How does nutrition impact the health and wellbeing of my cat?

As you can imagine for yourself, nutrition has a significant impact on these guys, and there's a bunch of different types of nutrition out there. You go to a food store like Tractor Supply or PetSmart, and I'm sure everybody knows there are a million kinds of food under the sun. We recommend making sure that you get the nutrition appropriate for your pet's age type, so whether they're a kitten or an adult animal, or some brands even have senior or mature diets. And you just want to make sure that if your veterinarian recommends a prescription diet, like those we have for urinary diets or renal and kidney diets, or even sometimes gastrointestinal diets, go with that. It can make a big difference for your pet's health and the life of your pet, especially their quality of life.

Many cats are developing urinary tract issues. We have many patients here on this Royal Canin Urinary SO, making a difference for their urinary house. These cats can be more comfortable and prevent more urinary tract infections from developing.

Dr. Cara Hill
Advanced Animal Care

What are some nutritional requirements for a cat?

Yeah, so that's always the big question, and everybody knows that cats are more of the true carnivore than dogs, but that doesn't mean that they strictly need just meat in their diet, as they need other things too. And there are some specific amino acids, vitamins, and minerals that cats need that are provided in those formulated ration diets that you get at the store or from your veterinarian that aren't always present in some of those raw diets. I know people want to feed their cats raw because they think that they're providing the best for their true carnivores at home. Still, we tend to run into a lot of issues with raw diets—things like E. coli overloads, salmonella overloads, and even listeria, which can then spread to the owners and make the owners sick too. I always tell my owners to stick to those recommended over-the-counter or prescription diets.

Will my cat's nutritional requirements change throughout their life as a kitten, adult, and senior cat?

You want to make sure that the nutrition that you're getting for your pet is appropriate for their age because they have different nutritional requirements at different stages in their life. A growing kitten is going to need different things than a geriatric cat like Sonny here would need. That's why you want to make sure that if you have a senior guy at home, go with the senior diets out there. If you just got a new kitten, be sure that you're feeding them some kitten food. And then when they hit a year old, it's okay to transition them over to adult food. And then I like to start that senior diet when they reach about the seven to eight-year mark for kitties.

What are some signs and symptoms of poor cat nutrition in my cat?

One of the first things that we see is that skin and hair coat, so that's the easiest way to look. If you've got a cat with a nice, healthy hair coat, it's nice and shiny; their skin looks nice and healthy, which is a good marker of making sure that they're getting good nutrition. We also don't want an overly overweight cat because we can lead to things like diabetes or some other diseases that are out there that are more prone in obese pets. And we also want to make sure that they're not too skinny, so the big things to look at are their hair coat, skin, and body weight. And then the other thing that I look at is teeth. I generally recommend cats eating a dry food diet or a mix of dry and canned food. Of course, some cats develop issues where they need just a sole canned food diet, and that's okay, but the hard food helps keep that tartar and plaque off their teeth, which keeps their teeth healthier longer. Just like cats are prone to those urinary tract infections, they can also be prone to some dental problems as well.

What are some common food allergies in cats, and how can I tell if my cat is suffering from them?

The most common food allergies that we see in kitties are going to be related to the protein source, and the most common protein source that causes a food allergy is going to be chicken. What you may see more than anything is some itchiness, so if your cat seems overly itchy, whether it be in their ears, in their back, at their shoulders, or their chins, it's time to consider food allergies. Or you can have some gastrointestinal signs, so maybe your cat's starting to vomit a little bit more, and you switched food, or they develop a little bit of looser, runny stool. That would be a clue to maybe looking at the protein source in the diet if it was recently changed or a new food was started or something like that.

When it comes to cat food, what and how much should I be feeding them when it comes to kibble vs. canned versus fresh food?

Your veterinarian can make the best decision tailored for your cat depending on what their needs are, their stage of life, and everything like that. But my general rule of thumb for clients when we're feeding dry food for a healthy adult cat is to generally feed half a cup of food per cat per day. So whether you give that as one feeding or you break that up into multiple feedings, that's kind of your personal preference. That's my rule of thumb that I start with, but every pet is different, so there might be other recommendations.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (859) 625-5678, you can email us, or you can reach out on Facebook. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can.

Cat Nutrition - FAQs

Dr. Cara Hill
Advanced Animal Care

Can my cat live on a vegetarian diet?

We don't recommend that your cat lives solely on a vegetarian diet. Compared to dogs, cats are the more carnivorous species of the two, whereas dogs still need protein. These guys need it a bit more strongly, so I wouldn't recommend a vegetarian or vegan diet for cats.

Is wet food more nutritious than dry cat food?

Nope, it's not more nutritious. Sometimes we recommend it for different reasons, like adding some water or moisture to the diet, but it can develop more plaque and tartar on their teeth faster than dry food. So I like to recommend at least a combination of both, if not just straight dry food.

Are prescription diets better for my cat?

We make the recommendation for prescription diets when there is a need for them, whether your cat's prone to urinary tract infections or they have some renal or liver disease. Maybe they've got some skin issues or a sensitive GI tract. There are general cat foods over the counter that you can get out there that are great, but I like the prescription diets when we're trying to manage something specific.

If my outdoor cat hunts, does that mean they're missing something in their diet?

No, it doesn't necessarily mean that the cat is missing anything in their diet. Cats are natural hunters, and some like to do it more than others. Whether they eat what they hunt or not is purely up to the cat, but it doesn't mean that there's a lack of nutrition in the diet.

Will human food make my cat overweight?

It definitely can, so I don't recommend feeding a lot of human food to cats and anything you do give them, do so in moderation. Cats can have a pretty sensitive system. And especially with the overweight cats, we can push these guys into diabetes or some other conditions when we get them overweight. So I would try to avoid giving cats human food if you can.

Will free-choice feeding make my cat overweight?

It depends on your cat. If you've got a chowhound of a cat who's always at the food bowl if there's food in it, then yes, free-feeding could lead to an overweight cat. Some cats are a bit better at regulating themselves so that you can leave food out, and they'll eat when they're hungry, and they won't eat when they're not, and they maintain their weight pretty well that way. You just need to figure out what cat you have.

What are some other myths about cat nutrition that you hear as a veterinarian?

The biggest one is many people want to feed their cats raw diets, and I don't recommend it, mainly because we can have severe bacterial contamination with things like E.coli, salmonella, and listeria that can make both you and your cat sick. Dry or canned foods provide an adequate amount of nutrition, and cats tend to love them, so I generally advise you to avoid raw food diets.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (859) 625-5678, you can email us, or you can reach out on Facebook. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can.