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Feeding Your Cat: Tips From Will Draper, DVM

09/29/2010

  • Will Draper, DVM:

    One of the more consistent questions we get in our pet community is "What do I feed my cat?"

    And we have the perfect specimen here in rescue cat Beachball, and Beachball’s name signifies Beachball’s shape, in the sense Beachball has lost some weight but is what we consider an obese cat … (Meow!) Um …

    Beachball needs to lose somewhere in the neighborhood of 6 to 8 pounds, which is like 50 pounds for a person. So that’s a pretty huge undertaking.

    You know, as pet owners, you all have rescued pets yourself. What do you typically feed your pet?

  • Anne Wingo:

    We have had several cats over the years. And we try to find something that they like, just off the counter. I try not to do the wet food so much. I try to do dry food. Leave it free choice, so that they can come at will and get it.

  • Will:

    You have a multi-cat household as well. Do you feed them together? Do you feed them separately? Do you free feed?

  • Otto Ojevaat:

    No, we don't free feed.

    We had an obese cat too; we started giving her the low calorie food …

  • Will:

    Pretty good.

  • Otto:

    And she has lost quite some weight and she is now on her regular weight actually.

    And to be honest with you, in the beginning we started free feeding here like Ann did. But she was always at the food bowl. So we had to cut that back.

  • Will:

    And you have it easy with one cat?

  • Jamie Albright:

    I do. We let her free feed on just only dry food, never done wet food, because I heard that it does make them overweight. I don’t know if that's true. (Small laugh)

  • Will:

    There has always been argument about dry vs. canned food, do you free feed, do you feed a more controlled diet, and a lot of it is lifestyle, you know … and how active that cat is. Your cats sound like they are pretty active. So free feeding is fine. But like Otto’s cats, if your cats are sitting home all day and just grazing, they are going to be prone to obesity.

  • Otto:

    What is your recommendation as far as dry vs. wet food is concerned?

  • Will:

    I personally like for cats to have dry and canned. Cats don’t typically drink as much water as they should and the canned food has 60%-70% more water content than dry food. So I like for them to have some canned. It’s also a lifestyle thing. Some people just are in and out all day and on the run and feeding canned food regularly is difficult.  So fortunately, dry foods have to have the proper minerals and nutrients, such as taurine for a cat, so cats can livea healthy, long life on strictly dry food. But there are some proven studies that have been done, that as they get older, cats that are strictly on dry food are more prone to certain things like kidney disease and diabetes and things of that nature, where proper hydration is so important. So I like to feed canned food.

  • Jamie:

    Dr. Draper, my cat is a picky eater. Are there any types of foods you would suggest, or can I mix the different types of food?

  • Will:

    Well, mixing a lot of types of food -- cats have very sensitive stomachs.

    And mixing foods will tend to make them prone to vomiting, having loose stool, which is pretty undesirable in your household. So picky eaters … that is a challenge because you have to find something they like. But what I would say is that whenever you find something that your cat likes, gradually move them over to it. You don’t want to make it an abrupt change, because that will make them more prone to have some GI illness.

    And what’s more important is that a cat eats it.

    Oh … Beachball’s leaving.

    Cats are very finicky, and picky, and stubborn, and will just not eat just to spite you. And if a cat doesn’t eat, they can become very ill. They can actually get a condition with their liver where they deposit fat in it and it can make them very sick. So sometimes you have to give in. It’s more important for them to eat than to be strict with them and try to force them to eat something they are not going to eat.  

  • Jamie:

    Here Beachball, come on.

  • Will:

    Well, we’ve lured Beachball back in with a little tuna.

  • Jamie:

    I guess we don’t have to worry about Beachball being too picky. (Laugh)

  • Will:

    No, never.

Pet Health and Nutrition Advice

Veterinarian Will Draper gives tips on the best nutrition and health care for your dog or cat.
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