How to Raise Healthy Kittens and Cats

Posted in Diet and Nutrition

eating kittenFeeding Advice

Learn how to feed your kitten so that they grow into a strong healthy cat! This means following some common sense rules and remembering what cats like, and what they don't like.

  1. Feed your new kitten the same food his breeder fed him for the first week or two...to minimize stomach upsets. A kitten that is not eating well should always be offered other choices. Canned food may be more attractive than dry.
  2. Young kittens must eat many small meals a day. At first, you may need to leave dry food out at all times. Alternatively, there are now automatic feeders available which allow you to offer up to 6 small meals a day while keeping food cold and fresh.
  3. Kittens grow at different rates and have different activity levels. As such, they may have widely differing caloric needs. Feed kittens to maintain a normal body weight.   We will help you assess the results on each kitten visit. 

Change the Feeding Patterns as Your Kitten Grows Up

In adult cats the number 1 nutritional problem is obesity. This has been fuelled by the habit of leaving dry food out in unlimited quantities "in case" your cat gets hungry. In most adult cats, this will result in unacceptable weight gains.best-cat-vet-care-north-vancouver-highlands-animal-hospital

Follow these recommendations to minimize your cat's risk for obesity and its attendant health issues:

  1. Reduce calorie intake by up to 25% (30% in males) after spaying a neutering. These procedures reduce your cats metabolic rate and also occur about the time that growth rate has slowed so fewer calories will be needed. Switching from kitten to adult food is part of the solution.
  2. Feed adult cats to maintain normal body weight. Caloric requirements vary widely depending on activity levels and guidelines on food labels may not be appropriate for your cat.  Except in rare cases, never leave dry food out in unlimited quantities – nearly all cats will overeat if given the opportunity. Feed your adult cat 3-4 measured meals per day. Alternatively, for nibblers, measure the day’s allotment of food in the morning and then dole it out through the day when your cat asks for it.
  3. Know what a normal body score of 3 looks like. Cats should have a measurable waist when viewed from the side or the top and ribs should be easily felt. The body score chart is a very useful tool.
  4. Feed at least 50% canned food – the higher protein and moisture content help to keep your cat more satisfied. Feeding canned food allows you to easily feed each cat in a multi–cat household the precise amount of food that they require. How often do we see one fat cat and one trim cat in the same house? Guess whose eating most of that dry food?
  5. Limit treats - Treats are high in calories and do not provide balanced nutrition. A couple of treats a day are plenty. Playing with your cat is a better reward in many cases.
  6. Exercise is essential. Provide plenty of opportunities for your cat to play. There are many excellent toys on the market, but a great inexpensive alternative is an empty paper bag and balls of tin foil. A hollow food ball provides exercise and mental stimulation while your cat is eating. Cats love to pretend their food is prey!
  7. Dental disease is a huge concern. By 4 years of age, the majority of cats will develop serious periodontal disease or painful cavities necessitating expensive dental procedures. Prevention is the best option. 
    1. We HIGHLY recommend all willing cats get their teeth brushed daily. If you start brushing as kittens, most cats are tolerant.   Waiting until there is a problem is often a different story. 
    2. Dental diets are also available. Regular dry cat food does nothing to clean your cat’s teeth. Dental diets are much harder and their abrasive texture scours the teeth like a toothbrush. The size of the kibble also ensures that your cat actually chews the diet, rather than just inhaling it.   The most effective dental diets will have the ‘Veterinary Dental Seal of Approval’ on the label. Dental diets should not be fed to young growing kittens. 
    3. Although dental diets are helpful, we still recommend feeding at least 50% canned food for its other known benefits. 
    4. Whenever possible, dental diets should complement tooth brushing, they do not completely replace the need to brush. Dental treats such as ‘Feline Greenies’ or ‘CET Chews” may be additionally helpful.
  8. Minimize risk for Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease - it's a common problem in young to middle aged cats. Male cats in particular may develop life-threatening obstructions. Canned foods with their higher water content help to keep urine more dilute. They are your best option for minimizing the risks.
  9. We recommend feeding Senior Diets to many cats over the age of 7 years.   Chronic Kidney Disease is extremely common in elderly cats. Senior diets contain less phosphorus and use very high quality protein while avoiding excesses – this helps to slow the progression of kidney disease. Feed more canned foods to seniors - they provide the extra water needed to help kidneys function better. Senior diets also contain less sodium, which is helpful for pets with high blood pressure.