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Choosing a feeding style for cats and dogs - Five key considerations
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Choosing a feeding style for cats and dogs - Five key considerations

Life As A Pet Parent

It is certainly fair to say that getting to grips with the various options for feeding cats and dogs can be a minefield. Pet owners of course want to do what is best for their pets, and what might at first seem like a simple decision; buy a bag of complete food for a reasonable price- soon proves itself to be more complicated.

As our understanding of pet nutrition has advanced over the last twenty years, so too has the range and variety on the market when it comes to buying pet food. The multitude of different brands, styles and ranges within these brands can appear overwhelming. While nobody can tell you definitively what is the “best” food for your pet or recommend any particular brand as perfect, nevertheless there are several considerations that you should assess in order to narrow down your selection of the perfect pet food.

Once you have looked into these five key considerations and made the appropriate decision for you, you should then find the ultimate choice of food and your feeding style much easier to tackle!

Read on to learn about the five key considerations to bear in mind when feeding your cat or dog.

1. Life stage

You will be able to rule out a lot of potential pet food options simply by narrowing your selection down to choosing a pet food that is appropriate for your animal’s stage of life. Puppies and kittens, young adult pets and mature pets all have slightly different nutritional requirements, and most brands of pet food, even the most basic, usually offer a selection of puppy or kitten, adult, and mature foods.

Puppy or kitten food is suitable for pets under one year old (although some brands offer ranges that are good for feeding up to two years old) adult food follows on from this up until the age of around seven or eight, and then mature or senior food proves the most appropriate diet for aging pets.

2. Wet or dry?

Both cat food and dog food can be bought in choices of wet or dry; wet food being tins, trays and pouches of meat-based meals, and dry food being bagged hard kibble. The vast majority of pet owners feed a mixture of both food types, usually combined in the same bowl for dogs and served in separate dishes for the more finicky feline contingent!

Both wet and dry food has its advantages and limitations:

  • Wet food can help to ensure that your pet gets enough moisture in their meals and go some way to preventing the development of kidney and urinary tract problems in later life, but it can prove more expensive to feed on its own, is not so good for the teeth, and spoils quickly in hot weather.
  • Dry food is cheaper like-for-like to feed as the sole diet, and is conveniently bagged for easy serving with limited mess. It is also potentially less likely to cause dental problems in pets. However, dry kibble is not a particularly true to nature way of feeding pets, and most pets prefer the taste and texture of wet food given the choice. Feeding a dry-only diet can potentially lead to dehydration and associated issues, as the food is very low in moisture and many pets, particularly cats, do not drink very much.

3. Always available or set mealtimes?

The next consideration to bear in mind is the feeding style you wish to use for your pet. Do you intend to offer food at set meal times, taking up any uneaten food in the interim, or will you leave bowls of food down for your pets to graze on?

For cats, the answer to this question is usually relatively straightforward. Cats need to eat little and often, and it is normally advised to leave some food available for cats at all times, in order to enable their need to graze. Cats rarely overeat, and will generally leave their bowl when they have had enough.

Dogs, on the other hand, are often happy to eat whatever is put in front of them, and will continue to eat until they are fit to burst! Leaving food down at all times may not be appropriate for dogs, but this does very much depend on the dog in question and how you measure or ration their food.

Dogs thrive on routine, and so can benefit greatly from having set mealtimes, and knowing what to expect. You should split your dog’s meals into at least two and possibly even three meals per day; feeding one large meal once per day is not the best way to treat your dog’s digestive system.

4. Premium or store brands?

One question that comes up time and time again regarding pet food, is whether the more expensive, premium pet food brands are actually significantly better than the lower priced supermarket offerings that are readily available to buy. The answer to this question greatly depends on the offerings in question! Often, lower priced brands will contain more bulking agents, less good quality meats, and artificial flavourings and preservatives that are not ideal for pets, but it would be wrong to assume that just because an alternative product has a higher price tag, they will automatically be better.

Check the ingredient listings and components present in any food you are considering, regardless of the cost, and assess objectively whether or not the premium price tag on some foods is warranted, or if expensive-looking packaging and vague yet impressive sounding claims are the actual cause of the price difference.

5. Special dietary considerations

Finally, you should also factor into your final choice of pet food if your pet has any special considerations you will need to bear in mind. As well as choosing a food that is appropriate for your pet’s life stage, you might want to consider a range of additional factors, such as diets that are specifically designed for neutered pets, indoor-only cats, or pets with weight management issues.

Added to this, there are also several ranges of condition-specific diets that are often only available in specialist retailers of veterinary surgeries, aimed at fulfilling the dietary requirements of pets with additional issues to bear in mind. Pets with diabetes, allergies and sensitivities, a particular propensity to dental problems, and various other issues can all potentially be helped with a specially designed appropriate diet.

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