Cat feeding is easy, right? Or it was for centuries, before the science kicked in and began to tell us what is good and bad for cats to eat. Here is a list of the 11 most common mistakes when choosing cat food. See if you are sinning with any of these.
- Overfeeding. This is the most common feeding mistake made by cat owners. A study of more than 8 thousand cats in US veterinary practices showed that 35% of them were obese. So what? Obesity is not only about looks. It also has a huge impact on your cat’s health and quality of life. The best way to prevent overfeeding a cat is to provide his food in separate meals and never exceed the manufacturer’s recommended feeding guidelines.
- Providing a vegetarian diet. It’s a good thing for people to choose a vegetarian or vegan diet for themselves, regardless of what motives they have. On the other hand, if one tries to go further and force their cat to eat vegetarian cat food, it may be considered animal cruelty—something this person may be trying to avoid in the first place. Cats are obligate carnivores, and their body craves only animal-based products to survive. Besides, a cat’s body is not able to digest plant materials well. You can see here why cats would make bad vegetarians.
- Feeding dog food to cats and vice versa. The main ingredients of cat and dog foods are similar, and nothing bad will happen if you run out of cat food in the middle of the night and decide to give a bowl of dog food to your cat. However, cats and dogs have different nutritional requirements for specific ingredients (for example, amino acids, minerals, and vitamins), and keeping your cat on a dog food can create a serious nutritional deficiency within a very short time frame. There are debates that dogs on a cat food can last longer than cats can last on a dog food, but this is still not something to try at home.
- Saving money on cat food. First, it’s okay to try and save a little money on bulk discounts, and, no, you don’t have to be rich to feed a cat. Besides, “premium” labeled, top-shelf cat food does not guarantee that it indeed will be good. Likewise, “all natural” and “organic” foods are often overpriced and don’t guarantee quality. But one thing is for sure: cheap cat food will be crap 100% of the time. Why? Because the main ingredient of cat food should be meat and organs, which, obviously, costs more than a mush of grain and a tiny bit of a meal-like substance. The best you can do is learn what to look for in a good cat food and make an educated choice, not fall into a marketing trap.
- Valuating cat food by taste. No, we don’t mean that people should taste cat food themselves. What happens is that owners see how their pets enjoy a certain food and assume that it must be good. You can easily make a tasty junk food by adding some flavor enhancers, which, by the way, are usually chemical substances that are toxic to our pets. We, too, love chicken nuggets and potato chips, but that does not make them good food, right?
- Switching foods too rapidly. We say that it’s okay to have some variety in your cat’s daily food choices, but rushing things may lead you to believe it’s not. If a new food is introduced too quickly, without letting your cat’s digestive system adapt to the new ingredients, there is a high risk of developing gastrointestinal upset, which causes either diarrhea or vomiting. In such cases, the owners usually falsely assume that the food is bad when all they had to do was introduce the new cat food gradually.
- Feeding dry food. And it’s not “feeding only dry food.” We think that you should avoid dry food completely. Cats naturally have a very low thirst drive, and they intake most of their water with food. Dry cat food has a moisture content of only 10%; most cats should drink about a cup of water per day if fed dry food, which never happens, and this makes cats that eat dry food constantly under-hydrated. The second thing about dry foods is that they usually contain tons of grain or potato to maintain their structure. What’s bad about those? They aren’t part of a cat’s natural diet and can lead to diabetes.
- Sticking to a single cat food brand/recipe. Whether you buy your cat’s food or make it at home, being dedicated to a single brand or single cat food recipe is unwise. Why? Because balancing a cat’s diet is an extremely complex process, and if anyone claims that their diet is “balanced,” it’s more like they think it’s close to being balanced. There have been many cases in the history of the pet food industry where new scientific research has made pet food makers modify their recipes—the loudest of them being about taurine deficiency in cats. Keeping your cat on a single recipe for a prolonged time can develop a deficiency of a single nutrient, which you won’t know until it’s too late. It’s best to have at least several recipes and feed them alternately in separate meals, which has other benefits as well.
- Feeding milk to a cat. Milk causes diarrhea and gastrointestinal upset in cats and dogs. Even though cats love the taste of milk, it contains lactose—a milk sugar that a cat’s body is not able to digest completely.
- Feeding raw fish. It’s okay to give some fish to a cat, but it should not form a significant part of your cat’s diet. Raw fish and other sea creatures contain an ingredient that destroys vitamin B1. Deficiency of this vitamin can cause anorexia, depression, and neurological symptoms, including seizures, as well as death. Also, some fish have larger bones, which increases a cat’s risk of choking, and most fish do not provide enough calcium, sodium, and other minerals that cats need. Find more information about feeding fish to your cat here.
- Feeding only meat. Meat is good for cats, and it should account for most of a cat’s diet. But many cat owners may go too far with their good intentions and feed fillet to their cat exclusively, believing that they are providing their pet the best. Unfortunately, a diet that consists only of pure meat is as bad for a cat as a diet that contains absolutely no meat. That’s because cats also need bones, blood, and internal organs and other meat by-products.
Sometimes, you may feel that avoiding all of these pet food mistakes is hard, and you are right. We, too, are responsible for making two of the above mistakes, but that does not mean it should be taken lightly. We do promise to become better, but how about you?