Those fluffy heaps of meowing happiness; we love them! This means that we want to take the best care of them, but what is actually good for their health? Good food is one of the most important things you can do as a cat mom or daddy. A cat's body is very different from a human body and needs different nutrition. Some types of cat food seem to be healthy, but can be downright dangerous!
With the right cat food you reduce the risk of disease and increase the chance of healthy development and ageing. A cat needs nutrition that contains all of the ingredients for a healthy weight, healthy teeth, a radiant fur... In short, the right food means a healthy cat that can be with you for a long time to come.
So, what is healthy food for my cat?
Good food is not necessarily food from a well-known or expensive brand, but food that contains all the nutrients a cat needs. Many people assume that a cat needs to eat just like people - not just meat but also vegetables and grains. This is not true! Cats are carnivorous which means that a cat's body is not built to eat plants but is perfectly adjusted to meat. A cat can get all necessary proteins from meat. Vegetables, herbs and grains are therefore superfluous and are actually only a cheap solution for pet food manufacturers. Some vegetables, like onions, are in fact toxic to cats.
Composition of cat food
So, if we don't need to feed our cats vegetables, herbs and corns, what is there in healthy cat food? A high content of animal protein is the most important ingredient in cat food. When it comes to the composition of these proteins, the amino acids (building blocks of proteins) taurine and methionine are particularly important. If there is not enough taurine in the food, this can lead to heart failure and blindness in the long run.
In addition to protein, there are a number of minerals and vitamins that are essential for your furry friend. These are zinc, vitamins A and E, calcium and phosphorus. It's a good idea to look at how many of these vitamins and minerals have been added to the food you serve your cat. Be careful with additives, too much calcium or phosphorus can also be harmful!
How do I know if my cat needs different food?
It's best to first check the current food. If there are large percentages of vegetables or other unnecessary ingredients like rice or grains in the food, it's best to switch to a type of food with a higher concentration of meat. If it doesn't contain the necessary vitamins mentioned above, it's also better to look for an alternative. It's often better to switch food before your cat starts showing symptoms of deficits.
There are a number of indicators that show your cat doesn't get all of the needed nutrients.
Long term indicator: a bad coat. When the fur gets dull and no longer shiny, it's clear that your cat isn't getting all of the necessary nutrients. A shortage of minerals and vitamins makes the fur look dull. If your cat's fur isn't shiny, it's important to switch to new food as soon as possible, but always do this gradually. First you mix the old food with a small bit of new food and gradually you change it completely to the new food. This way the intestines can get used to the transition.
Check if your kitten's stool is solid. Too thin or too thick stools also indicate that it is good to reconsider your cat's food.
If your cat suffers from itching, stomach or intestinal problems, this may indicate a (food) allergy. If you notice any of these symptoms in your cat, consult your veterinarian.
Wet vs. Dry Food
Cats don't naturally drink water, because all the moisture a cat needs is in the flesh of their freshly caught prey. Cats therefore have little natural urge to drink water. With only dry food you increase the chance of dehydration. This can cause bladder and kidney problems. The advantage of dry food, however, is that it's cheaper, has a much longer shelf life and can also stand longer. Wet food turns bad easily, which means that you'd have to offer it fresh a couple of times a day.
If your cat mainly eats dry food, make sure that there is enough fresh water available. Preferably water that flows (such as from a tap or a drinking fountain).
In the case of wet food, it is important to ensure that the food actually contains mainly animal protein. In wet food, sugar is often added to make the colour of the meat more attractive. But, you guessed it - a lot of sugar is unhealthy for your cat.
Wet food contains more water and is therefore a good addition to dry food, especially if your cat doesn't like to drink a lot of water.
To determine the right food and amount of food for your cat there are a number of other factors to take into account, namely:
How old is your cat? Kittens need different food from adult cats. A senior cat also needs a different type of food. Therefore, take a good look at the food packaging to see if it's suitable for your cat.
Is your cat often outdoors or just indoors. Active outside cats need more food. Make sure your cat doesn't get food from other people in the neighborhood!
Has your cat been helped? Helped cats are more likely to gain weight. It is therefore a good idea to adjust the amount of food to this. There are brands that offer cat food that makes a cat feel satiated more quickly and gives it less of an incentive to eat. Provided it also contains the right animal proteins, vitamins and minerals, this is a good choice for your cat.
What breed of cat is it? The type of cat makes a lot of difference what kind of food is right for your cat. For example, if you have a long-haired cat, it's a good idea to choose a food that combats hairballs.
Having cats eat along with your evening meal may sound easy but it's certainly not a good food for your cat. Food that is nutritious for us as humans can actually be poisonous for your cat! Examples are onions and garlic, which are added to many meat products for humans. Onions and garlic are highly toxic to cats as they cause damage to their red blood cells which can lead to anemia. Pure meat can also be a bad idea - even without seasoning. Cats can easily choke on a sharp chicken bone. Therefore always choose food that's specially made for cats, either dry or wet food. Always make sure that fresh drinking water is available 24/7 for your dear furry friend!
We recommend doing research on several cat food brands and types, based on your cat's situation. Compare several choices before making a decision. Once you have found a few types of food that contain all the right ingredients, request some test portions to see how your cat responds to the food.
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