Feeding Your Cat

Cats are notoriously finicky. If you are trying to make nutritional improvements, remember that they will food fuss in most cases! You can use knowledge of their biology to give you an “edge, ” however. Fortunately cats do not yet have opposable thumbs so the cupboards and can openers are up to you.

1. Cats are not grazing animals, although they will adapt to this pattern. Having food out all the time blunts their appetite, means they act more finicky, and strains their digestive systems.

2. Put food down once or twice a day, unless your cat is very young, very old, or has a health condition that requires frequent feeding. Take up the food after no more than an hour.

3. Dry food is dehydrating and can place a strain on the digestive and urinary systems. Often cats are made very thirsty by dry food. They often love dry food because it is highly flavored and salted (think potato chip!). You can use dry food as a “bribe” on top of more nutritious foods but try to limit its use.

4. Your cat’s teeth and gums will be healthier if their diet is healthier overall. You don’t need to rely on dry food for dental hygiene.

5. Cats are obligate carnivores, which means they must eat meat. They should never be given a vegetarian or vegan diet.

6. If you are making diet changes, you can top dress new foods with “bribe foods:” meat-based baby food (beef/lamb/turkey/chicken), dry food if previously fed, bonito flakes, a small amount of tuna or tuna juice, rotisserie chicken and so forth.

7. Some cats that eat a lot of fish, especially tuna, get acclimated to the strong flavor and will not eat anything else.

8. Be especially mindful of additives, preservatives, colors and grains in cat foods. Cats can be sensitive to all of these.

9. See my Books and Links page for some diet recommendations, and my Feeding Raw Meat to Your Pets page for some information on this topic geared towards clients interested in exploring this option.

10. Processed food is anything that comes from a can or a bag. Some or all unprocessed food in the diet can offer huge benefits, just as it does for human nutrition. Unprocessed pet food can contain cooked, lightly cooked or safely handled raw meat. All unprocessed food should be nutritionally balanced.

11. Read processed food labels and avoid artificial preservatives, colorings, high grain content, mysterious ingredients, and byproducts.