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Feeding Cats - Common Questions Answered

Kittens, pregnant and lactating cats require several meals a day to meet their increased nutritional demands. Adult cats can be fed twice a day. Morning and night. Cats like routine, so try to feed your cat at the same time every day.

What do cats eat?

Cats are obligate carnivores, meaning they need meat to survive. Humans are able to live quite happily on a vegetarian diet, cats, however, must have meat.

There are three basic "types" of cat food.

  • Dry
  • Canned
  • Raw (home-prepared and commercial)

Commercial cat food comes in "premium" and "supermarket" form. Premium brands can be purchased through your vet or pet stores, brands include Iams and Royal Canin. Then there are your supermarket brands such as Whiskas, Dine etc. Supermarket foods come in dry, canned or raw. Furthermore, there are "prescription" which can only be prescribed by your vet. These diets help manage conditions such as kidney failure.

My personal preference is a bit of everything. I am not a fan of feeding a cat the same food every day as it can lead to fussiness. A homemade raw diet can be fed, but you really need experience with feline nutrition to do this safely. The benefits of dry and canned are they are commercially prepared foods which "should" contain all the nutrients your cat needs.

Does the food meet your cat's nutritional requirements?

Having the knowledge to read the basics of food labels can help the pet owner choose the right food for their cat. If the packet says "complete and balanced" it must meet AAFCO's (American Association of Feed Control Officials) standards. Most countries (including Australia) follow AAFCO's guidelines.

How much should I feed my cat?

Commercial food will usually have instructions on how much to feed your cat on the back of the pack, so follow their guidelines if possible.

I give our adult cat around 1/3rd of a 400g can per meal (so 1/3rd of a 400g can, twice a day). The remainder of the food should be transferred to an airtight container and stored in the refrigerator. As cats don't like to eat cold food, when serving up the next meal, warm it up in the microwave for 30 seconds to take the chill off it.

Pros and cons of raw, dry and canned food:

There really is a great deal of debate over feline nutrition. A number of people have expressed concerns over dry food and the increased incidence of urolithiasis. Dry food has the benefit of being able to be left out all the time.

Canned food quickly spoils, but in my experience cats prefer canned over dry. I have no problem with canned food but don't feel it should be fed exclusively because it offers no benefit to dental health. If you do feed a diet of canned food only, then you should ensure your cat's teeth are looked after with frequent cleaning.

Raw is good for teeth and gum health as it forces the cat to chew, cleaning the teeth at the same time. Raw can be purchased at supermarkets and pet shops or prepared at home. I do have concerns about supermarket grade raw meat which is said to contain lots of preservatives. My preference is to feed human grade raw meat in conjunction with a commercial cat diet.

I am a big proponent of feeding a mix of raw, canned and dry food. My own feeding routine is to put a small amount of canned or raw food out morning and night. I like to leave dry food out 24/7 so if he's hungry, he can have a graze.

How much does it cost to feed a cat?

This depends on the type of diet you have. The prescription diets cost more than your everyday supermarket brands but are necessary to help manage your cat's medical condition. It is also said that because the quality of "premium" and "prescription" diets is better, they contain fewer fillers, and therefore you need to give your cat less, bringing down the cost per serving.

Thankfully, cats aren't huge eaters, so even a $40 bag of "prescription" food would last several weeks. I would say to feed one cat, you would be looking in the range of $1 to $1.50 per day. But this really is a ballpark figure as there are so many variables.

What not to feed a cat:

  • Table scraps
  • Tuna (human grade)
  • A vegetarian diet
  • Dog food

If you have any questions in regards to feeding your cat, speak to your veterinarian.

What should my cat drink?

Fresh water should be available to your cat 24 hours a day.

Related topics:

Common feeding mistakes made by pet owners   What do cats eat?   What do cats drink?