IF YOU THINK CATS ARE EASY YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG – DIET AND NUTRITION

That’s not to say cats are difficult. It’s all about banishing old myths, assumptions and misconceptions, and embracing what your cat needs to be a happy, healthy kitty.

Silly animated image of a tabby stripped cat sitting at a table with a fork in one hand and knife in the other, wearing a bib and waiting for a meal
Animated image of a cat sitting at a table waiting for their meal

Cats are amazing. They are intelligent, curious, affectionate, funny, athletic, and often animated.


They are also territorial, neurotic, and masters of hiding illness. Some of their behaviors can be misconstrued as being vindictive when all they are really doing is trying to communicate with their humans.






THE ASSUMPTION

Fill a bowl of kibble for the cat each morning; they will eat what and when they want.


This is not a good idea. Kibble is truly the fast food of the pet food world. It was created for convenience. With few exceptions, dry food is manufactured using very high heat. Learn more here.


A dry food diet has been linked to obesity, diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome/disease, constipation, bacteria and yeast overgrowth, leaky gut syndrome, kidney disease, urinary tract issues, such as crystals and stones, liver disease, joint problems, skin issues, impacted anal sacs and more.


Cats that are fed high-carb diets often have sluggish digestion. A small percentage of the diet should be made up of carbohydrates (vegetables). Cats have no biological need for grains or starch, nor can they digest them well. Even grain-free kibble is loaded with starch (that’s what holds the kibble together).


"Dry kibble is hands down the worst thing you can feed your precious kitty," according to Karen Becker, DVM. "Most brands are devoid of exactly the kind of nourishment your cat needs to be healthy all her life. If you’re feeding your cat dry food, I recommend you start today to make gradual improvements in her diet."


Cats also need ample time between meals to properly digest their food. When this isn’t achieved, digestion is slowed, often resulting in fur balls and vomiting.


A PROPER DIET

You have probably heard the term bio-appropriate diet. So what exactly does that mean? It is a diet that contains the ingredients and nutrients needed for optimal health. For cats, this means muscle and organ meat, glands, bone and fat, vitamins and minerals, and a small amount of vegetation. It should not include ingredients the body does not need or has difficulty processing, such as by-products, grains, artificial and natural flavorings, colors, sugar, corn, soy, or beets.


Cats have large stomachs with very strong digestive acids and enzymes that break down meat, bone, fat, skin, and fur. Food is digested and assimilated quickly and the stomach is emptied between 30 minutes and two hours.


Unlike humans, cats do not utilize carbohydrates for energy. Fats and proteins are what fuel them. Vegetables and fruits do provide vitamins, minerals, and both soluble and insoluble fiber. In the wild, the only vegetables cats eat are grass (promotes digestion) and the digested and fermented vegetation in their prey’s stomach.


It is important not to feed the same thing day after day, month after month, year after year. This can lead to nutritional deficiencies and food intolerances. There should be at least two proteins rotated in the diet. Turkey, chicken, beef, buffalo, lamb, venison, rabbit, pheasant, and quail are fantastic choices. Fish is actually not great for cats - they lack the enzymes necessary to break down large amounts of iodine. Once or twice a week is fine, but not every day.


Homemade raw or cooked diets are most beneficial for cats (work with a holistic vet or nutrition expert, like yours truly, to be sure of the correct balance of nutrients). It is not as difficult or time-consuming as people think. A week's worth of food can be made in fewer than 30 minutes. It can cost less than $2 per day, per cat to provide this type of diet. But it is not for everyone.


Commercial raw foods are the next best thing. If the idea of raw is not appealing, consider freeze-dried raw food (just add water)! This is often a convenient solution.


Because cats digest and assimilate raw foods efficiently, there is less waste. Most cats on a raw food diet produce less poop with low odor. You can say that your cat's poop doesn't stink - bonus!!


There are also cats that do very well on a canned food diet. Look for varieties that are human-grade, grain-free, with no ingredients sourced from China, and in BPA-free cans.


THE WATER BOWL

Most people do not think of water as being part of their kitty’s diet, but it is an important one.


Water should be filtered or bottled, and the bowl should be changed twice daily. The bowl should be cleaned each time with hot water and a mild detergent or white vinegar (be sure to rinse well).


When water is simply topped off or bowls are not cleaned, it allows debris and bacteria to build. You've seen that sludge - it is nasty. And it can be harmful. When bacteria is ingested, it can cause health problems in the mouth and gut.


Look for wide bowls made from glass, ceramic or stainless steel. Avoid plastic bowls, which can harbor bacteria.


Providing a great diet for your cat may seem like a lot of work at first, but like anything else, it becomes part of your everyday routine in no time.


Most cats that are provided with a bio-appropriate diet avoid common health issues that often result in a trip to the vet. So not only will your kitty feel healthy and strong, you can potentially save $$$. Cha-Ching!


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