Good feeding practices start from day one. When you buy your cat or kitten you can ask what they have been eating so far. Try and stick to this routine while your pet gets used to its new surroundings, as one big change at a time is enough. Then when they have settled in, you can introduce new things into their diet. You'll also need to address their developing needs when they grow from a kitten to a cat, for example.
Your vet will be able to give you some sound nutritional advice for your cat. They can help you cut through the jargon and hype of the big brands and recommend the best type of food based on your preferences – if you want organic only, for example. What's more, if your cat has particular dietary needs, your vet can advise on how best to meet them.
Cats are carnivores
This means that they can’t digest plant material and need a meat-based diet. The cat food that your vet recommends should contain all the nutritional elements required to stay healthy. On that note, don’t be tempted to feed your cat dog food, as this doesn’t contain the correct nutrients for felines.
Wet or dry food?
You can feed your cat or kitten wet or dry food or a combination of both. Your cat may prefer wet food if he or she is a fussy eater, as it comes in a greater variety of flavours and is soft to eat.
Dry food can be a practical solution for cat owners who need to leave the house during the day. It can also be beneficial for teeth and gums, but may not be good for cats that have urinary problems. Like dogs, cats need a constant source of fresh water every day. This should be supplied in a clean bowl, separate from the food and kept at room temperature.
Follow the instructions on the packet of cat food that you choose. This should help you give your cat or kitten the correct amount of food for their age, size and weight. But, do monitor their weight periodically as problems can still occur. If you are feeding your cat normally and they are losing or gaining weight you may need to speak to your vet. Excessive weight gain can cause diabetes in cats.
Go for special cat treats as opposed to leftover food from your table. A little bit of well-cooked fish or chicken can be okay from time to time, but regular portions of liver, for example, can lead to serious illness in cats as it contains high levels of vitamin A. What's more, a number of seemingly innocuous ingredients on our plates - among them onions and garlic - can spell danger for cats.
Around a third of cats can’t tolerate cow’s milk and drinking it can lead to sickness and diarrhoea. Specially formulated milk is available but only give this occasionally, as it can be very high in calories. Most adult cats have lost the ability to digest milk, which is probably their biggest single cause of upset tummies.
Time to see a vet
Watch out for a rise or drop in your cat's food or water intake. If they haven't eaten for 48 hours, normally eat well but suddenly stop, develop a ravenous appetite, start drinking noticeably more than usual or have unexplained weight loss, then see a vet. Churchill pet insurance can help you cover vets fees if there is something wrong with your cat.
Finally, it's worth remembering that lilies are extremely poisonous to cats and can induce vomiting, blindness, paralysis, renal failure, coma and death. Even brushing past a flower can have an effect, so keep cats away from them and avoid having them in your home if you can. Increasing public awareness is critical, and animal groups continue to campaign for clearer labelling on plants to help protect pets.
Keep it balanced
If you stay on top of your cat's specific dietary needs and keep their food balanced, you shouldn’t have to spend too much time visiting the vet. If something serious does go wrong, however, Churchill Cat Insurance can help ease the financial pressure.