How to feed your cat a balanced diet

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Our cats like kibbles, especially when it’s mixed with their favorite wet food. But I am wondering if that is really the right type of food for cats or if it wouldn’t be better to offer food that is closer to what felines eat it in the wild.

There is a lot of high quality cat food on the market that is organic, grain-free, rich in nutrients, in form of dry food, canned or dehydrated meat, and also the so called “raw food diet” for pets which has been gaining more in popularity.

In order to consider what would be the best food for cats offering essential vitamins and minerals, we need to look at the diet that cats eat in the wild. Unlike dogs, who are scavengers, cats are carnivores which means a balanced feline nutrition mostly consists of protein and animal fats.

kibbles-in-bowl

How do cats eat and drink?

Some cats devour their food and others are more finicky and like to pick at their meal. The best times to feed a cat is at dawn and dusk, that’s when they usually catch their prey in the wild.

They prefer several small meals during the day instead of one big one. It’s best to have set mealtimes instead of letting your cat nibble during the day since she might overeat easily. They don’t really need to eat continuously because a cat can survive without food for quite a while.

Cats are carnivores but they will eat grains, fruit and vegetables like carrots, peas, corn, salad and catnip. You can see outdoor cats nibbling on grass and other greens.

They will drink water but they do not drink as much as dogs do. Cats get most of the hydration through wet food, the moisture content of wet food is about 60 % to 75 % whereas the moisture content of dry food is about 10 % (according to pets4Homes.com). That’s why it is not recommended to feed cats only dry food because they might get cat-in-grassdehydrated.

Indoor and outdoor cat food

Always wondered why some dry cat food varieties are labeled as “indoor cat”?

It’s because the composition of the food destined for indoor cats is a little different. Some companies came up with the idea that cats who live inside don’t need the same calorie intake as cats who roam outside. Indoor cat food is usually made with less high-quality meat, contains less fat and the protein is substituted with high fiber vegetables.

If a protein-rich food is essential for a cat’s health, is it really necessary to cut back on protein because a cat only lives inside? It would be better to give indoor cats an opportunity for more exercise, which would be a healthier for cats anyway, and give her the same high-quality food than outdoor cats.

I think when it comes to weight management for indoor cats, different factors are important: the quality of the food, serving size, feeding frequency and exercise.

Cats and fish

A cat sitting in front of a can of tuna, nobody would think there is anything wrong with that picture.

Cats usually love fish, especially tuna, but from an evolutionary point of view fish is not part of the feline diet.                                 cat-and-fish-bowl

 Eating too much fish can actually cause allergies in cats. Some canned food varieties for cats use different fish parts like guts and fish bones which contain harmful substances like phosphorus. This can cause some medical issues in cats like kidney and urinary tract infections.

Especially canned tuna that is sold for human consumption should not be offered to cats. It doesn’t really contain the necessary nutrients that cats need and too much tuna can lead to mercury poisoning.

Besides tuna, salmon and ocean white fish (tile fish) are contaminated with heavy metals and other toxins. Salmon that is used in cat food is raised commercially by factory farming and contains high levels of PCB, pesticides and antibiotics.

So, no wonder feeding too much fish can create some serious health issues in cats!

But there is nothing wrong with offering your kitty some fish once in a while. Just look for some high quality fish products, preferably products based on fish raised by sustainable farming. After all, fish contains omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids, excellent supplements for your cat’s diet, since omega fatty acid are very beneficial for her skin, coat and joints.

Should cats eat raw meat?

There are many opinions about the so-called BARF diet for cats and dogs. BARF is an acronym and stands for “Biologically appropriate raw food”.

If you own a cat who likes to roam outside at night you know that she likes to kill mice and birds. But that’s usually all she does, cats who are fed by their owners on a regular basis will not eat their prey.

In the wild, felines don’t only eat the meat of their prey, they consume bones, tissue and organs as well. They can eat carcasses of animals that have been left out for several hours and they don’t get sick.

Some experts in feline nutrition think that cats should eat a diet that contains raw meat just like their counterparts in the wild do. And indeed, the idea of feeding your cat raw meat sounds pretty convincing.

Here are some benefits of the raw meat diet:

  • Raw meat and bones are better for cat’s digestion than grains and carbohydrates.
  • Taurine is an important amino acid that can be found in raw meat. Taurine helps cats’ eyesight and heart health.
  • High protein in raw meat fuels energy (and ultimately a more active pet) and other nutrients like fatty acids make for a shiny and healthy coat.
  • Switching cats to a raw meat diet can give them relief from food allergies.

 What are the drawbacks of feeding raw meat to pets?

If you think about feeding your kitty raw meat from your kitchen, you have to be aware that it comes with some risks.

Salmonella and E.coli bacteria can be present in raw meat and bones which can infect the person handling the meat. These bacteria and other parasites can be passed on to your cat and compromise her health.

If there are bones involved, be careful  because certain bones might easily splinter and your cat can choke on it.

The cost of a raw food diet for pets might be an issue for some people. Besides the fact that preparing pet food from scratch at home is very time-consuming, the weekly trip to the grocery store to purchase quality meat can become a strain to your budget.                  meat-and-dry-dog-food

In case you decide to follow the BARF diet and prepare your own cat food, it is recommended to follow some nutritional guidelines and talk to a veterinarian first for advice.

Here are some general guidelines for those who are considering feeding raw food:

  • Choose mostly poultry meat, chicken wing, turkey necks and liver. Only a smaller percent of the meat should come from beef. Lamb and duck meat can also be added.
  • About 10 % of the food can come from raw vegetables like carrots, zucchini and broccoli.
  • Cats can eat raw eggs but only in moderation.

As I mentioned earlier, switching your cat to a raw food diet can be beneficial if she suffers from food allergies. However, some cats might not like it if they are used to eating commercial cat food.

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Ready to go raw cat food

For people who do not want to prepare raw food at home, there are a few brands that offer freshly prepared, high quality and healthy meals for cats.

DARWIN’S NATURAL PET PRODUCTS or BALANCEDBLENDS.COM are just two companies who specialize in organic and wholesome fresh pet food. For cats, it’s usually raw poultry or lamb meat, chicken necks and organs. No grains, no animal by-products or preservatives added.

There are always health concerns when it comes to handling raw meat. Certainly, safety rules and regulations are in place, just be aware that there have been recalls of raw pet food in the past due to bacterial contamination.

Freeze-dried cat food is another way to feed minimally processed meat to your cat. ONLY NATURAL PET’S RAW NIBS made from cage-free chicken with added vegetables are grain-free and only need to be put in water for a few minutes and then are ready to be served.

Or try INSTINCT RAW BITES by NATURE’S VARIETY. Minimally processed organic chicken, liver and bones in bite-sized pieces that thaw in minutes.

Dehydrated meat has also gained in popularity. The gentle dehydration process of fresh meat and vegetables does not destroy its nutrients and artificial preservatives become unnecessary.

ZIWI PEAK CUISINE for example offers air-dried and jerky-style meat from poultry, lamb, beef, venison and fish including organs and bones.

HONEST KITCHEN offers well-balanced dehydrated cat food made from poultry, eggs and some vegetables added, it just needs be hydrated in warm water for a few minutes before serving.

My final thought

Why has the raw meat diet for cats gained so much attention? It’s the idea to offer your pet balanced nutrition that is close to what an animal would eat in the wild. That means, for cats, food with only a few ingredients and minimally processed.

You don’t have to ban kibbles or dry food completely from your cat’s menu as long as the list of ingredients contains the right nutrients, not too many carbohydrates and as long as you offer some variety.

If you don’t want to feed raw meat exclusively, for example because you are on a budget, you can always get some freeze-dried or dehydrated meat and mix it with dry food.

It is also a good idea to give your cat some Omega 3 +6 oil (like cod liver oil) if you are not sure about feeding fish.

I like to invest in balanced quality food  for my pets to make sure they stay healthy and happy, and that cuts down on the vet bill for sure.

                                                               

 

Affiliate disclosure – I am an affiliate of many products promoted on this website and may earn a commission if you purchase something.

How to find safe and non-toxic cat litter

cat-litter-scoop

For a pet owner whose cat stays mostly indoors it can be tricky to find the right litter. Kitty wants to be comfortable when using the litter box and you, as cat owner and busy person, prefer litter that’s easy and convenient to deal with.

Yet, the responsible pet owner might go one step further and wonder if the cat litter in use is safe and non-hazardous for cat and human.

What is conventional cat litter made of?

In general, there are two types of conventional cat litter: clumping and non-clumping cat litter.

Both are made of bentonite, which is actually clay. More specifically, clumping cat litter consists of sodium bentonite clay and the non-clumping version consists of calcium bentonite.

Many clay litters also contain silica, which is a form of quartz. Silica is a clumping agent and helps absorb moisture.                                  clumping-cat-litter

For odor absorption either carbon or baking soda are added.

Numerous brands use certain fragrances to make the cat litter smell more pleasantly. The question is if the fragrance is as pleasant to kitty as it is to us humans.

The different aspects of clay litter

Bentonite clay litter serves its purpose very well and has several advantages.

Clumping clay cat litter is also called “scoopable” litter because of its property to form clumps with cat urine and feces. This means waste can be easily discarded without having to change the whole litter box. Clay litter also keeps odor at bay when scooped up on a regular basis.

The non-clumping kind of clay litter absorbs waste to a certain point until the litter box is saturated (and this can take a few days) and it has to be replaced with new litter. That means cat waste doesn’t have to be scooped up every day and people with a busy everyday schedule will like this.

Another advantage of this type of litter is the fact that it won’t get stuck to the paws of your kitty like the clumping kind does and therefore won’t leave any litter traces in the house.

What are the hazards of clay litter?

Even though bentonite clay litter is still popular among cat owners for obvious reasons, being exposed to this type of litter comes with some health risks for cats and humans:

  • When using clay litter, silica dust is produced. This may cause respiratory problems for cats and humans (silicosis!).                        cat-in-hooded-litter-box
  • Clay litter (especially the clumping kind) can get stuck in the cat’s paws and when she grooms herself she tends to ingest some of it which can cause gastrointestinal problems. After all, silica is toxic and not only kitty may ingest it but also your dog if there is one in the house. Remember that dogs like to explore the litter box and might take chunks out of the box if not secured properly.
  • In order to make the litter smell better, some brands add fragrances. These are added chemicals and can be harmful to animals. If the scent is too strong, kitty might not like it due to her keen sense of smell.

fresh-litter-box

  • Environmental hazards: First of all, clay litter should never be flushed down the toilet because it can clog the plumbing. Bentonite clay is not biodegradable, and truckloads of clay/silica cat litter are dumped on landfills.

Second, bentonite clay is obtained by strip/surface mining. This may be of concern to some people because it is destructive to the environment. miningLayers of topsoil and rock are removed in order to get to the mineral underneath which means destruction of landscapes and soil erosion. By the way, a large area of strip mining to gain bentonite clay is in Wyoming.

Litter crystals, another favorite

It’s also called crystalline silica litter and it consists of silica gel crystals which are a combination of silica dioxide sand, water and oxygen. Depending on the brand, dyes are added to make the litter look more attractive and also fragrances.

One of the main properties of silica crystals is its high absorption of cat urine, which keeps the litter box dry and the cat owner doesn’t have to change the litter every day. Since there is not as much litter needed to keep the litter box clean silica crystals are sold in smaller bags than conventional clay litter and I am sure some people may appreciate the lightweight.

With silica crystals, less dust is produced when filling the litter box and there also seem to be less growing bacteria compared to boxes with clay litter.

Are there any risks when using silica cat litter?

Litter crystals seem to be the perfect cat litter, but there are some health hazards connected to silica crystals that we need to be aware of.

Even though silica cat litter doesn’t produce as much dust as clay litter, cats and humans will still be exposed to silica particles which are known to be cancer-causing. In cats, silica dust can cause severe respiratory problems.    silica-cat-litter

I want to mention that there is a difference in quality when it comes to silica gel cat litter and that some brands claim that the silica cat litter offered is safe and specifically formulated for cats and does not contain any harmful substances.

Sometimes litter crystals can get stuck in your cat’s paws, and here again, depending on the brand you use. When kitty licks her paws, she might ingest some crystals, which can cause intestinal problems.

If your cat is declawed, she might not like litter crystals because stepping on it might harm her paws.

Cat litter alternatives

For pet owners who do not only care about the health of their cat or dog but are environmentally conscious there is a decent selection of natural, non-toxic and ecofriendly cat litter on the market.

If your cat likes clumping clay litter, look for a brand that uses premium quality clay without harmful additives, e.g. BOXIECAT. This litter is supposed to be dust-free, and if you like gently scented litter this company offers one that uses natural scents, with calming properties and safe for kitty.

Cat litter made from wooden chips are gaining in popularity, usually cedar chips or pine are used. Kitty might like OKOCAT, made from all natural wood and plant particles and highly moisture-absorbing.  Or your cat is a cedar lover with  CEDARIFIC (by NEPCO), litter made from aromatic cedar chips for odor control and dust-free.

If your cat likes to think outside the box she will ask for DR MERCOLA Biocharged Kitty Litter, made from recycled pine trees and using biochar, a type of charcoal, for moisture absorption.

These are just a few examples of brands that only use all natural ingredients and are biodegradable. I especially like the kind that can be used for composting and added to the flower garden.

Corn cob litter is another alternative to clay litter, but look for one that uses non-GMO corn. Corn cob litter is usually dust-free and corn granules have a very effective moisture and odor absorption. Corn cob litter is biodegradable, therefore ecofriendly.

Cat-and-corn

There is one drawback with corn cob litter to be considered: It can be a breeding ground for aflatoxin mold which can make your cat gravely ill.

There are other innovative ideas makers of cat litter come up with, like litter made from recycled paper, e.g. YESTERDAY’S NEWS by PURINA. Supposedly it has a higher moisture absorption than clay, it is dust-free and ecofriendly. The only drawback (and an  article on  Dr. Mercola’s website points this out) is the fact that recycled newspaper is also used for this type of litter, chemical residues of the newspaper ink still present in the paper pellets.                                                   paper-pellets

Cat litter made from 100% grass is another natural alternative and is also biodegradable. Your kitty might like it because it doesn’t hurt her paws if she is declawed. Even though no harsh chemicals are added to the product, the question still remains how the grass was grown, were pesticides used or was it grown organically?

Do-it-yourself litter

If you are a DIY person and are thrifty, you will find a lot of suggestion online as to how to make your own cat litter.

Honestly, I have never seen home-made litter and I do not know how work-intensive it is and if it really works with your cat.

You can find anything online from using old newspapers, wood chips, walnut shells, chicken scratch or chicken feed and more. A lot of instructions use baking soda to neutralize the odor.

I have even seen posts from people trying out orange peels as cat litter! Cats don’t like citrus scent and it actually drives cats away, so I don’t think that really works.

orange-peels

So, which litter do cats really prefer?

There is a consensus among cat experts that cats really like litter that is clumping. They prefer small granules and material that resembles sand. Just          think how much kitty likes to scratch!Cats have an extraordinary sense of smell and they definitely don’t like overpowering scents, no floral or citrus fragrances, also be careful with too much baking soda.

Clearly, cats like to do their business in an environment close to nature. High quality clay litter, wooden chips or anything similar to that with the least amount of harmful additives, as long as kitty is comfortable with it. And when kitty is happy, you are happy.

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Affiliate disclosure – I am an affiliate of many products promoted on this website and my earn a commission if you purchase something.

Does your cat like milk?

 

cat drinking capuchino

Honestly, I have 2 cats and I have never given them milk to drink because I was always told it wasn’t a good idea. But most cats do like cow milk, they are drawn to it because as kitten they drank milk from their mother and they love the fat and the nutrients it contains.

Is milk really bad for cats?

Cow milk, and also cheese, contains more lactose and casein than a cat can digest. Too much of it can make them sick and can cause diarrhea and constipation. If you want to give your kitty milk, do it in moderation as a special treat.  Give your cat lactose -free milk  if she really enjoys milk! But do not give a cat soy milk, because soy is an allergen and can cause digestive problems.

cat drinking milk

Even though milk can upset the cat’s stomach, she enjoys drinking it.

Continue reading Does your cat like milk?