Part of ensuring your cat stays healthy is knowing how to properly feed it. Getting this right should mean that you keep your fluffy loved one with you for many years to come.
There are two main things to consider when establishing rules for feeding your cat right. The food itself and when and how you provide it. It’s best to consider feeding your cat a raw diet that is at room temperature. Feeding raw allows you to control what they eat plus switching up the components of the food helps to prevent food allergies for the cat.
A cat’s health is also greatly dependent on them not becoming overweight. Think about this – The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention shows that one extra pound on a cat is like 15 pounds on a human. Controlling their weight is easily accomplished by both eliminating free-grazing and feeding only at certain times of the day.
DON’T BECOME THE ENEMY!
If you don’t know how to properly feed your cat to keep them healthy, you are their worst enemy. To avoid this, take a look at the following five rules I personally apply to the care and feeding of my own cats.
RULE 1 - Raw Feeding
Cats are obligate carnivores, meaning their digestive system requires that their diet should be mainly or entirely made up of animal tissue. Their bodies are not designed to digest grains, fruits, and veggies as humans or even dogs can. A cat’s digestive tract is short, simple, and cannot readily break down the cell walls that plants are made of.
Evolution has made it possible for cats to get not just the nutrition they need, but also the water their bodies need, from the consumption of animal tissue.
A diet consisting of raw meats like chicken, fish, and beef, or at least a commercially-made wet canned food, gives cats the water content needed as, by nature, they are not water drinkers. Also, a raw diet best meets their nutritional needs when the one chosen is formulated for a properly balanced diet. ( Link will go here to another article that will be soon posted on the site all about feeding a raw diet..... )
RULE 2 - Serve Room Temperature Meals
Make sure you are feeding your cat food that is at room temperature. When the food is room temperature or slightly warm, the food has more flavor and the cat will really dig it! But there’s another important reason. Cold food interferes with a cat's digestion. In Chinese medicine, cold food can have a negative effect on the kidneys, so the last thing you want to do is challenge your cat's kidney health.
Whatever you do, don't microwave or otherwise heat their food as doing so breaks down the food and destroys important nutrients your cat needs to stay healthy and have lots of energy.
Here are some tips on how to easily or quickly warm food that has been chilled:
Tip #1 - Place your cat’s food in the bowl it eats from. Place that bowl in a larger bowl of warm/hot water in the sink (in case of overflow), stirring occasionally. The food will warm up from the water through the container.
Tip #2 - Measure out the cat's meal and tuck its bowl in a cupboard, set a timer for 15-20 minutes. This should be enough time to take away the “chill” from the fridge.
Tip #3 - Pressed for time? You can also stir their food vigorously as this action will help warm the food.
RULE 3 – Use Food Rotation
Switching up your cat’s food is a good thing. Feeding the same thing day after day, month after month, can cause allergies – just like in people.
Rotating a selection of food also prevents your cat from becoming bored by or addicted to a particular type of food. Either can lead to an extremely picky eater which you don’t want. You need to be able to rotate the cat’s food as doing so gives the cat nutrients that may be in some foods, but not others – creating an overall good balance for them.
RULE 4 – Control the Time of Feeding
Yes, you love your cat, but don’t provide a 24-hour, “help yourself” buffet. It’s a common misconception by owners that cats need constant access to food. We do it to be kind, so they don't go hungry, but really, we're killing them with this kindness.
Cats in the wild are quite accustomed to going long periods without food. This fasting is part of their nature...historically, they’ve spent long periods between meals as they hunted for their own food.
The unavailability of food also gives their system a rest. When cats are constantly smelling their food as it sits out, their digestion isn't as effective. Unlike humans where part of the digestive process is based on the aroma of the food (sensing food aromas stimulates digestive juices and enzymes) a constant aroma doesn’t have the same effect, but it can have an opposite one by decreasing the digestive power of a cat.
RULE 5 – Portion Control
There is a lot of damage that can be done if you don’t control the amount of food your cat consumes each day. Obesity in cats can happen easily and quickly and yet, once they are overweight, getting that excess weight off can be difficult. Extra weight stresses the cat’s organs and joints and can lead to many more complicated health issues. To find out how much your cat should be fed, consult with your cat’s veterinarian who should be able to make recommendations about caloric intake and translate that to actual feeding amounts on a daily basis. If you are using commercially-made food, you can also refer to the label on the cat’s food and at least start with the manufacturer’s advised portion to feed.
MY EXPERIENCE & RECOMMENDATIONS
Personally, I feed my boys a particular brand of raw diet and switch up their foods between about 10 different pure and mixed meat combos. Some of the raw meals are higher in fat than others, so I tend to feed them slightly less of the higher calorie meats (e.g.: beef and duck are higher fat and calories, while rabbit and turkey are lower calorie meals).
Here’s how you can get started controlling what your cat eats and when:
Remember, an all-day buffet will lead to an overweight kitty and, well, a fat cat just isn't cute. Plus, being overweight puts undue stress on the kidneys, liver, and other organs – potentially leading to long-term or even life-threatening health issues.
STICK TO THE RULES!
Your cat’s health is dependent on YOUR ability to follow the rules. Overall these feeding rules will go a long way to keeping your cat healthy and also prevent any unnecessary stress on your cat's organs, especially the kidneys which see the most common health problems for cats.