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Dietary Guidelines For Cats

Cats are essentially meat-eating carnivores that need a diet of easily digestible animal protein, and they have no need of vegetable matter. Some cats do seem to like certain vegetables such as tomatoes, and whereas a little won't do them any harm, it is difficult for them to digest in large quantities and won't have any nutritional value. The balance of a cat's diet should resemble their natural prey of rodents, which doesn't mean that you need to acquire a supply of dead mice for them, but should comprise fish, meat, liver, heart, kidneys etc as they would eat in the wild. Carbohydrates can also be utilised by cats as a source of energy in limited amounts, provided that they are pre-cooked starches such as rice and breakfast cereal. Even if you and your human family are vegetarian, your cat needs a high proportion of meat products to survive, and a vegetarian diet will prevent them from developing fully. Although it is usually significantly cheaper than cat food, proprietary dog food is not suitable for cats that require a far higher proportion of protein than do dogs, and it also does not contain nutrients such as taurine (amino acid) needed by cats to keep them healthy. Cats enjoy variety in their diets just as we do, and will appreciate not being given exactly the same food every day. If you are feeding a proprietary food such as wet pouches or dried cat biscuits, it's a good idea to vary the flavour and even the brand from time to time. However, cats can be contrary creatures, so beware of stock piling three months' supply of their newest fad, only to find that they have gone off it after a few days! There may be some flavours that your cat really doesn't like, and no amount of dressing it up with a sprinkling of a tasty treat will persuade him otherwise. Some cats get diarrhoeas from pouches of meat in gravy, but will be absolutely fine with the same meat in jelly instead. You will find out what type of food suits your cat best by how he digests his food, how he develops and grows, and whether he eats it enthusiastically. However, be wary of cats that become 'fussy eaters' just because they believe that if they hold out for long enough (and some of them will hold out for a very long time!), they will be able to live on freshly-cooked chicken which you have neatly shredded into fine pieces, or on the most expensive foil trays of cat food on the market. When you acquire a new kitten, even if the breeder tells you that Tiddles will only eat Fortnum and Mason smoked salmon, you may wish to pander to this (or a variation of it) for a day or two to help the kitten settle in, but it is wise to get them used to eating good quality supermarket cat food. If you were taken ill and someone else had to look after your cats, or if you board them out when you go away on holiday, other people may not be quite so willing to become cordon bleu cooks for your cats! If you have more than one cat, they are less likely to develop into fussy eaters, as they will soon learn that if they do not eat what is down, then someone else will. Many cats (and in particular Oriental breeds such as Siamese, Balinese, and Burmese) are intolerant of cows' milk, and it will usually make them sick or give them bad diarrhoea. Even if they show an interest in it, it is best not to give it to any cat, although some may enjoy commercially available milk that is specially formulated for cats, and which is obtainable from the pet food shelves at the supermarket or at a pet store. However, cats must always have a bowl of fresh water available, even if they only appear to drink from a dripping tap or out of a puddle if they go out. This is especially important for cats that mostly have a dried food diet, as they will need more water than those fed on a wet diet containing a high percentage of water. And as cats get older, they often develop a kidney weakness that will also mean that they drink more water. You should get into the habit of checking your cat's water bowl regularly, and whereas you will probably feed your cat twice a day, the water bowl should never be empty. Cats like routine, so try and feed you cat at roughly the same time each day in the morning and again in the evening. Growing kittens will thrive on an extra meal at lunchtime and again at bedtime, but an adult cat only needs two meals a day. If you have several cats, make sure that everyone gets their fair share, and that no one cat is eating it all. Separate feeding bowls don't usually work as if you have a greedy cat, he will simply work his way through the other meals when he has finished his own. If one of your cats is missing out at meal times, you may need to feed them separately in another room, but at the same time. It is absolutely fine to leave dried cat food down all day, but it is best to dispose of uneaten wet food as it will quickly dry up and become unappetising to the cat and may also attract flies and other sources of disease. As with dogs, don't get into the habit of feeding your cat from the dinner table or you will never get rid of them at meal times, plus you may not be giving them the ideal diet. Cats don't expect 'treats' in the way that dogs do, but if you want to give your cat something special, you will find packets of cat treats where you buy your main cat food supplies. Again, don't give dog treats to your cat as they probably won't agree with him and could make him sick or give him diarrhoea. And finally, if your cat goes off his food for more than a day, it probably is cause for concern and may indicate that he is not feeling well.

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