FEEDING YOUR CATS

Cats natural food:

In the wild, cats eat mice and birds so a cat’s natural diet is raw small animals, spaced out as several small meals over a day and with energy expended during the hunting. It’s important to bear in mind that cats eat just about all of their prey, including muscle, bone, skin and innards. Fish is not a natural diet for cats since the cat evolved from the Desert Wild Cat (no fish in the desert!). An artificial diet for cats should try to mimic the calories, vitamins and minerals contained in meals of raw small animals in the same proportions.

General Recommendations:

It’s not really practical to breed mice to feed our cats (though snake owners do!) so we need to buy food to create the correct balance. All reputable food companies try to create foods that are complete and balanced. As a general rule, the only prepared foods (tins, sachets or dry food) that aren’t balanced are cheap ‘no-name’ brands or expensive gourmet brands (and even some of each of these foods are complete and balanced). Always check the label for the words ‘Complete and Balanced’ or ‘AAFCO approved’). Raw meat alone is not a balanced diet (since it doesn’t contain skin, bones, innards) and pet meats have their own specific problems. There is little regulation of the pet fresh meat industry in Australia and consequently, these foods almost inevitably have high levels of preservatives that are not allowed in meat for human consumption. The sulphite preservatives in these meats break down vitamin B1 (thiamine) and thiamine deficiency causes bleeding in the brain. This is a well-documented problem in dogs and cats.

*** DON’T FEED PET MEATS ***

In a healthy adult cat, you can supplement a diet of mainly tinned food with a small amount of dry food, some meat for human consumption, and raw chicken wings (not cooked!)- these provide good exercise for the teeth and gums. We generally recommend against feeding just dry foods as these are high in calories and carbohydrates (not many carbohydrates in raw mouse or bird!) and can predispose to certain issues like diabetes and overweight, as well as making extra work for the kidneys.

In some circumstances we will recommend a specific type of diet or a prescription diet that has been specifically developed to provide the right balance of nutrients for a particular medical condition.

Kittens:

Kittens requirements follow the same general guidelines as above but kittens grow healthier when they have higher calories and higher protein. Feeding a mix of tinned and dry foods designed specifically for kittens meets these needs….and teach them that raw chicken wings are real food while they are still young.

Feel free to ask us if you have any further questions.

WEIGHT WATCHERS FOR CATS!

Obesity is the most common nutritional problem cats face. It is becoming as serious a problem for cats in Western society as it is for people. They run the risk of many of the same complications as we do. The extra weight places stress on the musculo-skeletal system predisposing your cat to arthritis. Other complications include constipation, poor coat (often a greasy coat with dandruff) and associated skin infections because of the decreased ability to groom. Incidence of cancer and overall resistance to disease rises and being overweight is a noted risk factor for urinary tract disease such as urinary obstruction.

Overweight cats who suddenly go off food (say from being unwell for another reason) can set up a potentially fatal liver complication called hepatic lipidosis (fatty liver disease). A very common complication of being overweight in cats is diabetes. We can sometimes cure the diabetes (usually after treating with insulin for a time) by getting the cat to lose weight.

Cats get fat for the same reasons people do, that is, too many calories eaten and not enough exercise. The way for cat to lose weight is also the same as for people: eat less and exercise more. In most cases, we will usually cut out dry food entirely (at least until they have lost weight to a normal level) to reduce the amount of calories and carbohydrates.

We also recommend introducing a regular exercise routine by having a set–time (say, when you get home from work) of 20-30 minutes activity of chasing toy mouse or laser pointer (or whatever your cat likes and works for you).

Big cats will usually sit down after 2-3min….that’s okay, let them rest for a bit and then get them moving again. Soon the length of the breaks reduces and the exercise time increases. Once they have lost a bit of weight, they naturally become more active and the weight loss becomes self-fulfilling.

If you are worried about your cat’s weight, please organise a veterinary check to ensure there are no associated complications and to set up a weight loss plan.  It is important to track your cat’s weight loss progress and we recommend regular visits for ‘weigh-ins’ and to chart your cat’s progress.

A healthy weight sets up for a longer and happier life for your cat!

DIETARY MANAGEMENT OF CHRONIC RENAL INSUFFICIENCY (CRI)

One of the most important factors in managing your cat’s kidney disease is making kidney friendly modifications to the diet of your cat. The things that need to be considered in modifying the diet of your cat include the following:

Water:

One of the most vital functions of the kidneys is to maintain the water balance of the body. When kidney function is reduced there is more water lost through the urine and so the cat is constantly fighting dehydration. It is imperative to have plenty of water always available to drink, and to encourage your cat to eat wet food as much as possible.

Protein:
In healthy cats the kidneys excrete waste products from the breakdown of protein in the body. Traditionally diets designed for cats with kidney damage have been low in protein, as these cats are less able to excrete these protein by-products which then build up in the blood stream. Recently the importance of this has been questioned. It is now thought that the phosphorus content of the diet is more important, but it is difficult to reduce the phosphorus levels in a diet without reducing the protein, so most diets designed for kidney disease have reduced protein.

Phosphorus:
When kidneys are damaged they are less able to excrete excess phosphorus. High levels of phosphorus in the body tend to cause nausea, which in turn reduces the appetite. The specially designed diets for kidney disease are restricted in phosphorus, and there are also phosphorus ‘binders’ available to help the body excrete phosphorus through the faeces.

Potassium:
Potassium is one of the electrolytes in the body that is kept in balance by the kidneys. As kidney disease progresses, the body can lose potassium; hence kidney friendly diets should have higher than usual amounts of potassium. Some cats will need to have extra potassium supplements as the disease progresses.

Keeping the blood stream less acidic:
Acidic blood (also known as Metabolic acidosis) is a common complication of CRI in cats and can lead to decreased appetite, vomiting, lethargy, weakness and weight loss. Acidified blood can also lead to protein breakdown and hence muscle wastage as well as causing further damage to the kidneys. Pre-prepared kidney diets are formulated to help fight against this problem.

Salt restriction:
Sodium should be restricted in CKD cats as the kidneys are not as able to excrete sodium adequately and excessive sodium intake may promote high blood pressure (hypertension). The pre-prepared kidney prescription diets stocked by Paddington Cat Hospital are all very good, with minor differences in formulation; however you may find your cat has a preference for one particular brand or flavour. These include Royal Canin, Hills and Purina.  W

There are some foods that you may use as treats for your cat, which are not usually thought of as cat foods. All these “treats” are made of palatable carbohydrates with as much fat as can be tolerated by your cat. Examples include creamed corn (low in phosphorus), custard, ice cream, and mashed or tinned pumpkin (which helps to bind phosphorus).

We strongly recommend feeding wet food only, ideally one or more of the prescription diets, but it is also important to remember that maintaining a good appetite and a healthy bodyweight is paramount.

Please discuss any concerns with us, so we can work together to determine the best option for your cat.