Rule number one: Cats are carnivores. They need a meat-based, balanced diet, such as one of the higher quality foods available on the market will provide. These have been formulated with the right balance of vitamins and minerals. Dog food is not an option, as the physical needs of cats and dogs are different, and the foods reflect these specific needs.
A good quality cat food will keep your pet happy and healthy
Some owners stick to a raw meat diet, to keep as closely as possible to a wild cat’s diet. Whole animals - poultry, rabbits and fish - are used, bones (powdered), organs (ground) and flesh (finely chopped). Raw egg and fish oil, plus a vitamin/mineral/carbohydrate store-bought supplement finish off the recipe.
If you have adopted a rescue cat, or taken one in from a previous owner, feed the same brand as the cat has been eating, to prevent puss getting an upset stomach. You can introduce a different food over time, if you need to.
There are wet and dried foods available, and these should be fed according to the instructions on the packaging. As a general rule, wet foods are offered in the morning and the evening, whereas dry foods are only provided in the morning.
How Much Food Does A Cat Need?
This depends on a number of factors, including breed, size, age, and energy levels. In the wild, cats eat little and often, and your pet will usually return several times to a bowl of dried food rather than eating everything in one or two sittings.
- An active outdoor cat will, generally, need more food than one that spends most of the time indoors. This is because the outdoor cat will be getting lots of strenuous exercise, and will need the extra rations to replace all those burnt-up calories.
- Some cats are naturally lethargic, and others are naturally hyperactive. The latter, understandably, will need more energy food. A lazier cat who gets lots will simply become obese. In general cats eat as much as they need, but if you’ve been in the habit of putting out too much, or feeding lots of treats between meals, the cat’s appetite will grow and she’ll no longer know when enough is enough.
- Neutered cats require less food, being generally more laid back than unneutered animals.
- Pregnant cats, or cat moms with kittens, require more food than usual.
Like it or not, if your cat spends time outdoors, she will be supplementing her diet
Cat Not Eating
If you are worried that your cat is not eating enough, it’s best to consult your vet. It could be simple fussiness, a surfeit of wild-caught food, or there could be some underlying health problem. If cats don’t eat for 24 hours, there can be dire health consequences.
Other symptoms that suggest a health problem include:
- A lack of interest in favorite foods or treats
- A greatly increased appetite
- Increased thirst
- Eating with obvious discomfort, or from one side of the mouth only
- Unusual noises while eating
- Rapid weight loss
- Vomiting or diarrhoea
If the diagnosis turns to be fussiness, that’s good news - your cat isn’t unwell. However, she still needs to eat!
Try tempting her appetite with some fresh fish or cooked chicken, or some kitten food mixed with her usual meal. Warming up the food to slightly higher than room temperature might help, too, if she’s simply not keen on chilled food.
A cat who gets little exercise and too much food will soon pile on the weight
A cat who eats too much will become obese. This is a particular problem if the cat is housebound and is not getting much exercise. The best way to combat obesity in cats is to cut down on the amount of food available. Cut the treats, provide food just twice a day, and remove bowls after each meal.
Dry food can be given to the cat in a small closed box or wicker ball. This will involve play and exercise in order to get to the food - something your cat will enjoy very much.
In 99.9% of cases the weight problem is due to overeating and lack of exercise, and nothing to do with hormonal imbalances or other conditions or ailments. If you can’t feel your cat’s ribs easily due to layers of fat, or if there is a sagging “skirt” of skin under her, or no visible waistline when viewed from above, your cat is overweight.
When a cat is 15% over the standard weight for a cat of her breed, age and sex, it is overweight. If this rises to 30%, the cat is formally classed as obese.
Your cat is a creature of habit and will want to use the same bowl each time she feeds. If opting for dry food, and especially if your cat doesn’t get much outdoor exercise, consider using a feeding ball. This gives the cat exercise and a simple problem to solve – the food’s inside, how does it come out? By exploring and, at the same time, exercising. But don't worry - only a small portion of the food needs to be served in this eccentric way!
A Turkish Angora - mixing some exercise in her feeding regime will do no harm at all
Where To Feed Cats
Always put the food bowls in the same place, away from water bowls, away from litter trays, and not too close to other pets’ food bowls (including other cats). A kitchen or utility room is the usual location – places where spillage can be cleaned up easily. It’s important that the location is somewhere the cat feels safe.
The popular, cosy image of a cat lapping milk from a bowl isn’t a very helpful one. Cats have evolved to drink cat milk, and once weaned they no longer require milk. Some cats are lactose intolerant, and many get upset stomachs if they over-indulge on the white creamy stuff.
Drink For Cats
The only liquid adult cats require is fresh water. You’ll notice they don’t drink very much’ although dry food-fed cats tend to drink more than wet food-fed ones. Use a wide, shallow bowl: many cats dislike having their whisker touch the sides of the bowl when drinking.
This is definitely NOT a suitable drinking bowl for a cat!
Some cats prefer to drink water outside, if there is an available source. This is sometimes a muddy pool - but don’t worry, such water is perfectly safe for cats. You should still provide water indoors, though.