Suggestions on Feeding Cats - Part II
1. Some companies like Hill's are just repackaging similar products like Science Diet into "new" products such as their Healthy Recipe without improving them. This product still contains very little animal protein and is very expensive for its quality and contents. Watch out for gimmicky names and trade marks.
2. When trying new foods, take home one tin or small bag of each flavour just in case your cats don't like it. If you have to buy a larger size, keep your receipt and return the unused portion if there are any problems.
3. It is important to remember that I am recommending specific products from certain lines, not necessarily every product the manufacturer makes. You might want to make a list to take with you when you shop.
4. If you are having a specific problem with your cat such as it throws up its food frequently, try only a single product at a time and use it for several days. If that seems okay, then add a second flavour or a second food.
5. I am only including foods that have two or more sources of animal protein, such as any meat, meat meal or whole egg, in the first four ingredients listed. I am not including any foods with soya or wheat derivatives. For the present I am not including foods that contain garlic; if the situation changes and research with cats shows that garlic fed on a daily basis does not cause anemia, this will change.
6. I believe that all cats should have at least one meal a day of a quality tinned food to reduce the level of unnecessary carbohydrate consumption.
Recent studies have shown that senior cats 10 years and older become gradually less efficient at producing enzymes which aid in digesting food. This goes against the idea behind some senior cat foods which actually decrease the protein level. Lower protein diets have proven to be problematic even for cats in renal failure. Cats need animal protein and lots of it, unlike dogs who can muddle along on higher amounts of carbohydrates. Cats should continue to be fed high protein diets except when medical formulas are used. Mature Cat formulas and Senior are the same idea. Personally I think a cat is "middle-aged" at 7-11, not a senior. Inside cats are routinely livng to 13-14 and older, and many people have cats who live to 21 or 22. I will not recommend any low-protein food (under 30% minimum with high quality meat protein). Only a veterinary nutritionist with the health history of the cat should make such recommendations.
If you are using any formula intended for indoor cats, do check the protein and fat levels. Although indoor cats may utilize less calories daily than cats that go out, especially those who live in cold climates, that is no reason to reduce protein levels. If anything, outdoor cats are more likely to be supplementing their protein levels with prey that they catch. This in fact may be one of the reasons that many of the problems with manufactured cat foods began to show up in the 80's when more and more pet owners chose not to risk letting their pets run loose.
WHAT ARE APPROPRIATE TREATS ?
First of all, feeding raw meat, fish, poultry, eggs, etc. is as dangerous for your cats as it would be for you. Cats can get all the same bacterial infections and parasites. Yes, feral cats do eat their meat raw, but they are also usually full of tapeworms, which come from small mammals as well as fleas, plus other parasites and bacterium; these in turn make it more difficult for them to fight off diseases.
If you are going to feed some cooked meat, limit it to 15-20 % of their caloric intake per week unless you are on a home prepared medical diet prescribed by a veterinary nutritionist. Meat lacks the calcium which would occur in the small bones of the mammals cats catch. Calcium/phosphorus imbalance can cause life-threatening metabolic acidiosis which even if reversed with proper commercial food will likely have caused permanent damage to the cats kidneys by the time it is detected. Over-acidification of some commercial diets has actually caused this problem when manufacturers attempted to combat FLUTD.
When feeding poultry and fish do remove the bones except in the case of tinned salmon where the bones should be mashed into the meat. Feed the skin and chewy bits of meat from all meats. Chunks of meat, especially cooked beef, require the cat to use its back molars and this may aid in the removal of plaque which would turn into tartar. Don't feed organ meat more than a few times a month. Organ meat tends to be very high in vitamin A which cats store and this can lead to toxicity in the long term. Remember your cat would eat the whole mouse with the exception of the head so balance the diet you give it too.
Unlike their outside counterparts, feral cats, inside cats seem to enjoy some low-carbohydrate vegetables. It could be that the high heat method of cooking used with pet foods destroys more nutrients during the manufacturing process than are being replaced by the manfacturers in the form of vitamin and mineral supplements. Additionally, every cat like every human does not have the exact same physiological need for specific nutrients. I feed some low-starch raw and cooked vegetables about three times a week, and have found it cuts down on plant chewing too. I use raw (thawed) peas, cooked carrots, and green and yellow beans. A few Aby owners have told me their cats also like a little broccoli etc. I had one Aby queen, Tempest, who only ate peas when she was pregnant. As peas are an excellent source of potassium and folic acid it made me wonder whether her body was urging her to eat the peas for that reason.
Although I do not count the caloric intake for the veggies I feed, when I feed meat I do feed it as a replacement and not as an addition to the cats regular tinned or dry cat food. Obesity is a major cause of health problems in cats today. Keep in mind that the average healthy adult cat needs only 250 - 275 calories per day. Measure the foods you feed and don't free feed adults unless the cat is nursing, very elderly, or is recovering from an illness.
Copyright Shelley Hlady, January 2003. All rights reserved.
All material and photos are copyright Shelley Hlady, all rights reserved.