Keeping your cats fed properly helps ensure they stay healthy from kittenhood to old age.
The expression “fat cats” is not one you want to describe your felines; it’s best left to depict greed in corporate America. Unfortunately, nearly 58 percent of all cats are overweight, according to statistics provided by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention.
Thankfully, today there are different diets—such as kibble, canned, dehydrated, fresh- frozen and raw—and a plethora of cat foods available to ensure you are feeding the correct diet for a particular lifestage, from kittenhood through the senior years. Because cats are living longer than ever before, the lifestage categories have changed, too.
In terms of food selection, Kitten refers to the age from when they have been weaned until they are between 9 months to a year old. Adult is from one year through seven years. Mature is now ranked as those in the 7- to 11-year category, and beyond 11 years is now labeled Senior.
“With cats living longer than ever before, pet parents need to be even more aware of nutritional requirements across multiple lifestages for older cats, too,” said Brent Mayabb, DVM, vice president of corporate affairs at Royal Canin USA. “I typically recommend cats at the age of 7 switches from an adult diet to a mature diet. Nutrients in these diets, such as antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids, can help support healthy aging. As cats continue to age, additional nutritional adaptations can be even more beneficial, so we recommend the change to a senior diet at age 11.
“Even if you’re not seeing physical signs of aging yet, there may be aging changes that we should address with nutrition,” he added.
One of the reasons for obesity is that cats with an indoors-only lifestyle do not get enough exercise. It’s really important to inject games into your cat’s daily routine, not only for her physical wellbeing but mental health, too. Along with this goes selecting a diet that aligns with an indoor lifestyle in terms of calorie intake.
Fortunately, pet food manufacturers are improving their food labels; spelling everything out on the front of the bags. It now easier than ever before to select the right diet for your cat.
Nevertheless, because a cat’s diet is so important (obesity can lead to so many other health issues such as diabetes) and no one knows your cat better than your veterinarian does, it’s definitely worth making appointments to discuss your cat’s diet at lifestage milestones.
There’s another reason to check in with your cat’s veterinarian. Many cats can develop problems as they age and the right prescription diet could go a long way in promoting overall good health. There are lots of amazing diets out there that help address medical issues such as diabetes and kidney function and help with urinary and gastrointestinal issues, and more.
Need another reason to seek out veterinary advice on diets? Cats, just like dogs and people, can develop allergies to certain foods. Your vet can help you select which proteins to change up from time to time to help prevent your cat from becoming allergic to certain proteins or having her existing allergy become more severe.
For a visual guide to proper cat nutrition, check out this infographic-filled article from Petco’s online community. It will help guide you in the cat food aisle.
If you have more than one cat or pet, one way to help ensure your cat’s food remains hers—and thus she gets the nutrition she needs—is to use a controlled-access feeder. There are several on the market, including ones from Sureflap (Surefeed Microchip Pet Feeder, shown), Wireless Whiskers (automatic feeder) and PetSafe (Healthy Pet Simply Feed). The battery-powered feeders are simple to program as well as easy to clean.
About the Author: Sandy Robins is the 2013 winner of the “Excellence in Journalism and Outstanding Contribution to the Pet Industry Award.” Her work appears on many of the country’s leading pet platforms, such as MSNBC.com, MSN.com and TODAYShow.com. She is a regular contributor and columnist in multiple national and international publications, including Cat Fancy, as well as the author of the award-winning books “Fabulous Felines: Health and Beauty Secrets for the Pampered Cat” and “For The Love of Cats.” Learn more about Sandy on her website or Facebook page. #welovecats