Do you own a cat? What do you feed them? Human food or cat food? Commercial or organic? Cats, no matter how domesticated, have special needs apart from regular cat grooming services. And it is important to meet those needs for us to have healthy and happy companions.
Every animal has nutritional needs. Food is the main source of nutrients needed by an animal for energy, metabolism, health maintenance, and growth. If your pets don’t have special needs or illness-related deficiencies, high quality commercial pet foods are an excellent source of all the nutrients they need every day. Here are six nutrients that your cat needs in order to stay healthy.
Water. The most essential nutrient you cat is ever going to need is water. While food may help meet the water needs of your pet, you still need to have fresh clean water available at all times. Water deficiency may cause serious illness or even death.
Carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are important as it is an energy source for the tissues. It also plays an essential role in reproduction and in keeping their intestines healthy. Although there is no minimum requirement for carbohydrates, there is a minimum glucose requirement for vital organs (like the brain). Fibers are a type of carbohydrates that helps control the bacteria in the small intestines, thereby managing chronic diarrhea. Fiber is commonly found in food sources that are fermentable. Take note, however, that high fiber foods are not recommended for cats that have high energy requirements (e.g. kittens).
Proteins. Proteins are important for cells, tissues, organs, hormones, antibodies, and enzymes. They are essential for maintenance, repair, reproduction, and growth as well. They are found in various sources, but are particularly rich in animals. Proteins from animals are composed of complete amino acid profiles. Even if that’s the case, raw eggs shouldn’t be given to your pets. Incomplete proteins, on the other hand, can be obtained from vegetables, soy, and cereals.
Amino acids are essential building blocks of proteins. They have two types:
- Essential Amino Acids. These can’t be synthesized by animals. Thus, you should supply this through their diet. Essential amino acids include histidine, arginine, methionine, isoleucine, lecuine, tryptophan, lysine, taurine, valine, phenylalanine, and threonine. Taurine is important for cats to prevent eye and heart disease. It is commonly found in animal sources like meats, fish, and eggs.
- Non-essential Amino Acids. These nutrients can be synthesized by animals. Thus, they aren’t needed in the diet.
Fats. The most concentrated form of energy is fats. It provides cats with more energy that proteins or carbohydrates can provide. It is an essential nutrient for the structure of the cell, as well as hormone production. They are also utilized for absorption and use of fat-soluble vitamins. Fats serve as good insulators and protectors of the internal organs. Essential fatty acids should also be introduced in your cat’s diet because they can’t synthesize sufficient amounts. Linoleic acid is particularly important for cats. Arachidonic acid, a type of omega-6 fatty acid, is also vital for the maintenance of a cat’s skin and coat, as well as kidney function and reproduction.
- Omega-6 and omega-4 fatty acids have an important role to play in addressing inflammation anywhere in the body. Thus, replacing them can lessen inflammatory reaction.
Vitamins. Vitamins are an important catalyst for enzyme reactions. Even when given in small doses, they can aid normal metabolic functioning. Note that most vitamins can’t be produced by the body. Thus, it is very important to incorporate it in the diet.
- When feeding your cat with a complete and balanced diet, you shouldn’t give vitamin or mineral supplements unless prescribed by your veterinarian. Note that over-supplementation may cause poisoning with some key vitamins and minerals.
- Minerals are actually inorganic compounds that yield no energy and not metabolized by the body. They can’t be produced by animals either; hence, they should be included in the diet. Minerals are vital for your bones and teeth, as well as maintaining fluid balance and other metabolic functions.
Nutrients for your Kittens
Newborn kittens get essential nutrients from their mother’s milk for the first month of their life. But in case their mother is ill or doesn’t have enough milk, you may need to feed them with a commercial milk replacer. If you are ever in this situation, it is best that you call your veterinarian for recommendations on which feeding and the products you should use.
In their first weeks of life, the body weight of the kittens may double or triple. There is gradual, continuous growth until they reach maturity. With that, they need large amounts of energy and nutrients (about two or three times more than the adult cat) in balanced quantities to support growth and development. About 30% of their total energy should be from a protein source. So make sure the foods you offer to them are formulated especially for kittens. They need kitten-formula food until they reach maturity; that’s about 12 months of age.
As they reach five to six weeks old, they should already be nibbling on high-quality dry food even though they’re still nursing. Gradual introduction of high quality food helps in weaning the kittens from their mother’s milk. Most mother cats will suckle their kittens up to 8 weeks of age. By that time, about 80-90% of the nutrients should be taken from kitten food.
Kittens are curious. So don’t be surprised if they’d probably want to play with their food first, instead of eating it. But youngsters will be able to catch on soon and realize that they are supposed to eat the food you serve them.
Kittens can be fed as tolerated. That is, you should make food available at all times and you should let them eat as much as they want whenever they want. You may choose to feed them with dry kitten food or dense-kitten formula. But dry food is highly recommended for free-choice feeding as it doesn’t spoil if left out. Also make sure there is fresh water available all the time.