Feeding cats correctly

Cat eats from a bowl

Ready-made food
Cats can be fed a ready-made food according to their needs. It is important that it is declared as complete food. This means that the food contains all the nutrients and ingredients that the cat needs every day. Wet food is preferable to dry food, as cats that eat dry food drink little extra water. With wet food, water intake is promoted by the feeding alone. This prevents urinary tract problems. If the cat eats only dry food, it should be encouraged to drink water (for example, by drinking fountain). For kittens, it makes sense to accustom them to many different types of food (see food imprinting below). For adult animals, do not change brands and types of food so frequently to avoid unnecessary stress on the animal’s gastrointestinal tract.

Self-cooked food
It is also possible to feed your cat on its own with food that you have cooked and put together yourself. Such a food is free of industrial additives, but the preparation requires nutritional knowledge and a certain amount of time to produce a food that is really balanced in proteins, fats, carbohydrates, minerals, trace elements and vitamins. Those who decide to cook for their four-legged friends should first read the relevant literature and then seek advice from a veterinarian specializing in nutrition. When feeding home-cooked food over the long term, a ration plan should be created and calculated accurately to avoid deficiencies or excesses of important nutrients.

food for sick, pregnant or young animals
For the selection of a suitable feed for sick animals, pregnant / nursing or growing animals, the veterinarian should be consulted absolutely. He should help decide which food is optimal for the individual animal at any given time.

Caution with vegetarian and vegan diets

The vegetarian nutrition of cats is to be regarded very critically. Cats are carnivores by nature, and according to Section 2 of the Animal Welfare Act, animals must be fed appropriately according to their species and needs. Cats depend on the supply of the amino acid (taurine), which is naturally contained only in animal tissues. Vitamin A must also be taken in through the cat’s diet, as it is important for bone and muscle growth as well as for eyesight, among other things. Vitamin A is found primarily in animal components such as liver. Precursors of vitamin A found in plants cannot be used by cats to synthesize vitamin A. A purely vegetarian diet can therefore fundamentally not meet the natural needs of a cat. For healthy adult cats, a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet (vegetarian plus dairy and egg products) is theoretically possible with calculation of rations and addition of all essential nutrients.

Food imprinting
However, there is another aspect to consider when feeding cats. It happens that an animal, which has become accustomed to a special food when it is young, does not accept any other food later on. In this case it is called feed imprinting. This means that it is sometimes impossible to switch a cat that was not accustomed to a vegetarian diet as a puppy to it. Force feeding (except for medical reasons) is to be rejected from an animal welfare point of view. On the other hand, when feeding a vegetarian diet to kittens, it is also important to remember that they may not be able to switch to a different diet later due to food imprinting – this may be necessary, for example, if the cat requires certain diets due to illnesses.

Pregnant and lactating cats
Vegetarian feeding of pregnant or lactating cats and growing cats should be avoided as a matter of principle, since it is very difficult to meet the nutritional requirements under these conditions and an oversupply or undersupply at this time can have serious health consequences for the animals.

Vegan diet
A purely vegan diet for cats should be rejected. It does not meet the basic nutritional needs of a cat and is therefore not justifiable from the point of view of animal welfare. In some clinical studies, significant deficiency symptoms have been observed in cats fed a vegan diet. Thus, vegan feeding cannot exclude the possibility of pain, suffering and damage to the cat caused by this type of feeding, which would be a violation of the Animal Welfare Act.

Where does the meat in the finished feed come from?

In meat production, slaughter by-products are produced, which do not find their way over the counter. They are the raw materials for dog and cat food. The production of ready-made feed for animals is regulated by law in Germany. Accordingly, only animal by-products that are also fit for human consumption may be used for pet food. Internal organs such as the heart, liver, spleen or kidneys are largely processed into pet food. The amount produced is such that there is sufficient meat for the production of pet food and no animal has to be slaughtered just for the production of dog and cat food.

Organic dog food and organic cat food currently form only a very small market segment. If more meat, egg and dairy products from animals raised in humane conditions are purchased in the future due to increased demand by humans, the market share of dog and cat food for the production of which slaughter by-products from animals raised in humane conditions are used will also grow. Ultimately, humans alone, with their own consumption patterns, decide how cattle, pigs, sheep, goats, rabbits, chickens and other poultry are kept.

Allergic to feed?

Cats can be allergic to feed. In most cases, the causes are not due to a change in feed, as many pet owners think. Reactions to food that the dog or cat has been eating for a long time are more likely to occur.

An intolerance reaction or even a feed allergy can be triggered by all components of the feed. Common allergens are proteins, but also certain grains or feed additives.

The symptoms of such a disease are manifold. They can affect the skin and/or the gastrointestinal tract:

  • itching (especially in the ears and head area)
  • Edema around the eyes (thickening)
  • skin inflammations and other skin reactions
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting

Diagnosis is usually very difficult and lengthy, because the same symptoms are also caused by many other diseases.

If the veterinarian suspects that a food allergy may be present, he will put together an elimination diet. This means that the pet owner feeds a food with a protein and carbohydrate source that has never been fed before for several weeks (at least 6-8). Alternatively, a so-called "hypoallergenic" diet can be fed, in which the proteins are broken down so that the cat no longer reacts allergically to them. Additives can also cause allergies. This applies both to the use of ready-made food and to additives that the pet owner mixes into food prepared by himself.

The best therapy – as with all allergies – is to avoid the triggering substance. Identifying them, however, is often very difficult. To clarify whether it is a food allergy at all resp. to identify the allergenic food ingredient, often a long breath and regular veterinary checks are necessary.

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