Feeding Pet Cats: Cat Food, Diet, and Scheduling

Feeding Cats

Although, it has been a while since I've had a pet cat, from what I remember a pet cat's diet and scheduling is slightly similar to a pet dog. The main difference is the actual cat food and the components of a balanced cat diet.

Remember that even your pet tabby cat is a carnivore, meaning they eat meat and need meat in order to have a balanced, healthy diet. No, that doesn't mean that you can cook up a steak, and feed it to your feline friend.

Feeding your cat a truly balanced diet calls for a premium cat food that supplements meat and plant material with vitamins and minerals, as well as other nutrients essential for your cat's health, such as the amino acid taurine.

You don't want to change up the cat food at the end of the bag or towards the last can. By changing up the diet, you can upset the cat's stomach and bowels. It's best to keep the cat on a well-balanced diet and on a feeding schedule, but you don't necessarily need to change cat foods every other week.

Wet Food, Dry Food, or Homemade Cat Food

Wet Food

Wet food, or canned cat food, is one of the top most popular forms of cat food. It generally comes in either 3 ounces, 5.5 ounces, or 13 ounce cans, or pouches.

Many veterinarians recommend that a cat's diet consists mostly of canned or homemade foods because there is a higher water content in canned foods versus dry foods, which can be an overall health benefit. In addition to a higher water content, wet food generally contains less grains and carbohydrate material.

Canned foods tend to be made from real fish materials, versus by-products.

Some veterinarians claim that canned foods either treat or reduce the likelihood of health concerns such as urinary tract disorders, diabetes, chronic renal failure, constipation, and obesity. But, at the same time, some veterinarians claim that the foods in the pop-top containers contain bisphenol A, which can contributed to the development of hyperthyroidism in cats.

Dry Food

Dry food is a great option in terms of content, convenience, and price; usually you will find dry cat food in 4-5 pound bags for around $5-$10, depending on the brand, flavor, and type of food. This is a huge price difference from the $0.20 a can. Plus, dry cat foods can be left out for the cat to eat over time, whereas can cat food will spoil after a few hours.

In terms of health, dry cat foods are recommended by veterinarians because they allow the cat to chew the kibble and break a part the the kibble, which cleans their teeth by scrapping off plaque.

Dry foods contain meat-meals (chicken, fish, etc) as their main protein source, which is why you are able to get larger quantities for a cheaper price. There are some studies that report the meat-meal sources are better than other protein-meal sources in terms of digestibility and nutritional value.

Cat foods that contain corn gluten or any form of corn should also be avoided as this is a big filler that can cause more problems. It will also cause your cat to need to eat more to get the same nutrients as a higher quality food with few to no fillers, and eating more means more poo.

But, the same studies, also, showed that cats fed on dry food diets, tend to excrete alkaline urine, which is addressed in some cat foods by adding urine-acidifying ingredients to the dry food. Although, this may sound great, the urine-acidifying ingredients may cause feline stones.

Homemade Food

The new trend in the pet society, is homemade pet foods, which is mostly in light of the past pet food scare of 207. In terms of homemade cat food diets, you would want to include cooked or raw meat, ground bone, pureed vegetables, taurine supplements, and a multi-vitamin supplement. You may want to include a digestive enzyme supplement, as well.

Note: Although in most cases, cats are resistant to the bacteria of raw meat, sometimes if frozen for long periods of time before use, raw meat can contain harmful parasites and organisms.

The one big concern with preparing homemade diets for cats is that some human foods are not suitable for cats because they contain the emulsifying agent propylen glycol (PG), which is actually deadly to cats. PG is commonly added to fresh meat and poultry and not listed on the product label, so you won't be aware if PG is in the fresh meat that you've purchased for your pet cat.

Some veterinarians claim that raw diets are the best for pet cats; you will want to talk to your vet about the best homemade diet or other options if that's the route you want to take.

Choosing Cat Food

Make sure that when choosing a cat food brand, that the food contains proteins as the first ingredient on the label.

Appropriate cat foods contain Tuarine, which is an essential amino acids that cats need in their diet.

The cat food you choose, needs to contain vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and fatty acids, as well as water.

Avoid

  • Foods with "by-products," "meat and/or bone meal," "animal digest," and any food that contains "digest," "meal," and sugars.
  • Chemical preservatives, including BHA, BHT, ethoxyquin, and propyl gallate
  • Corn meal as a filler
  • Excess of carbohydrate fillers

Creating a Balanced Diet

Whether you choose to feed your cat wet food, dry food, or a homemade diet, you want to make sure to ensure that you're providing your cat a well- balanced diet.

In terms of dry and wet cat foods, you may want to speak with your veterinarian to get his recommendation for the top cat food brands.

Once, you've picked the best brand for you and your cat, you may want to consider buying a bag of dry cat food, to aid in teeth and oral maintenance, as well as a few cans of wet cat food. Try to keep the same brand and the same type of food. Many premium pet food brands will offer dry food with a wet food complement.

Make sure that the type of food is appropriate for your cats age and style of life. Many brands offer an outdoor formula as well as an indoor formula cat food.

Next, check the label. Make sure that the food contains around 34-38 percent protein and 19-22 percent fat.

If your cat has digestive problems, you may want to find a cat food that has a higher fiber content; if your cat has kidney or heart disease, you may want to find a cat food that has reduced protein, phosphorus, and sodium. (Check with your veterinarian.)

As you cat ages and begins to reach 8 to 10 years old, you'll want to make sure that the cat food smells and tastes good, as well as being easy to chew and digest.

Create a Feeding Schedule

Now that you've decided which cat foods you'll be purchasing for your feline friend, and how you're going to create the best, well-balanced diet, you need to know when you should feed your pet cat.

Do remember that for the most part, cats are nibblers, so you'll want to provide dry food throughout the day, and set aside a special time to give the cat wet food (if you've chosen to provide a mixed diet).

For the most part, you'll want to provide small amounts of can food twice a day (morning and night) in a separate bowl or plate. A small amount may vary per cat, but I'd go with maybe a tablespoon or two twice a day.

Make sure that you keep a regular schedule. It will be easier for you to keep a routine if you know that at 9:00 am and 6:00 pm, you'll be scooping out the can food.

Also, make sure that once you've decided the appropriate amount of food that your cat needs, stick with that amount. You don't want to overfeed your cat because obesity can lead to health concerns and even shorten the lifespan of your furry friend.

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Comments 20 comments

Seakay profile image

Seakay 6 years ago from Florida

Hey, Whitney05!

Great hub. I have 3 cats and I think you covered it all! Thanks for the read. c u


Whitney05 profile image

Whitney05 7 years ago from Georgia Author

Thanks. I fixed it.

It's not that I haven't found a high quality cat food. I don't have a cat. It's that I haven't done the same research with cat food as dog food. Innova also makes a good cat food, I believe. Wellness isn't as good, but it's better than most.


KT pdx profile image

KT pdx 7 years ago from Vancouver, WA, USA

I saw in the part about meat meals that you listed corn as a "meat" meal. It's corn, so not meat, and doesn't have a high protein content like meat does. Just thought I'd point that out. Also, some veterinarians will recommend the brand of food that they sell in their office, rather than something else that might be better, so it's best to do your own research by comparing what you need for your cats with the bag labels.

Good information! I used to work for a pet food company, doing demonstrations/helping people choose a food. You wouldn't believe how many people didn't know what their cat's or dog's food contained! They would just say, "Oh, I've been feeding Friskies/Meow Mix/etc. (one of the "grocery store" brands), and they love it, so I wouldn't want to change." Then I'd ask them if they'd ever thought about what's in the food, and they'd always answer, "No." After I'd told them about the benefits of feeding meat and getting the right mix, they usually switched to one of the healthier foods. The company I worked for didn't care so much about if they bought our brand; they wanted people to feed healthier food in general. Many people bought the brand I was promoting, but others bought competing brands instead and were thrilled when they saw their pets become healthier. One lady came back two weeks later and hugged me because her pets had stopped scratching so much! Turns out they were allergic to corn, and I'd helped her buy a (competing) brand that was corn-free after she told me the cats' symptoms.

I saw in the comments that you hadn't found a good cat food with meat instead of meal. Wellness, Blue Buffalo, and Halo all make canned food that has real meat. All three companies have real "people-food" ingredients in all their canned and dry food (except for some chicken/beef/fish meal in the dry), and NO by-products.


Whitney05 profile image

Whitney05 7 years ago from Georgia Author

You are correct. Cooked and baked bones can be very brittle. I never mentioned feeding cats cooked bones though.


Lady Guinevere profile image

Lady Guinevere 7 years ago from West Virginia

Never give a dog or cat cooked meat on the bone. Feed the it completely RAW. It is the cooking that makes the bones brittle and that gets lodged in the animals throat and will kill them. RAW bones are not brittle and are flexible enough that the animal can chew it up.


Whitney05 profile image

Whitney05 8 years ago from Georgia Author

You may want to give her just a pinch of extra when she misbehaves, but by feeding her when she bites, you're teaching her that it's ok to bite because you're rewarding her with more food, which is what she wants. As for her losing weight, try a diet cat food. Otherwise, I'm not sure.


Bard of Ely profile image

Bard of Ely 8 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

I feed both my cats wet food because Tiggy my lady cat got constipated when I was giving her dry food and after we had a very hot weekend here. I was really worried about her so decided no more dry and Old Lad my other cat it is no good for either. He had lost teeth when he was a stray and gets gum problems so doesn't chew the dry food and swallows it down and then ends up being sick!

So wet and canned food is what they both have but this presents another problem - Tiggy is a greedy cat and is getting far too fat but she will not stick with twice a day feedings at all. People say you have to ignore them pleading and begging and I have tried but if I don't feed her she ends up biting me in the leg at which point I give up and get her more food.

Part of the problem is she can't get enough exercise here either - I have an apartment and a balcony and she gets bored quickly with toys. The best toy she has is a silver paper mouse that she had already in 2005 when I was given her.

Tiggy also had a scruffy small rubber ball she chewed and I used to play fetch with her with. Eventually it crumbled and wore away to nothing and no balls I have got her since have been anything like as popular as that one.

The advice I see on ignoring your pets when they plead for food don't say how you ignore being bitten if you don't do as the cat demands! lol

Any ideas?

CJ visited and saw how much my life is ruled by the cats! lol


ChrisSnil profile image

ChrisSnil 8 years ago from United Kingdom

Excellent hub! We've been looking at changing the brand of dry food we feed our two kitties and found this hub extremely helpful :)


shailini profile image

shailini 8 years ago from Bangalore, India

wow..you have written so many informative hubs on pets and pet care. great work


Whitney05 profile image

Whitney05 8 years ago from Georgia Author

Susan, like I mentioned in the hub, cats are nibblers, so by providing them dry food to nibble on throughout the day and then giving them wet food, or more dry food (however you want to do that) shouldn't be a problem.


Susan Ng profile image

Susan Ng 8 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

My kittens like to eat wheat bread. I don't give them human food, their diet is purely Friskies, but I've noticed them picking up and eating small crumbs of wheat bread that fall from my sandwich. :O

Also, should I be concerned if my kittens don't follow a strict eating schedule? I refill their food bowl when I wake up at 6am and when I get home from work at 6pm, but they don't eat right away. They play and play and then eventually eat at odd hours. Should I hide their food bowl until chow time?


Whitney05 profile image

Whitney05 8 years ago from Georgia Author

DJ- I'm willing to answer any questions that I can. :-) Not many cats are fond of vegetables, but I've never heard of a cat who likes bread.

I don't mind the questions at all; it really does give me more ideas for hubs, but usually I have a idea bank at home. Ha. I tend to get a lot of ideas when I'm caring and cleaning up after my pets.


DJ Funktual profile image

DJ Funktual 8 years ago from One Nation Under a Groove

I just thought it was greedy to ask for even more than what you already gave us.

same as you whit, we give them veggie friendly hard food regular with Fancy Feast twice aweek as a treat. The boy won't eat the FF though. He eats bread. Tries to anyway. Ever heard of that? A cat that will steal your dinner roll without you knowing? Looking for to the new hub as well.

You are quite prolific. Do you actually want people to ask you Qs so as to give YOU knew ideas?


Whitney05 profile image

Whitney05 8 years ago from Georgia Author

bspilner- I agree with the wet food. My dogs get canned foods once or twice a week, as a treat with their dry food, but I make sure that the first ingredient is real meat and not a meal or by-product. Beneful has a great canned dog food, whereas their dry food isn't the best choice. I haven't really checked out cat canned foods, but I'm sure with a little searching, one could find a good canned food with real meat versus a meal.

"Meal" is always better than "by-product," but real meat is even better.


bspilner profile image

bspilner 8 years ago from Altanta, Ga.

I am not trying to be gross or anything, but I am starting to get really nervous about what's in my pets food (especially wet foods) with all of the by products going into them. It is something that has concerned me for a while but with the recent news on the actual ingredients I am really starting to be cautious. I think you make a great point with homemade foods and it is the next step many people should start considering. You know what your pets are getting and you're not taking any chances with the on-the-shelf canned products.

I know this was a little off topic but you made great points and the by-products were the first thing that I started to dwell on. Great hub!


Whitney05 profile image

Whitney05 8 years ago from Georgia Author

Pat-I think the homemade diets work better with cats than dogs. There's just so much that goes into a dog's diet in order to make it truly balanced.

Andres-Thank you fo the comment. Food is definitely a big part of having healthy pets.

Fishkinfreak-I haven't heard of it, unless it's where you take your dog to yoga classes and do positions around the dog and whatnot. I'll have to check it out. Thanks for the heads up.

DJ-Greedy about what? I wouldn't say necessarily a cure, but you could feed her separately. You may want to talk to your vet about a diet cat food. Obesity can lead to other health concerns with any animals. (By the way, I'll have the other request done a little later today.)


DJ Funktual profile image

DJ Funktual 8 years ago from One Nation Under a Groove

thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you!

My wife Paula & I sat down with a printed version of this and we really learned a lot! We both accumulated knowledge about diet through different people (roommates, parents, etc.) and a lot of it turned out to be half-truths and knowing all the angles is really important so that it gives the reader a chance to gear your advice toward each cat depending on THEIR health. Thank You So much.

I'm being greedy..but I have a follow-up question. Is there is cure for keeping the chubby one from devouring what she has and then hunting food from her siblings?


fishskinfreak2008 profile image

fishskinfreak2008 8 years ago from Fremont CA

Whitney

Did you know that there are now yoga classes for dogs? To learn more, go to abcnews.com and search for DOGA (slang for yoga for dogs).


Andres Wagner profile image

Andres Wagner 8 years ago from Los Angeles

We have a cat who is 17 and a dog who is 13 neither looks or acts his age and I'm sure its because we are so careful about the food we give them. Wonderful


Pat Merewether profile image

Pat Merewether 8 years ago from Michigan

Excellent! We haven't had a cat for a couple of years - but we have 2 dogs and I feed them a raw-food diet and they are in excellent health - the vet is amazed at how frisky Gracie is at 10 years old!

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