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When it comes to our kids, we want the VERY best for them in terms of nutrition to promote a healthy development and set the stage for them to live long and healthy lives. The same is true for our pets, but, unlike our children, there isn’t always a clear answer for what sets the stage for healthy development in our furry friends. Yes, we know that like children we should take them for routine checkups and shots, but what about their dietary needs?
Let’s face it—when it comes to cat food, there is a veritable plethora of choices (similar to choices of dog food). You have to choose between wet or dry, kitten or adult, shiny coat or hairball control, indoor or outdoor and more. Then there are the different ingredients, each with the supposed ability make your cat live longer and happier.
To help you skip the headache, below is a list of some cat food do’s and don’ts and some identified key ingredients proven to help your feline friend go from kitten to senior in the healthiest way possible.
If you are unsure of how to identify high-quality pet-food, remember that ingredients should be listed in the following order of importance:
Corn and soy products should be avoided due to their “filler” qualities and allergy inducing properties. Also avoid artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners, and known carcinogens.
All kittens should be fed high quality kitten food. How do you know it’s high quality? Check out the label, pet foods are required to have a nutritional label and higher quality pet foods will be marked one of two ways:
The AAFCO is a group of state and federal officials charged with regulating animal feeds and pet food products; similar to the USDA, the AAFCO is in charge of quality regulation. Complete and balanced nutrition is just a fancy way of saying that your kitten won’t require any additional mineral or vitamins if he/she is on a diet containing the marked food.
Kittens will (and should) eat more often than adult cats, but you might be wondering when you should switch your kitten from wet to dry food. The truth is, kittens should have some canned food to eat as a part of their diets—especially young ones. Tiny kittens have tiny teeth and very small teeth have trouble chewing dry food well. Very young kittens only eating dry food run the risk of stomach irritation and nutritional deficits.
Here’s a handy reminder for how to feed your new kitten and when to switch it up.
While weaning your kitten to solid food, you should choose a food made specifically for kittens. Kitten formulas have more calories, protein and calcium. Foods with high quality key ingredients are easier for your kitten to digest and absorb. Some key proteins and ingredients to look for are fish (salmon, trout, sardines, catfish, or whitefish), poultry, eggs and taurine. Taurine may not show up on the label but can be found naturally in the meats most likely listed as primary ingredients.
Also, if you are caring for a mother and her litter, it’s perfectly okay for the mother to eat the same food as the kittens while she’s nursing.
Cats are carnivorous creatures with a very high protein need. This high protein, minimal carbohydrate requirement is important to remember when choosing a food for your adult cat—it’s definitely a bad practice to take a one-size-fits-all approach.
A healthy senior cat can, for the most part, follow the same healthy eating schedule as a normal adult cat with no medical issues. Aging cats continue to have the same nutritional requirements unless there is an underlying issue. Elderly cats might begin to display signs of weight loss, which is pretty common but also something to keep an eye on. If the cat seems to be eating less, or displays lack of interest in the food, then it might be time to prepare your cat’s meals with a bit differently. Some tips include switching to wet food altogether, heating wet or moist food in the microwave before serving, mixing in a little bit of water from canned tuna with the food, and staying mindful that the cat’s eating environment is free of stresses.
However, just because your senior cat is healthy, doesn’t mean you can just feed and leave. It is even more importantto pay attention to your senior cat’s food intake and note any irregularities in an effort to manage their oral health and avoid obesity—both of which are common in older felines.
Sometimes health conditions can play a role in the type of food best for your cat. Special dietary needs may need to be taken into account for conditions such as: obesity, hairball control, urinary tract health, or dental conditions. Below are a list of factors to consider when shopping for special diets. Keep in mind, you should always consult your veterinarian if you think your pet requires a special diet—they can help you determine the proper fat to protein ratios for your pet.
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Nothing in this article should be construed as financial, legal or veterinary advice. Please consult your own advisors for questions relating to your and your pet’s specific circumstances.
1 Pet Insurance offered by MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is underwritten by Independence American Insurance Company (“IAIC”), a Delaware insurance company, headquartered at 485 Madison Avenue, NY, NY 10022, and Metropolitan General Insurance Company (“MetGen”), a Rhode Island insurance company, headquartered at 700 Quaker Lane, Warwick, RI 02886, in those states where MetGen’s policies are available. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is the policy administrator authorized by IAIC and MetGen to offer and administer pet insurance policies. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC was previously known as PetFirst Healthcare, LLC and in some states continues to operate under that name pending approval of its application for a name change. The entity may operate under an alternate, assumed, and/or fictitious name in certain jurisdictions as approved, including MetLife Pet Insurance Services LLC (New York and Minnesota), MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions Agency LLC (Illinois), and such other alternate, assumed, or fictitious names approved by certain jurisdictions.