©2007 by Cornell Feline Health Center. Cornell University is an equal oppor-tunity, affirmative action educator and employer. Produced by the Office of Publications and Marketing at Cornell University. Photo by Alexis Wenski-Roberts.
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About the Cornell Feline Health Center
This brochure was prepared by the American Associationof Feline Practitioners and the Cornell Feline HealthCenter, Cornell University, College of VeterinaryMedicine, Ithaca, NY 14853-6401. The center is commit-ted to improving the health of cats by developing methodsto prevent or cure feline diseases and by providing con-tinuing education to veterinarians and cat owners. Muchof that work is made possible by the financial support of friends.
For more information, visit our web site:www.vet.cornell.edu/fhc or call us at 607-253-3414.
Cornell UniversityFeline Health Center
In choosing a cat food, it is also importantto read the ingredients list. This names all itemsused in the product, including flavor enhancers,artificial colors, and preservatives. The items arelisted in order of decreasing proportional weight.Meat, meat byproducts, or seafood should belisted among the first few ingredients, because thatindicates that the food probably contains enoughanimal-source ingredients to supply essential aminoacids and essential fatty acids. Nonetheless, addi-tion of some nutrients (e.g., the amino acid taurine,and B vitamins, including thiamine and niacin) maybe necessary to offset the fiber content of the dietor degradation of nutrients that occurs during themanufacturing process.Once you have determined that a food is com-plete and balanced, choosing between the typesof food may be a matter of what your cat prefers.Some cats like canned food, some like dry food, andsome like a combination of the two. Today’s marketoffers many well-formulated foods for cats at all lifestages, so you can choose the ones that work bestfor your cat.
What about Homemade Diets?
Formulating your own cat food is a difficult andtime-consuming process. Also, the nutrients inthe formula may not be available in the rightquantities and proportions to be beneficial to yourcat. It is usually recommended that cat ownersuse a commercial nutritionally balanced prod-uct, unless a veterinarian recommends a home-formulated recipe for medical purposes. Often theserecipes come from published sources and are cre-ated by veterinarians certified in animal nutrition.
Can I Give My Cat Treats?
Giving your cat a treat from time to time isn’t goingto do any harm, but there are a few things to keep inmind. Treats should only be fed occasionally. Theyshould not be a steady diet for your cat, becausethey lack the proper proportion of basic nutrientsa cat requires to maintain its health. A rule of thumb is not to let treats exceed 10 to 15 percentof the cat’s daily diet. Also, some foods should beavoided entirely. Although raw meat is an excellentsource of many nutrients, it is not recommended asa food or a treat for cats, because it is a potentialvehicle for toxoplasmosis and other infectious dis-eases. Some cats that have consumed canned fishproducts meant for humans have developed deadlyneurological disorders. Also, milk is not generallyrecommended as a treat for cats. Adult cats fed anutritious diet don’t need milk, and many cats arelactose-intolerant, which means that the lactose inmilk and milk products can cause stomach upset.
What Else Do I Need to Consider?
Environmental conditions can affect a cat’s eatinghabits. For example, heavy-traffic areas, noise, thepresence of other animals, dirty food containers, ornearby litter boxes can deter a cat from eating. Tryto be sensitive to your cat’s eating behavior, andmake necessary adjustments to provide optimumfeeding conditions.Also remember that cats vary greatly in char-acteristics such as the amount of food they needto consume to ensure optimal weight and healthmaintenance. Be careful not to overfeed your cat.Overfeeding can lead to obesity, which is the mostcommon nutrition-related problem in cats. An over-weight cat is prone to other health problems suchas diabetes and arthritis. Commercial pet foodsformulated to help cats lose weight are available.Ask your veterinarian to help you determine theideal body weight for your cat, and follow yourveterinarian’s suggestions on how to adjust yourcat’s diet to attain and maintain that weight.Although many cats are content to eat a singleproduct, some cats may develop finicky eatinghabits and become very selective about what foodsthey’ll accept. Feeding your cat two or three dif-ferent cat foods provides flavor variety, and mayprevent your cat from developing an exclusive pref-erence for a single food, so that if a medical condi-tion dictates a change in diet, your cat may have aneasier time adjusting.Also remember that not eating can lead to seri-ous medical problems in cats. This is true for sickcats that lack an appetite, for cats on a diet, and forthe finicky cat that refuses to eat. A veterinarianshould examine any cat that refuses to eat and islosing weight.