In the same way it would affect you as a human. Food is energy. Food is the building blocks of life. We need food to be able to fuel our bodies, grow, and survive. Nutrition is a huge part of that. So, in general, if the cat isn't eating, that's a problem. Food is important.
It's a really good question. Cats are not small dogs. They are carnivores, meaning that before they were domesticated, they primarily got their water and nutrients from raw meat when hunting. Cats have not been domesticated for as long as dogs. Dogs are omnivores, which means they can have vegetables, fruits, and meats. Cats are obligate carnivores, meaning they need a higher protein diet. We're going to get into that a little bit more. A higher protein intake is what your feline is going to need. They require a lot more protein than dogs, which is very important. It helps them maintain muscle mass and a healthy physique. We can also see issues with overfeeding cats, which we'll talk about a little bit more later.
Cats can be prone to weight gain, so we have to watch that, but they can get all of their amino acids, minerals, and all other things cats need from their diets. I will say that we do like our felines to be exposed to wet food from an early age because studies have shown that wet foods are actually better for your cat. It is a little bit more of an inconvenience because if they don't eat it all, then it dries, you have to wash it, and it's a whole thing. But we want to ensure that all cats are at least exposed to wet food when they're kittens. If they are over six or have to transition to a wet food diet later in life, they have had that experience because cats are very picky eaters.
It depends on your cat, their weight, and if they're spayed or neutered. Most of the bags you buy will have a recommended feeding schedule on the side, and we can follow those guidelines. What does need to be taken into context is if your cat is spayed or neutered. If that happens, then their metabolism's going to be a little bit slower than if they were intact. The bags of food are made for intact cats and dogs, so their energy requirements will be a bit lower. So when you are feeding your cats, you always want to shoot for 10 to 20% less than what is recommended to account for those calories.
Will my cat's nutritional requirements change throughout their life as a kitten, adult, and senior cat?
A hundred percent, yes. Just like human babies require multiple feedings a day and a higher calorie content because they're growing, kittens do too. Bones, muscles, everything takes a lot more energy when we're younger, and they're using those calories. So kittens will have higher calcium, protein, and calorie requirements in general, and they have to be really easy calories. This is obviously not a cat, but this little baby needs to be on puppy food, right? Because they're growing, and they're a little Pomeranian. Adult cats will be fed adult cat food once they reach at least a year. Starting around the age of 10, I start to recommend switching to senior cat food if we are having weight problems. Sometimes you can even wait until 12 or 13. It's also based on the specific cat, the lab work they should do once a year, and their general health.
Poor cat nutrition in your cat can lead to a variety of symptoms. The most common is ill thrift, meaning their coat will be very dry and brittle. They may have hair loss, thinning if they're losing weight, vomiting, or diarrhea. All these things can be food related. I would say one of the number one causes younger cats to have an ill thrift and not a nice hair coat is intestinal parasites. They have this not-good hair coat because those intestinal parasites are actually stealing the nutrients from the body, preventing that cat from absorbing those nutrients and ensuring that the coat is nice and healthy.
We generally see symptoms of food allergies in cats, like inflammatory bowel disease in people. So, either vomiting or diarrhea. Those are your top two symptoms. Occasionally we can see chronic ear infections. It is a bit of a misnomer that cats can become allergic to grains. It's actually the main meat protein in their food. The most common food allergies we can see are beef, chicken, and pork. Those are our top three. If we are trying to transition foods and go from a beef diet, and we think our cat's getting bored, we switch to salmon. Always make sure you do it very slowly over the course of a week. If you switch too fast, you'll end up seeing vomiting and diarrhea, and you'll have to come to the veterinarian's office. We all want to stay out of the veterinarian's office because we don't want to spend money. So making sure you do a very slow transition's important, but food allergies generally present as vomiting, diarrhea, and chronic ear infections.
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