This is National Feral Cat Awareness Week in Ireland, which provided the starting point for our discussions this week.
Life stage feeding of cats
When deciding what to feed a cat, the easiest answer is to look at a cat’s life in stages: from kittenhood to adult then senior. Cats have different needs, depending on their age.
Commercial pet food companies, such as Whiskas and others, now offer tailored recipes designed to deliver the best nutrition at each life stage. There’s a myth that commercial food is somehow “junk food” but it isn’t true – companies like Whiskas are obliged to employ nutritionists to ensure that their pet food is high quality and provides complete balanced nutirtion
For kittens, the best quality diet is important, to allow for high energy playing, the growth of bones and other body tissues (calcium and phosphorus needs to be given in the correct ratio), and the development of a strong immune system. It’s ideal to use a commercial formulation that specifically targets kittens, and in most cases, to feed a combination of some moist (tins or sachets) with some dried biscuit food. If you do this, the young cat learns to enjoy eating both types of food, which can be useful later in life.
For adult cats, there’s more flexibility: in general you can feed your cat whatever commercial food they enjoy eating, although you should be sure to provide sufficient essential fatty acids to keep the coat shiny and healthy, and you need to be aware of the risk of urinary tract issues.
For senior cats – over the age of eight – it’s best to feed diets that have been specially formulated for older animals. Common diseases of old age – such as kidney and heart problems – are helped by a diet that has appropriate protein, mineral and vitamin levels.
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