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Feline Nutrition

When vets and vet nurses talk about prevention of disease, nutrition isn’t mentioned often – however, research confirms that pets that are fed higher quality foods live longer. Often, there is a direct link between diet and obesity, diet and dental disease and diet and the formation of some diseases. All of these conditions can be prevented – and sometimes it is as easy as changing your pet’s food.

Supermarket food vs Premium foods

When you buy a premium pet food, by Royal Canin, Hills Science diet or Eukanuba, you’re investing in your pet’s health. These brands of food will formulate pet foods to help prevent various problems that pets will encounter. The problems that you’re likely to prevent when you’re feeding a premium food- where a supermarket food will not – are conditions like obesity, dental disease, prevention of bladder stones/crystals, prevention of irritable bowel issues, toxicities and vitamin deficiencies, plus skin and coat conditions. Feeding a high quality targeted premium food will also help to reduce symptoms from renal disease, heart disease and liver disease.

Supermarket food, generally, have a higher fat content than premium foods, this is to keep the energy levels for the food high, as the protein added to the foods is sometimes poor quality. This promotes obesity in pets that do not work this extra fat off. Also, supermarket foods will change the animal protein that they add, from batch to batch – making issues like food allergies much harder to diagnose. Avoid foods which use “Chicken and/or beef and/or pork and/or lamb and/or fish” – these foods can have any of these proteins, whatever is cheaper at the time.

When reading the nutritional panel on any food, look for the following information:

  • AAFCO statement (Association of American Feed Control Officials). A statement by AAFCO stating that the food is a ‘Complete and Balanced’ formula means that a cat’s requirement for energy, protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals are met with this food. What is even better, however, is an AAFCO statement of TESTING – Some cat foods can meet the requirements for the complete and balanced nutrition without having all of these requirements being available to the body when digested. An AAFCO test ensures the diet fed will meet all the requirement for ‘complete and balanced’ is available for digestion, rather than simply being present in the food.
  • Life stage nutrition. Pet foods should NOT be purchased because they are suitable for “all life stages”. Would you give a baby the same food you would give an adult? And would you feed a senior cat the same food you would feed a teenaged cat? Probably not. The reason is, pets have different requirements for different life stages. Kittens need a lot more calories for growth, and a lot more additives for the development of immune function (especially with vaccinations), enhanced Omega 3, 6 and DHA’s for healthy brain development (for training), and they also need the support that kitten food provides to help with the formation of bones and growth plates. Adult cats need dental protection, urinary crystal prevention, a healthy skin and coat, small and firm (and neutral smelling!) stools, vitamins and minerals in the right quantities, and energy. Senior and Mature cats will need more support for their joints, as arthritis starts in, protection for their teeth so they don’t fall out, and also essential fatty acids, omega 3, 6 and DHA’s to help with brain vitality, staving off the onset of senility.
  • You also need to consider that active cats will have a different requirement to lap-cats, and neutered cats will need less calories than their undesexed counterparts. If you have an active cat, they will need a higher fat content diet than indoor cats, as long as they can work it off. Neutered premium pet food formulas for neutered pets have less calories than non-neutered diets, and will help to keep weight off.
  • Canned/wet foods – always compare canned and wet foods between the % DM (dry matter) as fed column. Some companies will have more or less moisture than others, and this value is never defined, so the %DM column will make comparing different pet foods easier, and removes the variables.