We make plenty of mistakes feeding ourselves. We eat too much sugar and salt, we eat too little, then too much. With all the problems we have with our own diets, is it any wonder we make mistakes when feeding our cats?
So what errors are we making and why? Our cats can’t tell us, not with words. Sometimes we don’t know where we’ve gone wrong until our cat is sick.
Not to worry. WebMD went to the experts in cat health -- veterinarians and animal nutritionists -- and asked them to outline the most common cat feeding mistakes so that you can avoid them and help your feline friend stay fit, feisty, and well-nourished.
Probably the most common mistake people make when feeding cats is over-feeding, says Joe Bartges, DVM, PhD, DACVIM, DACVN, professor of medicine and nutrition, the Acree Endowed Chair of Small Animal Research, in the College of Veterinary Medicine, at the University of Tennessee. “Obesity is the most common nutritional disease seen in cats.”
Although a pudgy kitty may look kind of cute, obesity is associated with cat health issues including diabetes, arthritis, and urinary tract disease. In fact, Bartges tells WebMD that cats may suffer from something similar to that very human condition, metabolic syndrome.
It’s not necessarily that we’re intentionally giving our cats more food than they need, says Linda P. Case, MS, author of The Cat: Its Behavior, Nutrition, and Health. It’s that our kitties “are more sedentary, as compared to the days when they were barn cats and more active. They're little couch potatoes now, their nutrition needs are much lower, so it's easy to overfeed them.”
So how much food does your cat need? That’s a question best answered by a professional, though recommendations range between 24 to 35 calories a day per pound, to keep cats at a normal, healthy weight.
Yet many of us don’t really know what normal looks like, so “I encourage people to ask their vet to help them determine their cat's body condition score,” says Susan G. Wynn, DVM, a veterinary nutritionist in Georgia and author of Manual of Natural Veterinary Medicine. “That way they will recognize abnormal and work toward normal.”
Cat Feeding Mistakes: Feeding Only Dry Food
“The biggest mistake people make is feeding cats dry food,” says Lisa A. Pierson, DVM, a California veterinarian focused on feline medicine and nutrition, and creator of CatInfo.org.
As it turns out, today’s domestic tabby evolved from desert-dwelling ancestors, a heritage that no doubt left our furry felines with their grace, hunting prowess -- and low thirst drive.
“We know that a cat’s sensitivity to thirst is blunted compared to a dog,” Case says. “They don't voluntarily drink water like a dog would.” And because cats naturally produce highly concentrated urine “we're setting them up for urinary tract problems when their diet is low in liquids.”