A few general principles guide the feeding of a healthy cat:
To provide a well balanced diet and prevent picky eating, feed your cat a variety of styles and flavors.
1. Read cat food labels carefully. Avoid foods with additives or very high vegetable content. Compare the cost per feeding of different brands of food.
2. Examine cat food and cat carefully. Does the food look smooth and digestible, free of skin, bones and discolored meat? Does your cat appear healthy and disease-free after eating the food?
Commercial food makes up the bulk of a cat's diet and exists in three forms: Dry, semi moist and canned (moist). Dry foods (about 10% water) help clean the teeth and are cost efficient, but lack the necessary water and fat content to be a single food source. Semi moist food (25% to 35% water) stays fresh longer than dry food, but costs more, does nothing for cleaning teeth and usually contains chemical additives to retain a moist texture. This kind of cat food should be given occasionally and in small amounts. Canned food (about 75% water) store well, tastes good and conforms to a cat's naturally dietary needs, but costs more and may contain additives. A healthy diet combines dry and canned food, providing the nutritional advantages of each.
Food quantities are determined by your cat's size. Cats need about 40 calories for each pound of body weight every day. Active, pregnant, lactating and unneutered cats require more, obese, inactive and older cats may require less. About a ½ cup of dry food and 6 ounces of canned food for every 5 pounds of body weight generally satisfied your cat's daily needs. Cats should be fed at least twice a day or given free access to their food.
You can supplement commercial food with cooked liver (once or twice a week) and small amounts of cheese, milk, fruit, vegetable and cooked fish. Dry food and low fat canned foods (less than 5%) may need vegetable oil or lard added, but limits the fat addition to 1 teaspoon per day. Some adult cats enjoy (but do not require) catnip and owners often find that a potted catnip plant discourages the nibbling of houseplants. A balanced diet usually provides all of the necessary vitamins and minerals, so consult with your veterinarian before adding a supplement to the diet.
Young kittens have special needs and require a high calorie, very high protein diet that must be eaten in small, frequent meals. You can "free-feed" your cat by leaving food out all day or "hand-feed" five to six small meals. Many owners find that "free-feeding" insures that the kitten eats enough and prevents feeding boredom. Others find that "hand-feeding" prevents obesity and lets you monitor the kitten's eating. As kittens mature, their calorie intake should diminish and you should seek professional advice to establish a proper feeding schedule.
Always discuss dramatic changes in the diet you provide or your cat's eating habits with a veterinarian.
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