If you have a new kitten, or possibly a cat that is in its later years, you may be wondering what to feed them to meet their changing nutritional needs. We have put together some tips to help you navigate the challenges of your pet’s life stages.
Choosing a commercial cat food, adapted to your pet’s age, will help to ensure that your feline gets the most balanced and complete nutrition. To keep your pet healthy, feed according to the packet instructions, and try to restrict snacking to the odd healthy snack now and again.
Kitten (from 4 weeks to 9 months/ 1 year)
Commercial kitten foods have the right levels of vitamins, minerals, carbohydrate and protein to support healthy development in this crucial growing phase. They also contain essential nutrients like taurine that are essential to cats and only found in meat. Because kittens are so active, they need a lot more energy in their diet than adult cats, and kitten foods are adapted to take this into account. Kitten foods should contain lots of high quality protein to promote muscle growth, plus calcium to build strong teeth and bones. Feed your kitten little and often (up to 6 meals per day in the early stages after weaning). Kittens only have small stomachs so they should not be fed too much at once, but they need to eat often to keep their energy levels up.
You might be tempted to give your kitten milk, but never use cow’s milk. Cats are lactose intolerant, and it will make your kitten ill. Try a special kitten formula instead, or any of the special cat milk products that are available. Whatever happens it is essential that you provide a plentiful supply of drinking water
Your cat is a true carnivore, which means that it needs a meat based diet to stay healthy. You can try to make your cat’s meals yourself, but it will be difficult to achieve the right balance of nutrients that your cat needs to stay healthy. A good quality commercial cat food will provide your cat with a complete and nutritionally balanced diet, if fed according to the pack instructions.
Aside from standard adult cat foods, there are also specialist varieties available to suit different breeds and to answer different nutritional needs, e.g. if your cat has a sensitive stomach, or suffers from hairballs. Special ‘neutered’ foods with a reduced fat content are available for both neutered kittens and adult cats. If your cat has not been neutered, it will naturally only eat as much as it needs, whereas neutered cats have a tendency to overeat and gain weight, because the hormonal changes that happen with neutering affect your cat’s natural feelings of satiety. Specialist foods can help to counteract this problem and prevent weight gain.
Never feed your cat dog food. It does not contain Taurine, which is essential to your cat’s diet.
Senior Cat (age 7+)
As cats get older, their metabolism slows down, so they may have a greater risk of diabetes and weight gain. Senior cat foods tend to have a lower GI (Glycaemic Index) and higher lean meat content, to reflect your senior pet’s reduced energy needs. It is common for older cats to suffer from problems with their kidneys and urinary tract. Senior cat foods will usually have a reduced mineral content to prevent the formation of kidney stones.
Food for older cats may also contain higher levels of glucosamine and chondroitin to help to support healthy joints.