Cat Nutrition - A Guide to Good Nutrition Throughout a Cat’s Life

How does nutrition impact the health and wellbeing of my cat?

Well, you know the old expression, “You are what you eat”? It’s no different for dogs or cats than it would be for us. The better quality of ingredients that are in that nutrition and the frequency with which they eat—all of those things are going to have a huge role in the development and weight maintenance of cats.

Dr. Broussard
The Waggin' Train Veterinary Clinic

Will my cat's nutritional requirements change throughout their life as a kitten, adult, and senior cat?

Absolutely, yes. Going through all the different life stages is absolutely going to affect the type of food you need to feed, and how that food will affect the cat. With the rapid growth rate of kittens, they're going to need more fats, proteins, and calcium for bone development. Then the opposite would be true later in life. Whenever their growth has long finished, they're going to need completely different requirements. So, absolutely, life stage is a huge factor in the foods that you feed.

What are some signs and symptoms of poor cat nutrition in your pet?

Some of the more common things we see would be things like a dull, poor hair coat, and weight loss. You can see other things like lethargy and loose stools. Those are probably the most common four or five things I can think of when it comes to poor nutrition in cats.

Should I let my cat free feed?

I'm not a big fan of free-feeding cats. I know there's plenty of people that do it, and for cats that can regulate themselves adequately, it's fine. The bad thing is not the free feeding part—it’s the lack of self-control that most cats have. They will stay at a food bowl and just engorge themselves, and then the next visit we're having to talk about obesity in cats, because they don't know how to say no. So, that's really it. It's not that it's that bad, but it's not the best thing for the majority of cats because of weight issues.

When it comes to cat food, what, and how much should I be feeding them?

Again, this depends on their life stage (kitten, adult, and senior) and how actively they are. Are they an active adult or are they a couch potato adult? All of those things are going to factor in. I am a big fan of dry food over wet, number one. I think that dry kibble is a little bit better for them, and certainly better for their teeth. Then we're onto the question of whether you should be feeding raw food or fresh foods and things like that.

I can tell you that, with my schedule and the way I live, dry kibble is the way I go. For the average person, it's hard to prepare fresh food on a daily basis. If you can do that, and it's a well-balanced fresh diet, I have no problem with that at all. But I think, for the average working person, a dry kibble that's already balanced for you and that doesn't go stale or get moldy or attract insects or any of those things, is going to be my preference nine times out of ten.

Cat Nutrition - FAQ

Dr. Broussard
The Waggin' Train Veterinary Clinic

How do I know what foods are toxic to cats?

That can be a tough one to answer. And it's a rather broad list of questions. I think the safest bet is to look into various sites. I know for sure the ASPCA has a website that is fairly comprehensive when it comes to foods and even more specifically human foods that can be toxic or make your animals ill. So I would probably reference a list like that to find out for sure.

Can I feed my cat human food?

Yeah, it's kind of a tough question, because what do we really mean when we say human food? There are certain things that we eat that cats most definitely eat; chicken and fish, things like that, absolutely. Do you want to depend just on those? Of course not.

It's always safest and, in my opinion, best, to feed them a well-balanced cat-formulated diet. Does that mean commercial foods are best? We can debate that when we have more time. But I think it's the simplest thing that provides, as I said, a well-balanced diet with all the vitamins and minerals that they need. So that's what I tend to stick with for my own animals.

How do I know if the food I'm giving my cat is making him sick?

Let's look at it this way. They eat every day. The most common thing we see is food allergies. If the allergy is consistent 365 days a year, then it's probably not fleas and it's probably not seasonal. I would approach illnesses that are related to food the same way.

If it's something that you're feeding—maybe it's a new additive that you added to the cat's diet or a new ingredient or perhaps even a new bag of food—and right at that point you see that your cat has been constantly ill with a variety of signs, it's a strong possibility that it's the food. If it began with the initiation of a new ingredient and it's consistent after the cat has been eating the new food, that is kind of a big red flag for me.

Can sudden changes to a cat's diet cause harm?

Yes, typically very transient and mild harm, but yes. The most common thing we see is when a diet has changed abruptly is gastrointestinal signs. What does that look like? Some cats can vomit, but more often they'll have diarrhea. So if you do have to make a change, or if you're planning on making a change, just do it gradually over the course of maybe a week. Use this period to gradually mix the new food in slowly, giving more and more of the new food to make sure that they tolerate it.

How do I know if my cat has eaten something toxic to him?

There again, if the illness can be traced back to the addition of a new ingredient or food or something along those lines, that is when I would become suspicious. To answer one specific set of signs that can say, oh, that means your cat ate something bad, I can't do that because it just depends on what they ate. Certain foods can be toxic to an animal's gastrointestinal system. Some can be toxic to their heart and some can cause skin any issues. It just depends on what they ingest in order to be able to answer that.

If you have any questions, reach out to us. You can contact us directly here at the office by calling (337) 223-9581. Please reach out if you have any questions and we'll do our best to take care of you.