Is commercial food or home-made best? How often should I feed my kitten? Why are treats bad? Why cats don’t always need the same amount of food. How to check if your kitty is a bit piggy.
Kittens and Cats: Diet
In this section we’ll look at:
- The ideal diet for your kitten or cat
- Kittens: When should a kitten start to eat solid food?
- Kittens: How often should I feed my kitten?
- Do cats of different ages need different food?
- How much food should I give my cat?
- What treats can I give my cat?
- Food and water bowls
- Poisonous Food
The ideal diet for your kitten or cat
A healthy, balanced diet is essential for your cat. Feeding it the right amount is important too, as obesity is a common and a growing problem among UK pets.
Cats are not vegetarian. They are true carnivores, so to stay healthy, they have to eat certain nutrients which are only found in meat or commercial cat food.
Feeding a complete, commercial cat food is preferable to a home-made diet: it isn’t easy to achieve the correct balance of nutrients if you make a cat’s diet yourself.
Cats do not need treats. To avoid cats becoming obese, it’s best to not give them any treats. If you do give treats occasionally, ensure they are healthy..
Take into account a number of factors when choosing what and how much to feed your cat: their age, weight, body shape, the food packet’s guidelines and veterinary advice.
Kittens: When should a kitten start to eat solid food?
Kittens start to eat solid foods from about three weeks and are fully weaned at about eight weeks.
Kittens: How often should I feed my kitten?
At first they need about four or five small meals a day. Around six months, two meals a day are usually fine. This can continue for the rest of their life, depending on your cat’s preference.
Do cats of different ages need different food?
Yes, cats of different ages have different nutritional requirements. So one of the best ways of ensuring your cat has the right nutrients is to feed it by its ‘life stage’. This means feeding it a different diet when it’s a kitten, adult or senior cat – e.g. kittens need more calories as they’re so energetic.
Several leading brands of commercially available cat food offer different foods for different life stages.
How much food should I give my cat?
Follow the packet feeding guidelines so you know how much to feed. Weigh the food out to check you’re getting it right. Overfeeding leads to obesity – the most common nutritional problem seen by vets – and causes health problems such as diabetes, heart disease and arthritis.
Obese pets have a reduced quality of life. Pets with conditions like these die younger which is often heartbreaking for their owners. At PDSA we are committed to raising awareness of the rising problem of pet obesity to help our pets and their owners. We are also committed to providing you with the information you need to help your pets stay a healthy shape and weight.
It’s a good idea to weigh out your cat’s food at the start of the day, following the packet feeding guidelines. Then you can give it all at once, or give it as several small meals or divide it into a morning and an evening meal. It depends on your lifestyle, but try to cater for your cat’s preferences as far as you can.
What shape should my cat be?
Keep a keen eye on your cat’s shape. It might sound simple, but as we see our cats every day, it’s easy to not notice extra inches creeping on over time.
There’s a real misconception about what a healthy shape is. Increasingly a ‘tubby tabby’ is viewed as normal. Whilst cat breeds come in all different shapes and sizes, they should in general be sporting a sleek silhouette rather than a flabby tum.
Our cat’s shape is an excellent sign of whether it’s a healthy weight. It’s something we can all check at home. The veterinary term for this is “body condition scoring”. Download our Body Condition Score Poster, which gives you great advice on how you can check your cat’s shape. One way to remember regularly is to put it in your diary to check every couple of months – you can take a picture on your mobile and compare the shots.
Paying attention to food and fitness is the key to a healthy shape!
What treats can I give my cat?
Most cat foods these days are complete meals: they contain all the nutrients a cat needs, in the right amounts. If you give your cat extra food as a treat, it needs more exercise to burn off the extra calories. If your cat isn’t exercising enough (a problem with cats kept permanently indoors), your cat will turn the calories into fat.
Cat obesity is a big problem in the UK. These cats are less willing to play and exercise – and they have a reduced quality of life. Worse still, obesity causes health problems. Every day, vets see overweight pets suffering from diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and arthritis. These pets die younger which for vets is tragic and for owners is heartbreaking.
You don’t need to give your cat food treats to show how much you love them. The best way is to show them by keeping them healthy: play games with them and give them your affection.
If you can’t resist feeding treats once in a while, give a small amount of lean meat. Reduce the size of their main meals that day, so that the overall amount they eat stays the same.
At PDSA we are committed to raising awareness of pet obesity. We are also committed to providing you with the information to help your pets stay a healthy shape and weight.
Food and water bowls
Your cat will need constant access to fresh, clean water from a clean bowl.
Choose shallow bowls. Cats prefer these as they can see around them as they eat and drink. Shallow bowls also prevent a cat from brushing their whiskers against the side of the bowl.
Choose bowls which are easy to clean, such as pottery bowls. Buy one bowl for food, and another for water.
Avoid plastic bowls. They are harder to clean and can build up food odour over time which can put a cat off its food.
At PDSA we have compiled a list of human foods that can be toxic if your cat gets its paws on them. Check out our Poisons page to find out what they are and keep your cat safe!
PDSA reveals the state of our pet nation each year in a comprehensive measure of animal wellbeing in the UK – The PDSA Animal Wellbeing (PAW) Report.
Since 2011, over 21,000 pet owners, veterinary professionals and children have been surveyed to find out how dogs, cats and rabbits are cared for. Here are the findings for cats and their diet:
Most owners assessed their cat as being overweight or obese. This supports previous research, which shows that there’s a pet obesity epidemic in the UK. Obesity reduces a pet’s quality of life, its lifespan and is linked to a number of serious health problems. Sadly, many owners report that they feel ‘happy’ when they feed treats to their cat, without realising that they are killing their pet with kindness.
Read our PAW Report here
Key findings from our most recent report:
Too many fatty treats are contributing to the obesity epidemic in cats.
Worryingly, nearly one in three cat owners (27%) say they use ‘common sense’ rather than informed advice to decide on feed quantity. 8% say it depends on the cat’s appetite or begging. It’s a huge concern that with the prevalence of cat obesity, owners decide how much to feed their cat without using packet feeding guidelines, veterinary professionals and other informed sources.
More owners said their cat is overweight (43%), or obese (12%), than said it is the ideal weight (30%), or underweight (10%).
The likelihood that a cat being obese peaks among cat owners aged 45-54 (15%).
Meat (51%) and fish (53%) are the most popular non-cat food treats. Commercial cat treats (45%) and cheese (26%) are also popular treats. They all contain calories and fat, which can contribute to obesity.
Most treats are given regularly: 18% treat their cats one a day, 36% at least once a week.
29% are made happier by giving their cats a treat. This is worrying as owners are putting their own short-term happiness ahead of their cat’s long-term health.
A significant number of owners regularly give their pet fatty and sugary food such as cake, cheese, chips and chocolate meant for humans. These can also contribute to dental disease.
Improve one thing today ... Cut out the cat treats!