Are you feeding your cats the right food?
Authors, Gus Bennett and Dorinne Whynott,
Owner of Professional Pet Sitting Etc.
Hi, I am Gus Bennett.
I am back to talk about feeding cats what they need (but if you want to know more about me, Click Gus Bennett)!!! Oh btw, click on some of the highlighted words for more information.
Did you know that cats are considered obligate carnivores!! That means we need to eat meat! It is a biological necessity, our bodies are just not made to eat grains.
Also, did you know that we started out as desert animals? We are used to going long periods without drinking. Even today, we are almost always in a state of dehydration. But you say, you see your cat drinking……yes, but we really never drink enough.
Water is important
Did you know that simply by moving our water dishes away from our food dishes to an area that we frequently walk by, will induce us to drink more water!! Studies have been done, If our water dishes are next to our food, we will associate drinking water only when we eat. If we are constantly walking by our water dish, we may stop and drink more each time we go by. Also, many cats find water fountains more enticing as well. If you do choose a water fountain, choose one that is not plastic. After a while the plastic really becomes hard to clean and can harbor bacteria. A nice ceramic fountain that can be disassembled and placed in your dishwasher is recommended. My Mom has one like this (click to see) pet fountain. A few things to keep in mind with water fountains, if you will be away for any length of time, for safety, unplug and leave a few water dishes. Power outages, chewed plugs or playing with cords, all can be a problem.
Here is a great article by Weruva Cat food. I have not tried Weruva but they explain it wonderfully.
Here is an Excerpt from the Weruva article –
(1) High Moisture – Cats need lots of moisture in their food to help dilute toxins. Cats initially came from the desert where there was not much water to drink. Despite a lack of water, cats still need water first and foremost, just like our human bodies do, but instead of getting water out of a stream or lake, cats got water from the food they ate. In the wild, cats eat other beings…the prey of cats are very moist…in the 75%ish range. Therefore, in the wild, a cat will be getting about 75% water in each bite. This is critical because cats do not have a strong thirst drive to drink water…they must “eat” water. Dry food, on the other hand, has at most 10% water. Therefore, a cat will be getting over 8 times less water bite per bite when eating dry food. Cats are not built to catch up in the bowl which often leaves them dehydrated…the results being kidney and urinary tract issues. The urinary tract and kidneys need to be flushed with water to dilute harmful toxins.
(2) High Quality Meat – Eating high quality meat helps promote healthy urinary pH levels. As obligate carnivores, cats must eat meat. Therefore, eating a diet that Mother Nature intended for cats helps cats maintain healthy urinary pH levels. The proper urinary pH for cats is one with slightly acidic levels.
Here is the link to read the whole Article – My cat has urinary tract issues/crystals, can I feed Weruva?
Dry food not so good
To add to cat dehydration, the food of choice for pet owners because of convenience, is dry food. Since we do not drink enough as it is and then we eat dry food, we are even in more of a state of dehydration. To make it worse, this dry food is usually filled with grains that our body really doesn’t digest well. Even dry foods that state grain free, still have grains in them, look for flax, that is a grain. If the flax is whole, it does more harm than good in both humans and animals. Anyway, grain free or not, dry food is not the best choice for cats, no matter how expensive or good it is.
General rule is that if you feed dry food and see your cat drinking a lot, your cat is dehydrated and they never make up all of that moisture by drinking at a water dish. Causing concentrated urine which causes other issues mentioned below.
Here is a great article, “10 Reasons Dry Food is bad for our pets“.
Most people still have the idea that dry food is best to keep cat’s teeth white and healthy. Dry foods do not clean cat’s teeth. Generally, speaking, tooth decay and problems are genetically predisposed. In other words, if the cat’s mom and dad had great teeth, they most likely will too and vice versa. Feeding Dry, canned or raw food, a cat will need some help keeping teeth clean. You can get them used to brushing (using special toothbrushes, finger brushes and special toothpaste-do not use human toothepaste), use water additives to prevent plaque build up and use special dental treats that break up the plaque, along with scheduled veterinary dentistry to keep you cat’s teeth and gums healthy for a lifetime.
My Mom has had to do lots of reading and research on the subject of feline nutrition, since my brother, Ricky, is allergic to sooo many things. Mom found out he is especially allergic to beef and pork, which are in most cat foods. She took many feline nutrition classes, asked veterinarians lots of questions (unfortunately most veterinarians are very good at surgery and medical but not very knowledgeable in feline nutrition and behavior) and read as much as she could online.
I encourage all cat owners to find a veterinarian who has a little knowledgeable on cat nutrition. Any veterinary who discourages feeding dry food to cats, generally has some knowledge. There are some veterinarians who specialize in cats. We do have some in New Hampshire.
In her search, She found a book called, Your Cat, by Dr, Elizabeth Hodgekins. My Mom was really happy about this book and got half way through and stopped giving us dry food all together. That is where she learned about how our body digests food and how food can help many other medical problems. Dr. Elizabeth does talk about feeding raw food as the best source. My Mom started Ricky on a raw diet and most of his allergy symptoms cleared up. Of course, he is still allergic to trees and grass, food won’t help that.
My sister, Lulu had IBD and constant diarrhea due to a food allergy like her brother, Ricky. Within 48 hours of switching her to raw, she had completely formed stools. Something Mom had not seen in years!!
After a while, Mom did find a freeze dried raw diet that worked even better and was more convenient. Mom also added a bit more water then was called for (the more water we get the easier on our kidneys). We all love it and have been on it for the past 5 + years. Other then the immediate health changes above with the raw, Mom also noticed that we were more satisfied with our food, there was less waste in the litterbox which indicated our bodies were utilizing more of the food and nutrients! Another big plus, stools and urine smell were little to non-existent. A real plus.
The book, Your Cat, talks about feeding canned or raw food rather than dry food for many important reasons but also talks about a whole slew of other ailments that cats get. If you are a cat owner, my Mom believes you should have this book in your home for reference.
Here is another great article, ” Why cats need canned food“.
Here is an excerpt of an article my Mom found VERY interesting, from the article “Do cats need fiber in their diet” on the PetMD website
“Plant Fiber in Commercial Cat FoodOddly, cats share nearly the same spot on the mammal food chain as rabbits. Lacking the stamina to outrun their predators, wild cats have relatively short life spans and high infant mortality. That is why they are induced ovulators (if they have sex they get pregnant) like rabbits and easily become pregnant even while nursing. As prey, cats have developed biological and behavioral traits to minimize the attention of predators. The feces or “scat” of wild cats is very small and not highly odiferous (smelly). Like their urine, they bury it to further hide any scent. Contrast that with the stool of cats on commercial dry food. Stool in cats fed those diets have huge stool “logs” that can be smelled two rooms away. Granted, this is not important for inside cats but such stool in outdoor or indoor/outdoor cats could draw the attention of dogs and coyotes. Without study, we have no way of knowing whether the substitution of plant fiber for animal fiber has the same beneficial effect in the colon that the cheetah study found. Are we creating larger amounts of stool without knowing its benefit or lack of benefit? The grooming behavior of cats results in the ingestion of large amount of fur or animal fiber. Current owner preoccupation with preventing or blaming all digestive upsets and coughing on “hairballs” may actually be contrary to the digestive health needs of the cat. In 29 years of veterinary practice, some feline exclusive, I have yet to remove a hairball from the intestine or esophagus of a cat. Sure it happens, but not to the extent to warrant the present level of concern. Why? Cats fed dry diets generally vomit much more than cats fed canned or meat diets. In addition to food, vomiting also brings up stomach fur. These cat parents assume the hairball is causing the vomiting. Hence all of the vomited Vaseline treated cat kibble to ward off hairballs. In light of the cheetah study the observation should be turned around. The dry food is causing the vomiting and preventing the hair to reach the intestines as intended. Owners who decrease or eliminate dry food from their cat’s diet almost always experience less vomiting and fewer hairballs in their pets, despite the same degree of grooming and hair consumption. Going back to the study, maybe plant fiber is not a good substitute for animal fiber and has unintended consequences in strict carnivores.”
My Mom found not only the article above very interesting but also found similar results in our house when she stopped feeding dry food.
Most cats on dry food are:
- In a constant state of Dehydration
- Have highly concentrated urine (can you smell the litterbox a mile away)
These problems above lead to a variety of medical problems, such as kidney issues, heart problems, and much more. The dehydration and concentrated urine alone make the kidneys and heart work harder. It also brings on a slew of bladder and urine issues, such as infections and crystals ( more on crystals and diet).
Obesity is an issue with dry. Dry food has grains, even when it states grain free. Grains fatten animals up, which is why they feed it to cattle, etc. Dry food is not a natural food for cats so it has lots of enticing stuff in it to make cats eat it as mentioned above. Many people leave a large bowl always filled, causing some cats to eat more then they should out of boredom. Eating high amounts can obviously cause severe obesity which leads to many health problems including diabetes.
Dry cat foods typically contain more carbohydrates than wet food because many dry foods use grains, such as cornmeal and rice, to process the kibble. Some cat foods even contain proteins from vegetables rather than meat, which is also not ideal for your carnivorous cat.
My owner has been on a low carb diet for for herself, many years, so checking carb counts is important in our pets as well as for humans. Vegetables can be very high in carbohydrates, such as peas and corn. They are in many cat foods causing high carb count. Again, High carbs can cause obesity in humans and cats and are not good for the obligate carnivore cat. Carbs are also a problem in diabetics.
For Diabetic cats, the first thing that should be prescribed when a cat becomes diabetic – stop dry food, go on canned. Best thing for a human who has diabetes, low carb diet.
Did you know that in both humans and cats, it is possible to reverse certain types of diabetes?
Carbs are a big part of it.
Another problem with dry food is constant dehydration causing concentrated urine.
My three housemates had terrible crystals. Ricky, Desilu and Felice. Mom has been in rescue for decades. Ricky was rescued from a hoarding situation with over 30 cats and was fed entirely on dry food after he was weaned. Ricky had such bad crystals that when he came home with Mom, he was peeing blood….Oh my gosh, that must have been painful. Anyway, in most cases cats are placed on a prescription diet of dry!!!! This diet does help in many cases but what is needed is NO DRY and more WATER!!!
Anyway, my Mom decided to put us all on canned food (except Ricky and Lulu, who are on raw food for their allergies). We receive half of a 5 ounce can in the morning and half at night. She adds 2 tablespoons of water in at each feeding and mixes just a little to give the water flavor.
Guess what!! All are crystal free for the past 6 years (none were placed on medications or a prescription diet). Plus, everyone’s urine is nice and clear, practically no odor. That is a pretty nice thing, when you have 9 cats using litterboxes. My nose is happy!!
Switching Cats from dry to canned
Keep in mind that dry food is basted in very attractive tastes to attract cats to eat it. Some cats becomed addicted. It is like feeding them treats all day long.
Most cats love canned food and will eat it readily, but every now and then a cat will only eat dry food. Cats are not like most dogs, meaning if they get hungry enough they will eat. That may be true for some cats but for most, they turn anorexic and just go without. This is very serious in cats. To prevent this, you may need to try to change over gradually. My brother, Raji really loved his dry food. Mom had to give him mostly dry with a little canned and then over a few weeks slowly put less dry and more canned. That worked for a while then he just stopped eating the canned. Even mixing it with dry was not good enough. So, Mom gave him a full serving of dry every other day to keep him hungry so he would eat the canned. Eventually, she gave him dry every third day, then every 4th until again he was on all canned. After that, Raji seemed to be okay eating canned only.
Know your cats normal eating habits. If your cat normally eats every single morsel and licks the bowl clean and then one day he is eating only half, Keep an eye on him. Something may be brewing. That is why it is so important to keep tract of how much they are eating at each feeding.
Another thing my Mom does, she feeds us all in crates!! Yup, she has trained us all to get in our own crates at feeding and we do. She does not allow us to go in any one else’s crate. It took about two weeks for all of us to understand what my Mom wanted us to do but once we did, it was easy. We all jump into our own crate and wait for dinner (or breakfast)!!
Why does she do this? Well, the idea started when she was getting her certification for Disaster Animal Response. She was thinking that if we need to evacuate for any reason, how was she going to round up 9 cats in a few minutes….food. So, she started feeding us in crates. What my Mom found was a whole bunch of other reasons to feed us in crates.
- Easy round up of all cats (this was the main reason)
- Cats happy and used to crates (My housemate, Danny hated crates, he would bloody his nose pushing to get out every time we went to the vet)
- We eat slower
- No vomiting of food
- Vomiting of hairballs down significantly to maybe 1-2 total per month for all 9 cats (not 1-2 per cat, 1-2 for all cats together!!)
- Shy cats or Cats that do not like to be handled much get handled (Mom placed Spanky on top, so he had to be picked up twice per day to eat)
- Each cat can be fed a different food if needed
- Easy to monitor how much food each cat is eating (keep in mind that if your cat is coming down with a health problem, how much or how little they are eating may be the first symptom and the faster you notice a problem the better-important info for your vet)
This type of feeding is good if you have
- more than one cat
- a cat that hates to be handled
- a cat that is shy or skittish
- a cat that is on a special food and you do not want the other cat to eat it
- a cat that is on medication placed in their food so other cats do not get the medication
- to monitor the amount of food for health reasons
- a cat that eats too fast
- a cat who eats theirs and then everyone else’s
- an obese cat that needs to lose weight
- a cat that hates the crate
Below are the new cat condos, Mom bought us! Aren’t they nice? Each one has two sections, with a bed, litterbox, water and we always have a favorite toy. Now if one of us is sick, we can be closely monitored. Very important when you have more then one cat. We all LOVE our new digs!
Feline nutrition still needs more research but with all the research my Mom has done for all of us, she really believes that feeding us a diet of dry food causes many health problems. Just in our house alone, with past and present kitties, when we were on dry food, she has seen kidney issues, obesity, crystals, bladder issues, dehydration, food allergies, lots of vomiting, IBD and more. My Mom used to feed free choice (big bowl of dry food to eat whenever). Wish I was around then!!! Boy, I would have tried to eat the entire thing. Yes, I am a food hound. Once she did switch over to feeding all of us canned food, she was amazed at all the positive changes, and even more positive changes feeding everyone in crates.
During feeding, My Mom lets us hang out in our crates for about an hour. This is because many of us have slowed down our eating so much, that we eat a little, fall asleep, then eat some more. Some of us, like me, just eat everything, then fall asleep.
Hmmmm, that reminds me, it’s nap time. I guess, I will talk to you next time.
Signing off, Gus Bennett
About the Owner/Author
Dorinne Whynott, is a long time animal professional who has studied feline nutrition as well as working as a veterinary technician. She is a successful business owner establishing one of the largest pet sitting companies in New Hampshire since 1990.
As of 2020, she is also the owner of the Animal Care Center of NH in Merrimack, which is a state of the art facility with many trainers and animal hospitals referring clients to her highly sought after services. Click to Read her complete History.
Professional Pet Sitting Etc. is a leading business in the pet care field and continues to grow since 1990. It boasts 30+ amazing pet sitters on staff, over 3000 clients in 38 cities from Nashua to Concord, NH. Hundreds of satisfied client testimonials can be found on their website and more 5 star reviews on their Facebook page, Google+ page and more. They have sustained an A+ rating with the BBB and are unmatched in the Pet Sitting Industry in New Hampshire.
Contact us by phone at 603-888-8088
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