Round-faced cat eating from his dinner dish

Mission for Nutrition: The Ultimate Food and Water Guide for Cats

If you want to keep your cat happy and healthy, it is important to provide her with a nutritious diet and keep her hydrated. Just like for humans, diet can make a big difference in helping your feline companion stay in good shape for as along as possible. This guide will help you to learn about some of the best practices when it comes to feeding your cat.

Cat Feeding Guidelines: Dry or Wet?

One of the first choices that you will be faced with is whether to give your cat wet food or dry food, also known as kibble. While kibble can provide your cat with all of the essential nutrients, many veterinarians recommend a wet food diet. Wet food has a higher water content, a lower carbohydrate content, and more animal proteins, and it is less processed and less likely to be contaminated.

Wet food is more like the prey that cats catch and eat in the wild, while dry food contains grains and very little moisture. In the wild, cats don’t drink much water because they get the water content they need from their food, so they tend to have a low thirst drive and might not drink enough. Therefore, cats on a kibble diet are more likely to become chronically dehydrated, which can lead to kidney disease or lower urinary tract disease.

Dry food can be left out for long periods of time, but this can lead to your cat becoming overweight or obese. Obesity in cats can lead to diabetes and other health problems. Dry food has been shown to be better at keeping cats’ teeth clean, but it has only a slight advantage in this regard.

What Is the Best Food for an Adult Cat?

Mission for Nutrition: The Ultimate Food and Water Guide for Cats

For proper nutrition, a cat’s diet should include the right balance of proteins, fats, minerals, vitamins, carbohydrates and water. If your cat has more specific dietary needs, special cat foods are available for addressing a wide range of issues. Prescription diets are available for cats who are overweight, have digestive issues, or have kidney failure or other medical disorders.

What if Your Cat Is a Fussy Eater?

Many cats become very particular about what is in their food bowls. Some prefer certain flavors or textures, while others might get bored of the same food every day and yearn for variety. Fussy eating is a bad habit that cats develop, and there are things you can do to discourage this behavior.

For fussy cats, it is extra important to stick to a routine and to be patient. Don’t give in to them by offering treats. This gives them the message that they get rewarded for refusing to eat their regular meals.

To encourage a fussy cat to eat, try serving the meal in a different way. Be sure your cat has a quiet place to eat where she won’t be disturbed. If that doesn’t work, try a different bowl or consider changing to a different food.

If your cat still won’t eat, or goes 24 hours or more without eating, you should consult your veterinarian. Your cat might have dental problems or sore gums that make eating painful. Or your cat might have an obstruction or illness that is affecting her appetite or ability to eat.

Other Food Tips

2 small cats eating from bowls

Consider feeding your cats on a schedule that mimics the way they would eat if they were out on their own. To accomplish this, you would feed one meal in the morning at dawn and a second meal at dusk. While free feeding is convenient, meal-time feeding on a set schedule will give more control over what and how much your cat eats.

Feeding your cat according to a schedule, at the same times and place each day, will train your cat to know when to expect her meals and less likely to demand food throughout the day. Place the food in a quiet but accessible area on a clean surface away from litter pans. If you have more than one cat, providing each one with a separate food and water bowl will keep them from fighting over food.

The amount of food needed for a cat depends on size, age, and level of activity. As a rule of thumb, A typical adult cat eats about 5.5 ounces of wet food and about two ounces of dry food per day or 24-35 calories per day per pound of body weight. A kitten needs approximately twice as much food per day as an adult cat.

Provide a rotating diet for your cats. If you feed your cats the same food every day for long periods of time, they are more likely to develop allergies and sensitivities. Try changing your cat’s diet two or more times per year, but if your cat won’t eat new foods or is resistant, try a more gradual approach.

When changing to a new food, begin by mixing the new food with the old food. Each day cut the amount of the old food and increase the amount of the new food. A gradual transition over a period of seven to ten days will help your cat to adjust to a new diet with less chance of stomach upset.

Water Tips

Cat is drinking

Cats’ bodies are comprised of 60-70% water, and they need water to live a healthy life. Hydration is critical to maintaining the proper balance of electrolytes, which affects circulation and digestion. Fresh water helps to keep your cat’s kidneys healthy and reduces the chance of developing urinary tract infections.

In order to stay hydrated, cats need fresh water available every day all year round. In the summertime, cats will need to drink more water, and cats that eat dry food need more water than cats that eat wet food. This is because dry cat food only contains 10% water, while wet cat food contains 78% water.

Generally speaking, cats need 3.5 to 4.5 ounces of water per five pounds of body weight per day, although cats eating canned food will get more of this from their food. When cats drink more water than usual, it might indicate a medical condition such as diabetes or kidney disease, so a veterinarian should check them out.

Some cats prefer running water and will drink more from a cat fountain. Others don’t like the taste of chlorine and prefer bottled water. Adding some catnip to the water bowl might entice your cats to drink more water.

If your cat refuses to drink and becomes dehydrated, you can try using a syringe to provide either water or an electrolyte solution. Dispense the fluid slowly so your cat is able to swallow it without choking.

Other options for treating dehydration in cats include administering fluid subcutaneously, that is under the skin, or through an IV. Your veterinarian can administer fluids and teach you the proper way to administer subcutaneous fluids at home.

Should Cats Drink Milk?

Mission for Nutrition: The Ultimate Food and Water Guide for Cats

Although many people believe that cats love milk, it is not a good idea to give milk to an adult cat. It is not beneficial to them and might cause stomach upset. Cats are lactose intolerant and have a hard time digesting milk.

Kittens drink their mother’s milk until they are weaned, but after that they should be given water and soft kitten food to drink and eat. For a small kitten who has lost its mother, there are kitten formulas available. Lactose-free cat milk can be given as a treat, but it is not a necessary part of a cat’s diet.

Food and Water Bowls Make a Difference

It isn’t just what you put in the bowl, but the bowl itself that can make a difference when it comes to keeping your cats properly nourished and hydrated. Plastic bowls are convenient, but some cats are allergic to plastic. Also, they can crack causing leaks or contamination. Therefore, stainless steel or ceramic bowls are the best choices for both food and water bowls.

Select a bowl that is large enough for your cat to enjoy a meal without it touching her whiskers and that won’t tip over or slide around easily. A place mat under the bowls will help protect your floor from spills and keep the eating area clean and neat. If you work late or need to be away from home, you might consider an automatic feeder, which can be programmed to dispense food at intervals throughout the day.

What Are Some Common Mistakes People Make?

Mission for Nutrition: The Ultimate Food and Water Guide for Cats

Overfeeding is the most common mistake that cat owners make. Most indoor cats are not very active and don’t get much exercise, which means they don’t need as much food. Feeding only kibble is another common mistake because it can lead to dehydration.

Feeding your cat human foods is also a common mistake that should be avoided. Table scraps don’t provide the nutrients cats need and might upset their stomachs. Worse than that, some common human foods, like onions, garlic, chocolate, and mushrooms, are actually toxic for cats.

If you want to give your cat a treat, manufactured cat treats are a better option. Most cats love them, and they shouldn’t upset your cat’s stomach or nutritional balance. Just be sure not to overdo the treats and to adjust your cat’s calorie intake accordingly.

Other mistakes include trying to feed cats a vegetarian or vegan diet, or preparing homemade food that does not meet a cat’s nutritional needs. Cats are obligate carnivores and need meat and the proper balance of certain minerals in order to survive.

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, the right type and amount of food and water for your cat depends on a number of factors. When determining what and when to feed your cat, you should take into account weight and age, whether you will feed wet food, kibble, or a combination of the two, and your cat’s activity level. If you are careful about what you feed your cat and stick to a set feeding schedule, your cat is less likely to become overweight or obese and more likely to live a long and healthy life.

Product data was last updated on 2023-02-03.

"In ancient times cats were worshipped as gods; they have not forgotten this."
-- Terry Pratchett

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