The Best Nutrition for Your Cat

Food has a high ranking on a cat’s top 10 list.It ranks higher than affection from you,cravings for catnip and clawing the furniture! Food is a treat some owners use to bribe their cats or get their cat’s attention. There is no question that food has psychological importance for both cat and owner. But of course, food’s physiological importance came first. Is there a magic formula by which to feed your cat? Should you feed canned food,dry food,semimoist or a combination? Do you need to be worried about preservatives? Won’t your cat get bored if you feed him the same thing every day? Can both young and old cats eat the same food? How much should you feed your cat? All of these questions are important,and the answers aren’t always clear. I am overwhelmed each time I walk through the pet food aisles of a grocery store or pet supply store.The massive variety of products seems to grow daily.The pet food market is a multibillion dollar business,and a lot of companies want a piece of the pie.

PICKING THE RIGHT FOOD

If cats were left outdoors to hunt,mice would be their ideal food,supplying all of their nutritional needs.Other prey a cat would choose are rats,rabbits,birds and insects. Cats would probably be healthier if they ate a diet of fresh prey,as opposed to commercial foods.And this has prompted some owners to become interested in feeding raw diets to their cats.Most veterinarians do not favor raw diets,however,because to be formulated properly,they are very labor-intensive for an owner. Other problems associated with raw diets include nutritional imbalances, exposure of the human preparing the food and the cat eating the food to bacteria and parasites found in raw meat,acceptability of a raw diet to the cat and odors associated with preparing and feeding the diet. There are three quality categories of commercial cat foods:premium, sold in the grocery store and generic. I would not recommend generic food because it often does not meet the standards of the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO).AAFCO is the organization responsible for creating practical nutritional recommendations for pet food.Any food you feed your cat should at least meet these minimum standards,and if it does,it will say so on the label. There are many brands of cat food that are sold in the grocery store, and almost all meet AAFCO standards.The main differences between these foods and premium diets (which are usually sold in pet supply stores) are the ways in which the nutrition requirements are achieved. Premium diets contain higher quality, more digestible and bioavailable ingredients, which decrease the amount of food the cat needs and the amount of feces kitty produces. Cats are carnivores,so they need high levels of protein in their diets. Some people call canned food “meat,” and it generally contains more protein than dry food,but cheaper canned foods may still have a lot of fillers that are not derived from meat.Most cats like the taste and smell of canned food,but dry foods offer owners more convenience.The cost of canned food is also significantly more than dry.While canned food often has more protein per ounce than dry food, it also contains between 75 and 80 percent water. Once opened, a can of cat food stays fresh for about two to three days if it’s kept covered and refrigerated. Most cats do not like cold food,so warming refrigerated food in the microwave for a few seconds

can help increase its odor and palatability.Be sure to stir it to avoid hot spots.Ideally,cats like their food at room temperature. Recent studies have found that cats with certain health problems, such as lower urinary tract disease and diabetes mellitus, do better on canned diets. For picky eaters, cats who need to gain weight or those who need to consume more water,canned food is also a better choice. Cats who are prone to urinary tract problems may benefit from canned food because its high water content helps produce more dilute urine. If you own a cat with lower urinary tract disease, you should avoid feeding your cat foods with seafood products.These foods contain high levels of minerals such as magnesium,which can contribute to the formation of crystals in the urine. Feeding a combination of canned and dry food to a healthy cat is a good idea. Cats who eat only canned food tend to build up more plaque and tartar on their teeth than those who also eat some dry food. People today are more aware of their own nutrition and health, and they want to know about what their pets consume. Most dry cat foods are chemically stabilized and preserved.The safety of these chemicals is constantly being challenged, and pet food manufacturers are constantly defending their safety—backed up by the Food and Drug

Administration (FDA).A growing number of companies make “all natural” foods that contain no synthetic ingredients or preservatives. Whether these diets will improve your cat’s health and longevity has not been proven. I have seen many cats who have lived into their 20s and have eaten regular,commercial dry foods their entire lives. If you watch your cat eat,you may see that she does not chew much on the dry food. Some cats eat too much dry food all at once and regurgitate it. Cats who regurgitate need to be fed smaller portions. Mixing in some canned food, or adding some water to the dry food, can also help. Other strategies to decrease regurgitation are feeding a larger sized kibble that must be chewed before its swallowed,and feeding in a shallow bowl that more widely disperses the food.Both of these ideas slow down the pace of eating and decrease regurgitation.
ESSENTIAL DIFFERENCES IN CATS I have already mentioned that normal cats require a high level of protein in their diets. Proteins are made up of amino acids, and there are nine essential amino acids that all mammals—including humans— require in their diets. Cats also require four other amino acids in their diets:arginine,taurine,methionine and cysteine. The typical protein sources used in manufacturing cat foods easily supplies adequate levels of arginine.Arginine supplementation is recommended in cases of feline hepatic lipidosis to help support the detoxification of proteins during metabolism. Taurine deficiency became newsworthy in the late 1980s because a type of heart disease,called dilated cardiomyopathy,was linked to inadequate intake. Pet food manufacturers changed their formulations as a result of this finding,thus virtually eliminating this type of heart disease. Taurine also plays roles in reproduction,neonatal health and vision. The sulfur-containing amino acids, methionine and cysteine, are needed to synthesize other proteins. Deficiencies of these amino acids are rare. Two other amino acids become essential in certain situations. Tyrosin is needed for the synthesis of melanin, and a lack of intake or production of tyrosin leads to a reddish discoloration of black coats. Carnitine is thought to be important in weight management and fat metabolism. Supplementation in cases of hepatic lipidosis improves survival.

Vitamin deficiencies are rare in cats who eat commercial diets.Cats require high levels of B vitamins,and B complex supplements are recommended for the diets of sick cats.Unlike other animals,cats cannot synthesize vitamin A or vitamin D, so they must ingest them in their diet.When cats are anorexic or have liver disease,vitamin E and K supplements may also be needed. Cats, like other mammals, require the essential fatty acid linoleic acid.It is unknown how well cats are able to metabolize and synthesize alpha-linoleic acid, so it, too, should be part of their diets.Animal tissues are good sources for these fatty acids,so deficiencies in meat-based diets are unlikely. Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids have received attention for their roles in inflammation, but their optimal ratios are unknown at this time. Fatty acid supplements are used frequently for cats with dermatitis and inflammatory bowel disease. After seeing all of the needs that must be met to provide good nutrition,it is no wonder commercial diets are so widely used.The diet your cat eats should make him feel and look good,agree with his digestive tract and provide for any special health needs.

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