In order to ensure that your new kitten grows into a healthy cat, the type of food that you choose and the feeding schedule is of considerable importance.
Kittens have different nutritional requirements from adult cats, so you should feed you kitten a proprietary food that is designed specifically for kittens. Pet food labels will tell you the age of animal for which the food is intended. In addition, the label will tell you if the food has been substantiated through a food trial. This is preferable to a food which has been substantiated by comparison with a similar product, or one which has been substantiated by a laboratory trial.
Should you feed tinned food or dry food? Dried foods are easier to handle and can be left in the bowl for longer than tinned foods. However, tinned foods will give your kitten more moisture, and will help to keep him hydrated. This becomes more important later in life. Dried foods tend to have a higher carbohydrate content which can lead to your cat becoming overweight if it eats too much. Obesity is one of the most common problems suffered by cats, especially indoor cats.
Many people who use dried food will fill a bowl at the beginning of the day and leave it for the cat to help himself when he feels like it. This certainly makes it easy for the owner, but is not necessarily in the best interests of the cat. A proper feeding schedule is better for the kitten/cat, and allows you to control his diet if he is eating too much.
Kittens should be fed three times a day – morning, afternoon, and evening being good times, although you can fit your cat in with your own schedule. However, whatever schedule you set, ensure that you keep to it.
The feeding guidelines on the product will give you a good idea of where to start, but you can adjust the amount offered if your cat is gaining too much weight, or, conversely, is not putting on enough weight. Some cats do become couch potatoes, but there are things that you can do to keep your kitten active.
A food puzzle is a hollow device which can be filled with food. When the cat rolls it, small portions of food will tumble out. This keeps your cat active.
You can also try hiding food in small quantities in different places, so that your kitten/cat has to hunt for it. This provides entertainment and exercise at the same time.
When serving tinned food, do not leave it in the bowl for more than 30 minutes. Uneaten portions should be thrown away. Dried food may be left in the bowl all day, but you will need to keep a wary eye out to ensure that your cat is not over-eating.
Feeding Your Adult Cat
Adult cats – over the age of six months – should be fed twice a day. You should always feed a top quality food rather than the cheap brands. Cheap cat food may contain a lot of grains which does not do a lot for your cat’s metabolism. Cats are, by nature, carnivores and therefore will fare better on foods containing fish or meat content with plenty of protein.
You should keep a check on your cat’s body weight. Some cats, especially indoor cats, can become lazy, and may put on weight quite quickly. In these cases you should reduce the amount of food offered until you achieve a balance. The guidelines on the tin or packaging are a good starting point, but you may find that you need to adjust the amount of food given if your cat looks too thin or overweight.
Senior cats may need their food adjusted or be given special foods as they age. They tend to suffer from much the same sort of aging problems as we do, so it may be necessary to discuss your cat’s diet with your vet, and make adjustments accordingly.