Cats have some basic nutritional needs. They need protein, which you can get from meat, fish, or poultry; taurine, which is an essential amino acid; and other vitamins, enzymes, minerals. Water is also important for your cat because most of them forget to drink water for days on end.
Kittens are normally weaned at between 5 and 8 weeks. Feeding normal cat food is far from ideal. Getting the correct balance of Calcium, Phosphorus and Vitamin D with utilizable protein and high energy availability is not easy and it is our opinion that feeding a complete, high quality, kitten food is easier, cheaper and healthier than trying to do it yourself. There are several protocols on how to feed a kitten exist but an easy method is to feed a kitten as much as they can eat for 10 minutes, 4 times a day until 12 weeks, reducing to 3 times a day to 18 weeks and then twice daily. If you prefer you can allow a cat to 'graze' feed, by leaving down a large bowl of food to which they return when hungry. Good hygiene is important by regular bowl cleaning. The bones continue to grow and require kitten foods until 9-12 months of age. Ask your vet for advice on when to change diets. Feeding a complete, dry, kitten, food is good for their teeth, nutritious, has reduced health risks with fewer upset stomachs from flies and bugs and is usually cheaper than wet tinned or packet foods.
It is probably preferable if not essential to change to an adult food of the same manufacturer. Quality is important and choosing a complete and balanced cat food will lend to long term health. There is no harm in adding a little food from your own dinner plate or the occasional sardine or slice of chicken, if it keeps your cat happy. Cats are obligatory carnivores and are not vegetarians and cannot use certain vegetable proteins. Try to limit these 'tit-bits' to no more than 10 less calories than the full blown adult 'maintenance diet'. Active, hunting cats tend to keep themselves slim but many cats prefer the couch and calorie control is important.
The Senior Cat
When is a cat a senior cat? Most vets believe that the average cat needs increasing dietary care by 8-10 years of age. 'Senior Diets' have restricted but highly absorbable protein levels. Good carbohydrate for energy and restriction on sodium and phosphorus to safeguard the heart. Many are adding glucosamine or chondroitin to help improve joint function, taurine for heart function and sunflower oils for better skin. This dietary change is important and will help safeguard your cats future.
What Cats Should Not Eat
Who hasn’t fed their cat with some portions left over from lunch, dinner, or even a simple snack? It’s harmless—most of the time. But always do it in moderation, and avoid human food that’s known to actually hurt cats:
- Onions and Garlic. They both contain a substance (N-propyl disulphide) that can destroy your cat’s red blood cells and cause a certain form of anemia.
- Chocolate. Chocolate is very toxic to both cats and dogs. The substance Theobromine is to be blamed. It can affect both the heart and the nervous system.
- Milk. Despite popular belief, milk can still have some bad effects on cats, as many are lactose-intolerant. The lactose contained in it can give your cats stomach upsets and cramps. That’s not to say that you can’t feed it to your cat in small amounts if he really loves it. Lactose-free milk products are also available in the market.
- Grapes and Raisins. It contains an unknown toxic that can damage the kidneys of your cat.
- Raw Fish. If you feed this to your cat regularly, it can lead to a thiamine (B vitamin) deficiency which causes loss of appetite, and in extreme cases, death.
- Mushrooms. These contain toxins that can affect several systems in your cat’s body, leading to shock and death.