By Michele C. Hollow of Pet News and Views
Is it nine lives or four stages? When it comes to a cat’s diet, there are really four stages, and what you feed your cat in each stage matters.
The four stages are:
• Kitten (up to age 1)
• Adult (ages 1-6)
• Mature (ages 7-11)
• Senior (ages 11+)
“In all stages, a cat needs protein and fat in their diets,” says Dr. Dennis Jewell, ACAN (American College of Animal Nutrition) and Fellow Nutrition Scientist at Hill’s, manufacturers of Science Diet. “Protein and fat are needed throughout their lives, but the amounts change as they transition from kitten to adult to mature to senior cat.”
The one rule that never changes is that cats need meat in their diets. They are obligate carnivores, which means that they must eat meat. Obligate carnivores can eat other foods such as vegetables, grains, or fruits; meat, however, needs to be an essential part of their diets. Vegetables are a good source of nutrients. Just make sure your cat’s main food is meat.
Other Dietary Needs
Cats also need an essential amino acid called taurine. Prolonged deficiencies of taurine can cause central retinal degeneration, which results in blindness. It can also result in heart failure.
Another essential is fresh water. If you are feeding your cat dry food, make sure she has plenty of water. Water should be served with both dry and wet (canned) foods.
“The best thing you can do for your cat is give him a well balanced diet designed for his age,” says Dr. Dennis. “Kittens need more protein and fat in their diets than older cats. And as your cat ages, you should transition from one type of food to another. Gradually introduce the new food when your cat matures from one stage to the next. I would do this over a period of five days. Mix some of the new food into the old, and then gradually add more of the new food. Over the period of five days, your cat should adjust to his new diet. He will be a lot healthier.”
Two Cat Households
Most people have two or more cats. The one problem is that most cats share a food bowl—even if you put out more than one. So, there may be a fat cat and a thin cat in your home. If that is the case, cut down on the quantities, and you can also put the thinner cat in a room with her food bowl and close the door while she eats. Yes, cats do graze, but this beats having one overweight kitty.
Cat and Dog
If you have a cat and a dog, chances are high that your dog will eat from both bowls. So, you can put your cat and her food in another room with the door closed or put your cat’s food up high on a counter where she can easily get to it.
“As your cat ages, his metabolism changes,” says Dr. Dennis. “So changing the diet as your cat ages is one of the best things you can do for your cat.”
Important Note About y/d Diet and Hyperthyroidism
Last week, I posted a story on hyperthyroidism and cats, and I mentioned that Earl Gray, my cat, is eating Hill’s Prescription Diet y/d Feline Thyroid Health cat food. The folks at Hill’s read the story and the comments. They were concerned that a few of us are mixing other foods in with y/d. Here is what my Hill’s contact says:
“I want to chat with you about the taste concerns some people are having with their cats on y/d. I certainly understand it’s hard for cats to switch foods and they don’t always take to new food very easily. I consulted with our Veterinary Consultation Service to see what they recommend for helping with taste and I was told that we do not recommend adding anything at all to y/d. This is extremely important because the food has controlled levels of iodine and even adding gravy could increase the iodine level therefore defeating the goal. We don’t want to risk that.”
”If your readers are concerned about taste and want to add something, it is best that they discuss this with their veterinarian. Something we’ve found that helps is to warm the wet food in the microwave—no longer than 10 seconds. Be sure to stir to avoid hot spots. Sometimes adding warm water to the wet food helps with the taste and helps restore texture. Or, make the transition time longer—mix the current food with the y/d over 7 days or even longer (10 or more days).”
It’s nice to know that they are reading, and more importantly, that they care about our pets’ health.