Once your cat reaches maturity, at around 12 months, you need to settle into a regular feeding routine. Your cat’s diet needs to include the right balance of the five major nutrient groups; proteins, fats and oils, minerals, vitamins and carbohydrates. Any good-quality, manufactured complete pet food should give your cat this basic nutritional balance.
What to feed?
There are many types of cat food available – different recipes, formats and formulas, as well as the choice of wet or dry. Whether you serve wet or dry food is a matter of personal preference (yours and your cat’s) or may be influenced by certain medical conditions.
- Dry complete diets have some good points. They are convenient, easy to measure and use, easier to store and have a longer shelf-life once opened than wet foods. If you choose a dry food, you can expect your cat to chew it more actively and take longer to eat, to drink more water and to return regularly to the food rather than eating it all at once.
- Some cats simply prefer wet food’s aroma and texture, and wet can still be very convenient with single-serve formats ensuring a fresh, easy-to-serve meal each time. Your cat will also eat more in one sitting rather than going back and forth, and will drink less. Serve the food at room temperature to ensure your cat can taste and smell it properly.
- Many owners serve a mixture of dry and wet, as some cats prefer wet food in the morning and to have dry food left out during the day.
Make sure your cat has clean, fresh water to drink at all times, preferably in a large ceramic bowl. Plenty of water is especially important if you are feeding dry food. If your cat is reluctant to drink, try a bigger bowl – some cats don’t like it when their whiskers touch the sides. Metal bowls can put a cat off drinking too as they see reflections and shadows when they put their head down to drink.
Water should not be positioned directly next to food as cats prefer some separation between resources.
If cats go outdoors, a bowl to collect rainwater may be more popular than the clear, fresh water indoors.
Milk is not a substitute for water. Cats don’t need milk after weaning and many are intolerant of lactose (milk sugar) that can cause diarrhoea. Even specially formulated low-lactose ‘cat milk’ should be treated as a food not a drink, with food intake adjusted accordingly.
Treats and snacks
Most owners like to give their cats something nice to eat in addition to their main meal. Scraps from the dinner table or a small piece of food fed by hand are seen by many as a way of showing affection.
Human foods are high in calories and sometimes salt, and lack many essential nutrients, so you risk overfeeding or upsetting the balance of your pet’s diet.
When you do give treats, always reduce your cat’s main meal by an equivalent calorific amount. Limit treats to no more than 15% of their daily energy needs to prevent putting their overall diet out of balance. If your cat is on a special diet advised by your vet, for weight loss or another medical condition, treats may be forbidden as even a little human food can upset such a diet. Ask your vet what you can and can’t feed if this is the case.
Many cats, given the choice, would prefer several small meals a day. This is not very convenient for owners, but cats are quite happy to take food in fewer, larger meals and most cats adapt to eating two meals a day quite happily. Nonetheless, as they’re natural ‘grazers’, leaving some dry food out between meals suits feline eating habits well.
Every cat is an individual, so the most important consideration is to feed them enough to maintain a lean, healthy, ideal body condition. If you are in doubt about how much to feed your cat, contact your vet.