine if it’s an issue that requires a vet visit and find a way to make both you and your cat more comfortable. Here are a few tips:
- Attention and loneliness meowing
Cats meowing for attention may just need some petting or playtime. However, if the demand for attention becomes too much, try rewarding quiet behavior. Your cat will pick up on this and hopefully cut back on the meowing.
If you’re gone for long periods of time during the day, make sure your cat has toys to keep them entertained. Catnip toys, cat tunnels and interactive toys are all options that cats can play with by themselves. For more ideas, check out a list of the best interactive cat toys from MyPetNeedsThat.com.
If you think your cat is meowing because of loneliness, consider getting a pet sitter during the day, another cat or a pet camera to dispense treats when you’re gone for long periods of time. When you get home, make sure to give your feline a warm welcome, some scratches behind the ear and maybe even a treat.
2. Illness or age-related meowing
A trip to the vet is warranted any time you suspect something may be off with your cat. They will check your cat’s cognitive functions and may be able to prescribe medication to help your cat feel more comfortable.
3. Feeding-time meowing
Feeding a cat every time they meow only rewards their excessive vocalizations and it gives them added incentive to keep meowing when they want something.
It’s important to stick to a feeding schedule to set your cat’s expectations. You can also try an automated feeder if the meowing continues, although they might just direct their meows to the machine.
A new diet or feeding schedule might make your cat extra chatty. They will just need time to adjust to their new food or the new routine.
4. Stress meowing
During or after a stressful event, you can make your cat more comfortable in several ways. Some cats respond well to extra attention from their humans, while others may just need a quiet place to hide for a bit.
You might also consider talking to your vet about anti-anxiety medication for your cat. Before moving into a new house, a thunderstorm or an event that you feel might be stressful, you can give your cat the medication to help make the situation easier for them. Always use medication as prescribed by your vet.
There are also over-the-counter and natural stress relief options. The FELIWAY diffuser releases pheromones to create a calm and secure environment for cats, and can also help with over-grooming, scratching and urine spraying. You can browse more calming products for cats from the Chicago Tribune.
5. Mating meowing
All cats should be spayed or neutered to avoid excessive meowing related to natural breeding instincts.
6. Nighttime Meowing
ModernCat recommends keeping cats awake more during the day to avoid hyperactivity and meowing at night. If you work from home, playtime can be a nice break for both you and your cat, and it will keep your feline from over-napping.
The best way to control nighttime meowing is to avoid encouragement. This might mean ignoring it until your cat gets the hint, but it is an effective long-term solution. You can also try to reset your cat’s internal hunting clock by playing with cat toys in the evening or right before bed.
3 Things Not to Do
Dealing with an extremely vocal cat can be frustrating, but there are a few things to keep in mind as you work toward a solution. Here are a few things not to do from Fetch by WebMD:
- First, don’t ignore them
Sometimes excessive meowing can be due to illness or distress, or maybe your cat is trying to tell you something. Is their litter box dirty? Did they throw up somewhere? Could they have captured a mouse? If you can rule out these types of immediate problems, it may be time to take your cat to the vet for a proper checkup.
2. Don’t punish them
If you respond to your cat’s meowing by yelling, smacking or punishing them, this can create additional problems. Your cat may start to fear, dislike or distrust you because of how you react.
3. Lastly, don’t give in
If your cat meows every time you enter the kitchen, are you rewarding them by giving them a treat or a piece of your dinner? A cat that gets what they want every time they meow has no reason to stop. Instead, ignore the meowing and reward quiet behavior.
When to Take Your Cat to the Vet
To rule out any potential health issues, cats who show increased vocalizations should have a checkup with their vet.
As we mentioned, a cat could be meowing more than usual because of an illness, disease or age-related issue. The ASPCA also says, "even if your cat has a history of meowing for food, you should still have her checked by your veterinarian. As cats age, they’re prone to developing an overactive thyroid and kidney disease, and either one may result in excessive meowing."
While meowing is your cat’s way of communicating, there’s only so much you can understand. It’s always in your cat’s best interest to have unusual behavior evaluated by their vet.
8 Types of Sounds Cats Make
Just as humans whisper, yell, hum and use "indoor voices," every sound a cat makes has a purpose. Arden Moore, author of "The Cat Behavior Answer Book" says that "cats are capable of making at least 30 sounds, including at least 19 variations of the simple meow." Below are some of the most well-known sounds and what they mean.
Meows are an all-purpose sound used as a greeting, objection or a command toward humans. The Humane Society says that "some people have observed their cats walking around the house meowing to themselves."
Cats purr when they are content, when you are petting them or even when they’re eating. This is an internal vibration that some cats also use to comfort themselves when they feel stressed. If stress is the cause, the purr will be accompanied by pointed-back ears and a tense body.
3. Trills and chirps
If your cat is happy, excited or wants attention, they might make a quick little "blurp" sound. This is known as a trill or a chirp, and sometimes these can sound squeaky. Trills, chirps and purrs are considered cat murmuring sounds.
When cats are watching prey — like birds outside of a window or one of their moving toys — they might make chattering noises as a sign of excitement.
5. Snarls, growls and hisses
Angry, scared or aggressive cats will snarl, growl or hiss. This is an indication that they are uncomfortable or ready to fight. To avoid being scratched or bitten, leave these cats alone to give them time to calm down.
6. Yowls and howls
These are long, drawn-out meows that you might hear if your cat needs help. They might have swatted a toy under the couch or are stuck in a closet. Yowls and howls can also be a sign that a cat is in pain.
Mating calls made by unaltered females are classified as caterwauls. Modern Cat calls this noise an "abbreviated, plaintive, hollow-sounding version of a yowl [that] has an almost ‘ahh-roo-ugh?’ sound to it."
Females will scream during the mating process. All cats, unaltered or altered, may also emit shrieks and screams when in the midst of a fight with other cats.
FAQs About Cat Meowing
Q: Does age affect how much a cat meows?
A: Yes. Catster says that kittens meow to communicate with their mother, usually when they are hungry or uncomfortable. Mother cats will also meow back. Once kittens are weaned from their mother, meowing can subside.
When cats enter their senior years, they can become vocal again. There are several reasons why, including declining eyesight, illness or dementia. If you suspect that your cat could have any of these issues, you should schedule an appointment with your veterinarian.
Q: Do female cats meow more than male cats?
A: Not necessarily. However, intact cats (those who are not spayed or neutered) can be very vocal during breeding season.
Q: Do certain cat breeds meow more than others?
A: Yes. Some breeds — Siamese, Maine Coon, Siberian — are known for being very talkative.
October 9, 2020
How Much Should I Feed My Cat? Tips, Advice & FAQs
How much should you feed your cat? Is half a cup of dry kibble enough? How many ounces of wet food is the right amount? Should your cat eat three times a day like humans do?
There isn’t a universal answer to any of these questions because every cat is different. The exact amount and type of food your cat needs will depend on many factors. Read on for details.
Note: This blog post includes general information from various reputable sources. However, you should always talk to your veterinarian before changing your cat’s food or feeding schedule.
5 Factors That Affect How Much You Should Feed Your Cat
1. Their age
Francis Kallfelz, DVM, Ph.D., of Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine advises that "growing kittens up to six months of age may require three meals a day.” Kittens require more food per pound of body weight than adult cats in order to get the necessary nutrients to support their growth.
For adult cats, Kallfelz says that “from age six months to maturity, most cats will do well when fed two times a day." Just make sure that the two meals aren’t too far apart. VCA Animal Hospitals notes that “if more than 12 hours elapses between meals, the stomach can become hyper acidic causing nausea.”
2. If they are pregnant or nursing
Throughout a cat’s pregnancy, PetMD says to “feed your queen the same food she has always enjoyed, but start mixing protein into the meals.”
Also keep in mind the space that the kittens are taking up inside your cat. “There will not be much room left for food, so your cat will need to eat smaller and more frequent meals,” says PetMD. “Make sure that there is always food available for when she is hungry, and, most importantly, that there is always water available to her.”
The last few weeks of pregnancy is when a cat’s appetite increases the most, and it’s when her belly will really start to show. In the late stages of pregnancy, you can switch her food to one that is formulated for growing kittens. PetMD goes on to say that “you can continue that diet while she is nursing and until she has weaned her kittens, supplementing it with a quality canned food.”
3. How much they weigh
To maintain a normal, healthy weight, Fetch by WebMD says that cats should eat between 24 to 35 calories a day, per pound. For an eight-pound cat, this would equate to 192 to 280 calories a day. To put this into perspective, a 5.5 ounce can of RAWZ turkey and turkey liver pate is 199 calories. Half of a cup of RAWZ salmon meal free dry cat food is 230 calories.
If you cat is underweight or overweight, you will need to work closely with your veterinarian to make sure you’re feeding them appropriately. Overweight cats, especially those with diabetes or other health conditions, should always receive measured food amounts. The Cummings Veterinary Medical Center at Tufts University notes that “frequent weigh-ins are recommended to promote slow, safe weight loss.”
4. Their health
There are certain health issues that can affect how much and when to feed your cat. If your cat is recovering from surgery or has an illness, they will likely have specific nutritional requirements to ensure that their bodies are able to heal or fight off infection.
Some medications might need to be given to your cat on an empty stomach or with food. This is especially important for cats with diabetes. “It’s very important that you coordinate your meals with the insulin dosing,” says Kathryn Michel, DVM, associate professor of Nutrition at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine. “You need to have their meals timed with their insulin, so they’re absorbing those calories when the peak insulin is occurring, so they don’t become hypoglycemic [have low blood sugar].”
Always consult with your veterinarian if you have concerns about your cat’s health and their feeding. They will provide exact instructions based on your cat’s past and present health.
5. Activity level
Is your cat more playful than most or do they prefer a more relaxed lifestyle? Activity levels are one of the most important factors to take into account when feeding your cat, especially since obesity is the most common nutritional disease seen in cats.
Your veterinarian will be able to recommend a feeding amount and schedule that’s most appropriate for your cat. The ASPCA explains three categories of activity levels to help you determine your cat’s needs:
- Normal activity: a cat with normal activity should be fed the recommended feeding amount for maintenance based on their weight and age.
- Less Active: a cat who is mostly sedentary may require as much as 10% below the recommended maintenance feeding amount.
- Active: a highly active cat may require 20% to 40% more than the recommended maintenance feeding amount.
When Should I Feed My Cat?
Scheduled Feeding vs. Free Feeding
There are two different types of feeding routines: Scheduled feeding vs. free feeding.
Scheduled feeding is giving your cat meals at a certain time every day. “Feeding an adult cat at regular times provides the security and predictability of a routine,” Ryan Llera, BSc, DVM and Robin Downing, DVM, DAAPM, DACVSMR, CVPP, CRPP write for VCA Animal Hospitals. “Meals become a cornerstone event of the day around which other activities are added.”
Routine feeding is the best way to monitor your cat’s eating habits, and it’s recommended for multi-cat households to make sure that one cat isn’t getting all the food. The only disadvantage here is that your cat isn’t in control and may develop a habit of excessive meowing or begging around feeding times.
Free feeding is leaving out food for your cat to graze. This gives them full control of when they eat, which can help cut back on begging. However, free feeding has a few notable disadvantages. Jackie Brown of Catster explains that “wet food won’t stay fresh very long, so it’s not a successful free-feeding option. You also can’t keep track of how much they are eating, and this can lead to overweight cats.” It’s also difficult to make sure each cat is eating enough in multi-cat homes.
VCA Animal Hospitals advises that “many cats receive too many calories and because they do not get enough physical activity, grazing or free feeding is not recommended.”
Dry Food vs. Wet Food
Should you feed your cat dry kibble or canned food?
Catster states that “cats on dry food-only diets are slightly more prone to obesity and diabetes than cats who eat wet cat food.” This is due to two reasons. First, dry kibble often contains a high amount of carbohydrates compared to wet food. Secondly, it’s also likely to be offered as free feeding, meaning cats have constant access to kibble and can overindulge.
Dry food contains very low levels of water, which cats need from their food since they have low thirst drives. Any cat who eats dry food should also have 24/7 access to fresh water.
The high moisture content of wet canned food — about 78% compared to 10% in dry food — can help compensate for your cat’s low thirst drive. Freeze-dried food may have moisture contents as low as 3% to 5%.
However, it’s important to note that low-quality wet food is not better than a premium quality dry food, so make sure you’re offering your cat nutrition of the highest quality — whether dry or wet.
When in doubt, Catster offers helpful advice when considering wet food vs. dry food for your cat. “Choose a premium cat food! Ultimately, whether choosing wet cat food vs. dry cat food, it should be a premium cat food with quality ingredients. The higher initial cost will be offset long-term by reduced veterinary costs.”
Natural Feeding Behavior of Cats
Dr. Sarah Gorman, associate veterinarian at Boston Animal Hospital, explains that eating behaviors in cats are a combination of inherited and learned components. “It’s not just about what is natural for the cat to do with food, but also how that cat has been nurtured to react to feeding time,” she said.
Cats are naturally obligate carnivores, which means their diets require nutrients that are only found in meat. In the wild, cats prefer to eat alone, unless they are sharing food with their offspring. If you have multiple cats, it may be in their best interest to separate their food bowls during feeding time.
Ideal Weight for Cats
Although the recommended weight for domestic cats is about 10 pounds, this will depend on the breed. Fetch by WebMD says that “a Siamese cat may weigh as few as 5 pounds, while a Maine Coon can be 25 pounds and healthy.”
Obesity is a big concern for all breeds, as it can lead to arthritis, diabetes and urinary tract disease. Diabetes is particularly concerning — an obese cat is three times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than a cat of normal weight, according to Fetch by WebMD. Cornell University also says that “obese cats are twice as likely to die in middle age, which for cats is six to 12 years.”
Ultimately, the ideal weight for your cat should be determined by your veterinarian.
5 Common Cat Feeding Mistakes
“Probably the most common mistake people make when feeding cats is over-feeding,” says Joe Bartges, DVM, PhD, DACVIM, DACVN and professor of medicine and nutrition.
It’s easy to overfeed a cat, because their nutritional needs have changed. Cats “are more sedentary, as compared to the days when they were barn cats and more active,” says Linda P. Case, MS, author of The Cat: Its Behavior, Nutrition, and Health. “They're little couch potatoes now, their nutrition needs are much lower, so it's easy to overfeed them.”
2. Only feeding them dry food
High-quality wet food is recommended in addition to dry kibble or exclusively. Cats don’t have a natural thirst drive like dogs do, so they need to get their water from their food.
Dry food is only 10% to 12% water while canned food is 78% water. “Canned food does a much better job of keeping your cat well-hydrated,” says Lisa A. Pierson, DVM. “Think of canned food as hosing down your cat's bladder several times a day.”
3. Not offering enough water
In addition to the water in wet food, cats should have access to fresh water sources. This can be a dish of water near their food bowl or running water from an automated water station. Some cats can detect the chlorine from tap water, which they may not like. You can offer filtered or bottled water to encourage your cat to drink.
4. Vegetarian or vegan diets
As we mentioned, cats are obligate carnivores. They need a diet of mostly meat in order to get the right nutrients to keep them healthy and thriving, so a vegetarian or vegan diet isn’t recommended.
Fetch by WebMD says that “the amino acid taurine, for example, is found only in animal tissue. Lack of taurine can lead a cat to experience heart problems, blindness, and even death.”
5. Unintentionally creating an unbalanced diet
Homemade and raw food diets for cats have become popular over the years, but if not prepared properly, they can lead to nutritional deficiencies.
Pierson says that pet owners need to balance meat with the right amount of calcium. “A cat would be eating both the meat and bones of their prey, which provides a proper calcium-to-phosphorus ratio.”
On the other hand, too much of certain nutrients can cause also problems. Diets heavy in tuna, liver or liver oil can result in vitamin A toxicosis and too much raw fish can affect vitamin B1 levels. The side effects can make your cat very uncomfortable, ranging from dry skin and joint pain to more severe conditions like seizure or brain damage.
Cat Feeding FAQs
Q: Do cats need wet food?
A: Cathealth.com explains that “the average cat who eats only dry food needs to drink several ounces of water a day to make up for the lack of water from food.” Since cats have a limited thirst drive, they often will not drink enough water to compensate. Feeding a high-moisture wet food even just a few times a week can naturally increase their hydration levels.
Q: How should I feed multiple cats in the same household?
A: Scheduled meal times are recommended so that you can make sure that all cats are getting enough to eat. Free feeding runs the risk of one cat getting more than their fair share of food. You can place their bowls in different rooms to give them their own space and avoid any meal-related stress.
Q: What treats can I feed my cat?
A: You can feed your cat treats in moderation. Make sure that they are high-quality treats that don’t provide more than 10% of your cat's energy and calorie intake.
Q: How many calories a day does my cat need?
A: Fetch by WebMD recommends 24 to 35 calories a day per pound. If your cat is highly active or more sedentary than other cats, you may need to make adjustments to avoid under or over feeding.
RAWZ is proud to offer certified low glycemic cat food. Glycemic index measures food’s effect on an animal’s blood sugar. Similar to humans, when a cat’s blood sugar levels are too high, they can become obese — especially if they also have low activity levels. Our low glycemic wet and dry cat food options provide the nutrients cats need to stay healthy or to get back on the right track.