Feline Nutrition in a Nutshell

Having a cat in your home is a bit like hosting a miniature lion. The domestic feline has a lot in common with its wild ancestors, but its lifestyle tends to be a little more on the tame side. 

When it comes to feeding our kitty companions, there is a lot to consider. Cats have some special nutritional needs that we need to know about to be successful caretakers. Luckily for you, The Pet’s Place Animal Hospital knows all about feline nutrition and is happy to help you understand.

Kitty Considerations

Cats are not the same as dogs and it really starts to show when you compare their diets. As obligate carnivores, cats have certain nutritional needs that can only be met by eating meat. Some basic differences include:

  • They need vitamin A in their diets and are unable to convert beta carotene like their dog friends.
  • The feline species requires very high levels of thiamine in their diet.
  • Cats need several amino acids such as taurine that are found only in meat in their diet. 
  • Cats need far more protein than do dogs.
  • Prolonged decreases in calorie intake can result in serious health consequences for cats. 

Balancing a cat’s diet can be tricky. It can be tempting to hop on the bandwagon of different diet trends, but they aren’t always a good choice.

A commercially prepared diet is best to ensure that your cat is receiving all the nutrients they need in the right amounts and ratios. If you really want to make your own diet, working with a board certified veterinary nutritionist is the way to go. 

A Word About Obesity and Feline Nutrition

If your little lion is on the overweight side, you’re not alone. Most cats in the United States (about 60%) are at least somewhat overweight

Being overweight increases your pet’s risk of many health conditions including osteoarthritis, diabetes, cardiovascular issues, urinary problems, and even cancer. Talking with your veterinarian about the appropriate number of calories is a great place to start when it comes to maintaining a healthy weight.  

Keeping your kitty svelte isn’t always easy, but it is important. Be sure to:

  • Know your cat’s allowed daily calorie intake (please ask us for help determining this, but most cats need between 180 and 250 calories per day)
  • Remember that treats have calories as well and count them in your daily totals
  • Choose low calorie treats like a small about of tuna in water
  • Measure your cat’s food so that you know how many calories you are feeding
  • Consider substituting in some canned food, which tends to be less calorie dense due to its water content, for the kibble
  • Encourage activity at meal time with indoor hunting feeders or interactive food bowls
  • Avoid the urge to allow your cat free access to food, instead refresh the bowl frequently or encourage the use of a more interactive feeder
  • Offer playtime instead of food when your cat begs

If you decide that a diet is in order for your cat, it is important to remember that slow and steady weight loss is key for kitties. A crash diet can result in a serious condition called hepatic lipidosis.

As you probably already know, cats aren’t always fans of change. A sudden alteration in diet or routine is not likely to be met with enthusiasm. Rather, make changes gradually, offering a small amount of a new food or a new routine each day.

Feline nutrition may not always be intuitive, but it is an important part of keeping your cat healthy and happy. You are what you eat, and that goes for cats as well as us.