Knowing that cats rely entirely on us to provide all their nutritional needs is an intimidating responsibility. That feeling can intensify when we go online and read all the overwhelming, often conflicting, advice.
The science behind feline nutrition is vast and only growing. Books could be written on the topics below, but we’ve put together some guidelines on common myths surrounding cat food.
- You should leave your cat’s food dish out at all times.
Unless you’re actively trying to put weight on your pet, avoid “free feeding.” Leaving the dish out 24/7 usually leads to excessive weight gain and related health problems. Carrying extra weight is hard on every part of a cat’s body and is likely to decrease life expectancy.
Offering the food just twice a day will also encourage your cat to eat at the correct times. If you offer your pal any snacks from your own cupboard, make sure they are feline-friendly and minimal.
- Cats can thrive on a vegetarian diet.
The vegetarians and vegans out there might like the idea of feeding a meat-free diet to their pet. Unfortunately, cats are not good candidates for vegetarianism. Unlike humans, they have nutritional needs that can only be met through animal protein.
Taurine, for example, is an amino acid in animal protein that cats require. It is essential for immune function, vision, digestion, and cardiovascular health. It can take a couple of years for a taurine deficiency to reveal itself, but the damage may be irreversible.
- It’s better to make your own cat food.
It’s natural to be apprehensive about commercial cat foods. The production and nutritional quality of certain foods can be vague or even intentionally misleading. It’s tempting to want to know with absolute certainty what’s going in your cat’s system.
While this is not an impossible feat, it’s not realistic for many cat owners. Creating a completely balanced diet requires expert guidance. It’s also not time or cost-effective compared to purchasing commercial food. If it’s important to you, consult your veterinarian for help before attempting it.
If this option interests you because you want to feed a raw diet, exercise caution. The American Animal Hospital Association warns against such diets due to the dangers of contamination.
- Dry food is superior to wet food.
Most of the time, a combination of wet and dry food is the perfect solution. There are pros and cons to each. Canned food is more expensive and difficult to store, but has a much higher moisture content. Considering how challenging it can be to keep cats properly hydrated, offering wet food is an efficient way to combat it.
If you’re feeding exclusively dry food to keep your cat’s teeth clean, know that sometimes dry food has the opposite effect. Instead of scraping debris off the teeth, tiny bits of kibble can remain and lead to plaque build-up.
Your cat’s needs and preferences may fluctuate with age. Work alongside your veterinarian to strike the right balance with peace of mind.