Let's Talk About Nutritional Needs

The nutritional needs of cats of different ages

Cats, as any other animals need nutrients to produce energy for three main functions of the body. They are growth, maintenance, and repair. As your cat age, the energy needed for each of the above processes will change. Therefore, it’s important for us, as pet owners, to understand our pets' nutritional needs to make changes in the diet accordingly. Providing a healthy and balanced diet with adequate nutrition is the key to ensure a long, healthy life for your furry friend. There are 3 main life stages of a cat that can be identified with distinctly different basic needs, each requiring specified food plans.

  1. Kittens 
kitten nutritional needs of cats

Kittens until the age of 8-9 weeks are considered as newborn. Newborn kittens obtain all the nutrients they need from mother’s milk for growth and fight against the new challenges encountered from the environment, and gain immunity. Weaning, or transitioning kittens from nursing on mother’s milk to less digestible drier food, is better to be done gradually by providing kitten meals between nursing sessions. 
When your fur baby hits 3 months of age, she becomes a bag full of energy. This huge lot of energy should be provided by kitten formula with a high amount of plant and animal-based protein. Cats are carnivores, so they can never be adopted to a vegetarian meal plan. Make sure to include animal-based protein since only that includes an essential amino acid for the cat’s health called taurine. Taurine helps for the development of immune and digestive systems to improve vision and heart function. We also have to know that a kitten’s size increases two or three times in these few months, and this accelerated growth requires a lot of energy, so a high-calorie meal is recommended for kittens. Kittens are better to be left for a free choice meal if you feed them with dry kibble. However, if you consider feeding kitten formulated canned food, you should practice your little friend for three or four meals (not leaving it in the food bowl for a whole day)

2. Adult cats

adult cat nutritional needs

Cats are considered adults after one year. Comparing with kittens, adult cats need less calorie intake because usually they become less active. But this of course changes from one cat to another. Many cats prefer sleeping in a comfortable and warm spot during the day at this age, but for active cats, who hop and run around the house or outside all day, you should feed high-calorie food even though they are in adulthood. It is adequate to provide “maintenance energy” for a normal adult cat with high-quality food with balanced nutrition. Ensure that your cat friend has access to freshwater throughout the day, especially when feeding on dry kibble. Do not offer cow milk to your cat as a meal or a treat since they don’t have much of the lactase enzyme that is needed to break down lactose in milk. It is good to give two meals per day for adult cats with a combination of dry and wet food rather than offering free-choice food because that may cause excess fat deposition, making the cat obese. If free-choice feeding is practiced, make sure to fill the bowl with a measured amount of feed rather than filling it every time you see it is emptied.
Pregnant and nursing kitty mommies also need special food with high protein and high calcium levels. 

3. Senior cats 

senior cats nutritional food needs

Senior cats are the ones above the age of 7 years. Cats of this age show several metabolic and anatomical changes due to aging. Especially teeth are worn out in most senior cats. So it is better if you can provide canned food rather than dry food. If you are feeding dry food, make sure to provide the senior-cat dry food, which has smaller-sized kibbles compared to those in adult-cat dry food. Senior cat meals should be measured well because being overweight will increase the chance of developing arthritis. 

Since senior cats prefer to purr on your lap when they are not sleeping or eating, they require a significantly less amount of energy. The diets should be changed accordingly. Do not make abrupt changes in the senior kitty’s diet as it may lead to digestive problems.

Always provide fresh water with any diet, in order to prevent dehydration (you can encourage drinking with a cat water fountain).

Feeding correctly can also prevent a few common illnesses

  1. Obesity

This is the most common nutrition-related illness reported among cats. You should avoid overfeeding your furball, and this can be easily done by staying stick to a diet plan or providing a measured amount of commercial meal that is suitable for your pet’s age. For example, feeding senior cats with high-calorie adult food will easily cause obesity since senior cats do not enough exercises to burn the calories. Obesity can cause arthritis and high blood pressure as well.

  1. Diarrhea 

Diarrhea can signal many illnesses, but it can also be related to diet. It can be seen when you abruptly change your cat’s diet. Sometimes, this can also be caused by the very low fiber content of your pet’s food. In this case, provide a low-fat, easily digestible feed for some time.

  1. Heart diseases

Felines often get into heart disease due to excessive sodium levels of the cat feed. The increased sodium level in blood cause to elevation of the blood pressure. Do not let your kitty consume table scrapings and pay attention to the sodium content in its feed.

What about home cooked food?

cat nutritional needs diet eating from bowl

Home-cooked food offers many benefits for your feline friend. This way, you can control the composition of the feed, and it’s also relatively cost-effective. However, because you need to take care of the nutritional balance, you may need to consult with a veterinary expertise to know what is best for your feline friend.  Your cat needs energy, fat, protein, carbohydrate, vitamins, and minerals, and your home-cooked meals should contain each of these in balanced amounts. Cats need a protein-based diet. This includes meat, animal organs, fish, or eggs to the meals. You can introduce some vegetables along with the meat as well. Add some rice to the meal as a carbohydrate source. Raw or undercooked meat or eggs have many dangers, since there is a higher chance of infection from pathogenic bacteria in it.

Consuming raw fish is also not good for your feline friend. Raw fish contains an enzyme named thiaminase. Thiaminase enzyme destroys thiamine (vitamin B1) in the cat. This may cause vitamin deficiency in your pet. Therefore it is best not to use uncooked fish in the diet. Also, there may be parasitic worms, parasitic eggs, parasitic protozoans, and other microbes in raw fish and raw meat. 

Normally rice, grains, vegetables, and fruits are used in home-cooked food for cats. These ingredients contain carbohydrates, vitamins, and essential minerals needed for your feline friend’s growth and maintenance. Rice and grains, vegetables like potatoes, and others contain a high amount of carbohydrates. Except for occasional lactose, sucrose intolerance, most home-cooked carbohydrates are well tolerated by your feline buddy.
Carrot, cabbage, green leaves, beetroots, and many other vegetables contain vitamins and minerals needed for your furry friend's functional and growth activities.
Omega 3, Omega 6, and arachidonic acid are important fatty acids required for your buddy to maintain a quality lifestyle. 

If you include all the components in the correct proportion with maintaining good hygienic practices, you can indeed provide a nutritious home-cooked meal to your cat buddy.

good cat food kitty laying on a couch

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