Choosing a Cat Food

Many food choices are available, and it can be confusing. Here are a few simple ideas on what to look for, when it comes to your cats’ food:

  • Choose a food that is designed to suit their age, size and breed. Kittens have different nutritional needs to adults, whilst specific breeds also have special requirements. Older or larger cats will need foods that will support their joints, whilst smaller and younger cats need more calories to keep up with their faster metabolism.
  • Choose a food that suits the breed. Different breeds can have different nutritional needs and may also need specific kibble sizes/shapes to compensate for genetic features. For example, the short nose of a Persian may need kibble designed to be easy to pick up and chew, whilst the sensitive skin of a Russian Blue will need higher levels of Omega 3.
  • Choose a food that suits their health. From renal health to hairballs, there are many foods that have been formulated to support the different issues that cats face.
  • Choose a food that suits their temperament – cats with a diminishing appetite may find wet food more palatable, whilst cats prone to gulping their food will benefit from a large sized kibble.
  • Choose a food that suits your lifestyle – if you are a busy person, dry food stores well and is easy to feed. If you prefer a more holistic approach, a raw diet may be your preference.

Try a variety of foods and choose one that best suits your cat’s health and well being.

Nutrition for Skin and Coat

The condition of your cat’s skin is an indication of overall health. There are a wide range of causes for scratching or excessive licking, from external parasites and allergies to seasonal changes and stress.

What Are Some Symptoms of Skin Problems in Cats?

  • Constant scratching, licking and chewing at the skin, especially around the head and neck.
  • Scabs
  • Redness or inflammation.
  • Round, scaly patches on the face and paws
  • Dry, flaky or otherwise irritated skin
  • Hair loss, bald patches
  • Rashes
  • Swellings, lumps or skin discoloration
  • Drainage of blood or pus

Luckily, the issue can often be fixed with diet. Modern cat foods have many ingredients designed to promote healthy skin.

Look for foods designed to help with skin health including the following ingredients:

  • Vitamin A – this fat soluble vitamin promotes the growth of healthy hair and skin.
  • Vitamin E – a natural antioxidant that will protect skin from damage.
  • B vitamins such as biotin – will help the body promote growth of new skin cells, and keep hair soft and supple.
  • Zinc and copper – these minerals are essential for healthy skin and hair and deficiencies of either will cause hair loss and itchy, inflamed skin.
  • Omega 3 and 6 – support skin elasticity and a glossy coat.

Senior Cat Nutrition

As cats get older, their nutritional needs begin to change.

Choosing the right food can relieve many of the symptoms of ageing and keep your cat fit and healthy for years to come.

  • Getting older usually results in a slower metabolism, and less mobility. Older cats are more prone to putting on weight, which can in turn make for sore and aching joints. Senior cat foods will have fewer calories, less fat and more joint support ingredients.
  • Digestive irregularities are common in older cats, so a food with fibre, prebiotics and antioxidants, can help soothe an upset tummy.
  • Dental disease can become a problem with age. Some senior cat foods contain dental benefits to keep their mouth healthy, as well as ensuring they are easy to chew.
  • Joint health becomes more important in older cats. Food with fatty acids, glucosamine and chondroitin will help alleviate joint inflammation.
  • Bladder and kidney health often dwindles with age. A food that is low in phosphorus can help support these sensitive organs.

Picky Eaters

Cats will often eat the same food for years and then suddenly refuse to eat the food they loved yesterday. Others find their cat rejects everything except one brand and will eat only one flavour.

There are a few steps that can be taken to ensure your fussy cat eats.

  • Generally, picky eating stems from concerned owners mixing in tastier food when they refuse to eat. They learn that by leaving their spinach, they eventually get ice cream instead. Steel your resolve and if they don’t eat their regular food, it gets taken away to try again later.
  • It may be that you’re feeding your cat too often. Their digestive systems are very different from ours. They are designed to eat large meals infrequently, rather than little and often. Have set meal times for your cat, don’t ‘free feed’ or leave food out for them.
  • Pick up any uneaten food after 15 minutes. If they know they can come back to it later, they may hang out in case something tastier is coming.
  • You can try different brands of food to see if your cat prefers them, but stick to the high quality, nutritious foods rather than moving on to lower brands.

Don’t worry too much – the cat will not starve himself. Make sure he has healthy food available every day, and no opportunity to fill up on treats or other food.

Nutrition For Joint Health

Cats get sore joints, along with arthritis. Joint pain is caused by inflammation around the joint causing the cartilage to wear down. Many ingredients can help ease this process and reduce the pain. Signs that your cat may be suffering from joint pain include:

  • Sleeping more than usual
  • Trouble jumping up on things, or using several smaller jumps to get to a higher level
  • Toileting outside the litter box or having difficulty climbing in
  • Becoming more irritable and not wanting to be picked up
  • Walking stiffly or limping

After a vet check up, you can start to ease the day to day living of your pet. Start with nutrition, and look for a food that contains:

  • Fatty acids such as those found in fish oils. With anti-inflammatory properties, omegas 3 and 6 can reduce the pain and swelling.
  • Glucosamine – found in the shells of shellfish as well as animal bones, glucosamine has been found to help to repair the damaged cartilage.
  • Chondroitin – found in shark and fish cartilage, chondroitin can slow the degradation of the joint, as well as providing the building blocks to help repair the damage.

Nutrition for Digestive Health

For cats with sensitive stomachs, loose stools, vomiting and diarrhoea can present with the slightest provocation. All of these things can happen naturally and are often due to hairballs, but when it is happening frequently, there is cause for concern.

Although most of these issues can be put down to food sensitivity, different cats will react to some foods and not to others. When dealing with digestive issues, it is always best to start with changing the food. Selecting foods with different ingredients can, by a process of elimination, determine which ingredients are causing the problems. Prolonged vomiting and diarrhoea is not normal and a vet should be consulted.

Feline Inflammatory Bowel Disease is not uncommon in cats, and can happen to cats of any age. Whilst the causes of FIBD remain unknown, the inflamed stomach lining and intestine become spastic, hypermotive and sensitive. This can result in vomiting, diarrhoea or constipation.

To help avoid digestive issues and even IFBD, it is best to choose foods designed to help with your cats digestion.

They may contain:

  • Low fat to improve digestive function
  • Antioxidants to protect the delicate lining of the intestinal system
  • High quality, easily absorbed ingredients to ensure that all the nutrients they need are being absorbed
  • High quality, fermentable fibre, to ensure gentle digestion
  • Novel proteins such as duck or venison to reduce the likelihood of intolerances

Nutrition for Dental Health

Constantly foul breath is a sign of tooth decay, which can lead to many different issues, including heart, liver and kidney disease. Bad teeth can also make it difficult for your cat to eat. Luckily, choosing a food designed for oral care is one of the easiest ways to make sure your pet has clean teeth and a pain free mouth. There are 3 ways that dental food will help curb plaque and tartar:

  1. Added enzymes – helping to remove plaque and prevent more from binding. Keep an eye out in the ingredients for sodium hexametaphosphate or tripolyphosphate.
  2. Cross woven fibre particles – which scrape plaque and tartar off the teeth each time your cat bites.
  3. Large and unique shape – these encourage more chewing, as well as making sure the tooth is encased as they bite down.

There are a number of good quality dental kibbles available. Visit one of our stores and let us further explain the benefits. For additional ideas about how to look after your cat’s teeth, have a look at our article ‘Cat Dental Health’.

Food for Urinary Health

Bladder and urinary tract infections are unfortunately, very common in cats. In milder forms, cats make frequent trips to the litter box, usually passing small amounts of urine. Blood may be seen in the urine. Some cats start to relive themselves in areas outside the litter box, particularly if they begin to associate the litter box with pain.

In some cases, usually young adult male cats, the urethra may become plugged with crystals, stones or a plug of cells and mucous. Once this happens, the cat cannot urinate at all, and may become increasingly agitated. Straining in the litter box can be misinterpreted for constipation instead of a life-threatening emergency. In its most severe stage, the cat may become depressed and unresponsive,

Appropriate nutrition is one of the key factors in avoiding this common and painful condition.

  1. Feeding a wet food is a good way to ensure adequate hydration and ensure that lots of water is flowing through the kidneys and urinary tract.
  2. Low levels of minerals such as phosphorus, magnesium and sodium will help prevent the onset of problems
  3. Antioxidants help protect the sensitive lining of the bladder and urinary tract
  4. Urinary food should contain ingredients which help lower the pH of the urine, keeping their bladder healthy.

Food for Managing Hairballs

Your cats’ natural instinct to preen and groom means they swallow lots of hair. Small amounts will pass through the digestive system, but if a lot of hair is swallowed, it can become entangled in the stomach and form a ball. This hairball is then vomited from the cat.

Choosing a food specifically designed for hairball control, combined with a regular brushing schedule, can help move hair through your cat’s stomach and into the litter tray.

A good hairball control food will have:

  • High fibre and an oilier texture, to move hair through the intestines easily
  • Fatty acids to promote a healthy skin and coat, and prevent hair loss
  • Balanced nutrition to prevent hairballs forming in the stomach

Weight Management

One in three cats is considered overweight. Sadly this can lead to many health issues, including heart and respiratory problems, diabetes and arthritis.

Weight control foods have a restricted amount of calories and fat, whilst maintaining the right amounts of protein, fatty acids, vitamins, minerals and fibre to help keep them feeling full. This means they will still retain the necessary balance of nutrients, whilst losing weight.

Reducing portion size in regular (not diet or weight loss) food will often not lead to weight loss. The cat will feel hungrier, may not get the right amount of hydration or nutrition and will beg, scavenge and hunt more. Having a cat that is constantly meowing for food is no fun for anyone. Weight control foods are specifically designed to feed the same amount, with fewer calories per bite.