Feeding your Cat
Feeding your Cat
Your cat will need a healthy and balanced diet to keep her happy and active. Cats need meat in their diet, so can never be vegetarian or vegan.
Choosing the right food for your cat
How and what you feed your cat depends on four important factors:
1. the type of breed,
2. whether your cat is an indoors-only cat,
3. how old your cat is,
4. whether your cat has a medical condition.
The key nutrients your cat should get from her food are:
- Proteins – for healthy muscles, skin and coat, as well as the immune system (chicken, beef, lamb, fish and egg). Cats need the amino acid taurine in their diet - which is found in meat - as their bodies do not manufacture it on their own.
- Carbohydrates – not an essential component of the cat diet but carbohydrates provide energy and fibre aids digestion (barley, sugar beet pulp, rice bran, maize and sorghum).
- Fats and Oils – for energy and healthy skin and coat (animal fat, fish oils, essential fatty acids omega-3 and omega-6, linseed oil, sunflower oil, vegetable oil, borage oil, corn oil and fish meal).
- Minerals - for strong teeth and bones (calcium, phosphorus, zinc, copper, iron, sodium, chloride, magnesium and potassium).
- Vitamins - for healthy skin and coat, to maintain growth and normal vision (Vitamins A, B, D, E, K). Cats do not need vitamin C as they can make it themselves, although it can form part of a balanced diet as an antioxidant.
- Milk - Cats don't need milk after weaning. In fact, many cats have difficulty digesting milk as Cow's milk can cause diarrhea.
- Water - the most essential nutrient of all and you should always make sure your cat has clean, fresh drinking water at all times.
- We recommend that you feed your cat a diet of only dry cat food, unless your cat has dental or urinary tract problems, then a good quality wet food would be suitable. If you are changing brand or type of cat food, introduce it slowly, mixed with the food they are used to, and phase out the old with the new.
How much do I feed my cat?
Cats naturally eat little and often; their saliva has no digestive enzymes and their stomachs are designed to digest quickly. Many owners will leave cat food down for their cats so that they can eat in their own time however most cats can adapt to eating two meals a day quite happily.
The table below is a general guide on how much to feed your cat.
Age of Cat
Amount of Food
Kitten: Weaning – 2 months
4 – 6 meals a day
Kitten: 2 – 3 months
4 meals a day
Kitten: 4 – 6 months
3 meals a day
Kitten: Over 6 months
2 meals a day
Adult: 1-7 years
2 meals a day
Senior: over 7 years
2 meals a day - can be increased if necessary
1. What breed is your cat?
Size and shape
The majority of cat breeds are medium sized cats but there are exceptions. The large sized Maine Coon can weigh 11kg or more, stand 41cm high and measure a metre in length! In contrast the little Singapura can weigh only 2.3kg. The larger the cat, the larger the appetite. As a rough guide medium sized cats weigh between 2.5kg – 4.5kg, medium/large weigh 5kg – 8kg and large weigh 8.2kg – 11kg.
Breed specific cat foods
Different breeds of cat also have different nutritional requirements. The Siamese is an energetic, short haired, well-muscled cat and needs a high protein diet to stay in good shape. Whereas the Persian has a flat face (brachycephalic), long hair and a laid back nature and needs a cat food that reduces obesity, aids digestion, prevents hairballs and has small sized kibbles. Some pet food companies have designed cat foods for different breeds targeting their specific needs and problems.
2. Is your cat an indoors-only cat?
Indoors-Only cats have less opportunity to exercise and need less energy. They are also prone to obesity. There are specially developed indoor cat foods that have 'light' formulas to help avoid weight gain as well as reducing hairballs and improving the digestion of sedentary cats.
3. What age is your cat?
The 3 stages of life: Kitten, Adult and Senior
Your cat's age affects what food you need to select for them. The cat's average lifespan is 14 years, but they can live to over 20 years of age. Kittens burn three times more calories a day than adult cats and can grow 20 times bigger than their birth weight in just 5 - 6 months. Feeding a cat food made for Kittens will give them a healthy start that will last a lifetime. Adult cats require foods to help them stay in good condition and as cats reach their later years, maintaining healthy weight, joints and digestion all become important issues. Senior cats need fewer calories in their diets as they are not as energetic and may also suffer from loss of appetite as well as have difficulty in chewing.
What should I feed my kitten? (6/8 weeks – 1 year)
- You shouldn't feed Kittens adult cat food as they need special food to help them grow and develop.
- Kittens are also prone to tummy upsets and kitten foods are designed to provide a good diet that doesn't give them diarrhea.
- Kitten foods are made with little kibbles so that they are easier for kittens to eat.
- Weaning kittens will need a soakable kitten food to make the transition from milk to dry. This should be done over 2 weeks from 5 – 7 weeks of age.
What should I feed my adult cat? (1 - 7 years)
- Adult cats need to be fed a balanced diet to stay in good condition. To stay healthy they need the right balance of proteins, fats and oils, minerals, vitamins, carbohydrates and water and a good adult cat food will contain all of these.
- Your cat will soon decide whether they prefer wet or dry food or a combination of the two but don't forget that different breeds of cats may need different amounts of food to stay in shape.
What should I feed my senior cat? (over 7 years)
- Senior cats need a diet that will keep them active and healthy throughout their later years and the usual adult cat foods don't contain the nutrients they need. It's best to choose a cat food made especially for older cats to keep them well and happy.
- Older cats need fewer calories as they are not as active as they used to be. Senior cat foods are made to be easily digestible and contain minerals to support ageing joints as well as fatty acids to prevent dry skin and hairballs. They also have smaller kibbles which are softer and easier to chew.
4. Does your cat have medical / health issues?
Does your cat have allergies?
Many cats suffer from food intolerance, IBD (inflammatory bowel disease) and skin irritations. The most common causes of food allergies are fish, beef, eggs, wheat and milk. You can help relieve your cat's symptoms by choosing hypo-allergenic foods for 'Sensitive' cats which are made without these irritants and don't contain artificial colours, flavours or preservatives.
Does your cat have dental problems?
An estimated 70% of cats over 3 years of age develop dental problems. These issues often go unnoticed until your cat starts to decline in mood and general health. Several manufacturers make dental care cat food which has specially shaped kibbles to help reduce tartar.
If you suspect your cat has tooth decay call Vet Clinic for a consultation.
Is your cat overweight?
It's estimated that 1 in 3 cats in the UK are overweight or obese. Less active, senior or indoor-only cats are particularly prone to piling on the pounds, with overweight cats more likely to develop diabetes, heart and respiratory problems and arthritis.
If your cat becomes overweight it's best to consult your vet and there are 'Light' cat foods available which can also help. These are lower in fat but contain all the vitamins and minerals your cat needs, so you can reduce the amount of calories without cutting down on portion size or nutrients.
Cut down on treats and tit bits as giving any extras in addition to your cat's food ration will spoil what you are trying to achieve in dieting your cat. If you have several cats, feed her separately in a different room.
Increase your cat's exercise slowly to help burn off the calories – a dedicated playtime may help. Split your cat's food into smaller, more frequent meals.
Is your cat pregnant?
Good, balanced nutrition is vital during pregnancy as all pregnant and nursing cats need an extra boost of protein and energy to help them. A cat will need extra nutrients starting from mating. Gestation in cats takes approximately 9 weeks and throughout your pregnant cat's food intake will rise - it's not unusual for levels to reach twice her regular intake. Nursing leads to an even greater demand on intakes due to the quantities of nutrient-rich milk needed to feed the kittens.
Adult cat food simply won't provide all the nutrients required and only a specific diet will allow her to meet all of her needs. You can feed your pregnant cat a high quality kitten formula, both during gestation and for some weeks after the birth. The additional calories and higher levels of other key nutrients are just what a pregnant cat needs.
Does your cat have a medical condition?
If your cat has a medical condition such as diabetes, liver, heart, bladder or kidney problems you should seek veterinary advice about prescription diets available for your cat. Pet foods bought in shops are not suitable for cats with such conditions.
- Chocolate – can be toxic to animals
- Small poultry bones (chicken etc.) – splinter easily and are a choking hazard
- Raw eggs – contain a protein that blocks the body's use of biotin (one of the B vitamins); may cause dermatitis, hair loss and neurological dysfunction
- Onions – contains oxidizing agents that can destroy red blood cells and cause anaemia