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How to Pick the Best Cat Food and Ensure a Balanced Diet

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Cat eating out of bowl

When it comes to food, your cat needs a balanced and nutritional diet as well as lots of fresh, clean water to stay happy and healthy.

If you’re a cat owner, you know that cats can be finicky eaters. But making sure that your cat gets a proper diet is important for good health and longevity. And cats do, of course, have their own particular dietary needs. Leftover dog food, milk from the fridge, or tuna from a can is not a proper diet.

But how much your cat eats is just as important is what your cat eats.

HOW MUCH FOOD DOES YOUR CAT NEED?

Perhaps the largest error cat owners make with their pet’s diet is in feeding too much. Many vets, in fact, say that obesity is the most prevalent nutritional disease seen in cats. ABC news has even reported that over 1 of every 2 cats in the US is obese. And the American Veterinary Medical Association reports that pet obesity can lead to illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, liver disease and arthritis.

So how much food does your cat need to avoid becoming a fat cat?

That depends upon a number of factors; you should get your vet’s recommendation for your cat. In general, though, a calorie intake of around 25 – 30 calories per pound of body weight per day is enough for most cats.

CANNED OR KIBBLE?

Kibble – dry cat food – is very popular among cat owners. After all, it’s an easy, no-fuss, no-muss method of feeding your cat. But dried cat food is rapidly becoming less popular with veterinarians.

The reason has to do with your cat’s genetic make-up. Mother Nature has designed cats to be meat eaters. And meat contains lots of water. So cats are less inclined to drink large quantities of water, because their proper diet is build around food that contains lots of liquid.

Canned cat food, on average, is about 70% water – about the same percentage of water that a meal of mouse would provide. And kibble is only about 10% water. So if you feed your cat primarily a diet of kibble, you could be setting it up for urinary tract problems down the road due to a lack of water in its diet.

That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t feed your cat kibble at all. But it probably shouldn’t be the mainstay of your cat’s diet.

MEETING YOUR CAT’S DIETARY NEEDS

Whatever brand of food you feed your cat, it should be formulated specifically for cats. Cats have very specific dietary needs. Fall short on meeting any of those needs, and health problems may await your furry friend.

In recent years it’s become a popular trend among cat owners to prepare homemade cat food. It’s done with the best of intentions, of course. Well-meaning cat owners believe that the food they prepare for their pets is healthier and safer.

But mistakes are often made with homemade cat food that have unintended consequences. The meat in a cat’s diet, for example, must be properly balanced with calcium and phosphorous, duplicating the minerals that a cat would be getting from eating the bones of its prey in a natural diet.

Other common errors seen in homemade cat food formulation include:

  • Too little meat. Could result in blindness, heart trouble – even death.
  • Too much tuna. This can result in vitamin A toxicosis, possibly creating problems such as brittle bones, joint pain and dry skin.
  • Too much raw fish. This can destroy vitamin B1, possibly resulting in muscular weakness or even brain damage.

Unless YOU are an expert, it’s best to leave the food formulation TO an expert.

CLEAN, FRESH WATER

Cats get most of their water from their diet – or should, anyway. But they can’t get all of their water from their food. And getting enough water is critical to your cat’s health. So you should always have clean, fresh water available for your pet to drink.

If you locate the water in locations where your cat likes to hang out, it will be more likely to drink its fill when needed. You might even consider distributing several water containers throughout the house, locating them in the cat’s favorite areas.

And just as they can be finicky eaters, some cats are also finicky drinkers. Chlorinated water, for example, may cause some cats to turn up their noses. If that’s your cat, try bottled water instead of tap water.

Keep an eye on how much water your cat drinks. If it appears that your cat is beginning to drink significantly more or less water than normal, alert your vet. Excessive water consumption, for example, could be an indication of illnesses like diabetes or hyperthyroidism.

IT’S WORTH GETTING IT RIGHT

Getting your cat’s diet right will pay great dividends. Instead of a sickly Garfield-like fat cat, you’ll have a lean and not-so-mean healthy cat.

Get your vet’s stamp of approval to be sure that you’re on the right track with your diet, and enjoy your furry friend for many years to come.