Are You Feeding Your Cat the WRONG Food?

by | May 14, 2024

Cat lovers like ourselves are always interested in furthering our furry friends’ health. And let’s be real: we want to keep our cats happy, too. But what if you’ve been giving your cat the wrong food all along? 

Here are the healthiest choices for cats, how much to feed your pet, plus which food ingredients to avoid so she’s happy and healthy…every single day.

, Are You Feeding Your Cat the WRONG Food?, The Comforted Kitty

5 Signs You’re Feeding Your Cat the Wrong Food

Most cat foods claim they contain the proper nutrition profile. 

However, some ingredients just don’t agree with cats. Or your feline friend may have special considerations. Your cat may have an allergy to a common cat food filler, for example. Or she may be aging and have special dietary needs. (We’ll get to those issues in a moment.)

Cats can’t tell you when they aren’t feeling well, but there are some key danger signs a cat’s diet isn’t up to par. 

Here are 5 health conditions that can happen if your furry companion isn’t getting the right diet for her needs.

Lethargy/Not Wanting to Play

A cat who isn’t playful or seems “tired” all the time may not be getting the right vitamins and minerals. Protein is particularly important, since it is a key nutrient for cats in order for them to be healthy.

“Tummy” Troubles

Gastrointestinal upset –– “tummy” troubles –– can be the result of the wrong food. Your cat may vomit or have diarrhea. These issues may be due to other health concerns, so see your vet right away, and be sure to bring a can of cat food along for your vet to review.

Skin Allergies

Itching and scratching, rashes, or loss of hair may be due to parasites or illness, but they can also be due to an allergic reaction to diet. Be sure to see the veterinarian right away.

Dull Eyes or a Dully Coat

Cats who aren’t getting the proper nutrition may have dull, lackluster eyes. Their coat may also suffer and might not look as shiny as it should. As with the other issues listed above, dull eyes and a dry, unhealthy coat may also be linked to other health conditions, so see the vet with these concerns.

, Are You Feeding Your Cat the WRONG Food?, The Comforted Kitty

Underweight or Obesity 

A cat that is underweight may not be getting enough food, or she may be getting the wrong food. These can be signs of other serious health conditions, so see the vet, particularly if your pet’s weight loss is sudden.

However, obesity can also be a sign of improper feeding. And surprisingly, it can actually be a sign of malnutrition – something we usually associate with undereating.

The surprising reality is that obesity can develop in your feline friend even if you’re not overfeeding her. Why? Because just as with humans, if your cat is eating the wrong foods, she may not be digesting them properly. And poorly digested food may be stored as fat.

Now that you know what to look out for, here’s how to feed your cat the right way.

What Is the Best Diet for Your Cat?

No one diet is best for every cat. However, the natural diet for an otherwise healthy cat is a minimum of 70% protein.

This is because cats are obligate carnivores. An obligate carnivore is any animal that relies primarily on meat, poultry, or fish for its daily diet. 

While cats may sometimes eat vegetation in the wild –– you may have caught Kitty nibbling at your houseplants or munching on grass outdoors –– they can’t digest it.

Most commercially prepared cat food contains fillers, such as wheat or corn. If you’re in doubt as to the percentage of non-meat products in your pet’s food, call the manufacturer. If they’re unwilling to give you this information, switch to a food you can be more certain of.

Cat Food Ingredients to Avoid

Always read can or bag labels, and be on the lookout for the following ingredients, which may not be the best choice for your cat:

  • Artificial colors
  • Artificial flavors (such as sodium nitrate, “chicken flavor,” “beef flavor,” etc.)
  • Carrageenan (red seaweed), a thickening agent that is difficult for cats to digest
  • Refined grains (such as wheat and corn)
  • Beans, peas and other legumes (these are inferior sources of protein for cats)
  • Soy, which can be harsh on a cat’s liver and thyroid
  • Synthetic preservatives, such as BHA or BHT

, Are You Feeding Your Cat the WRONG Food?, The Comforted Kitty

Wet v. Dry Cat Food: Which Is Best?

Whether to feed your cat wet (canned or bagged) food, dry food or a combination of these, is a decision to make between yourself and your veterinarian.

Wet cat foods are typically 70% water, while dry foods are just 10% water.

Your pet’s ideal wet to dry food ratio will depend upon:

  • Your cat’s age (kittens and elderly cats may benefit from more hydration, for example)
  • Your cat’s health status (certain conditions, such as kidney disease, will affect this)
  • How much your cat likes to drink from the water bowl

Brand for brand, dry food is generally less expensive than wet food. This may tempt you to feed your cat an all-dry food diet. 

However, if you feed your cat an all-dry food diet, you may be putting her at risk for dehydration, since in the wild, cats tend to get a large percentage (or even the majority) of their hydration from the animals they eat. 

Domestic cats keep these instincts to a degree. That means some house cats may not drink enough from their water bowl to get the hydration they need from dry food alone.

If your cat is showing signs of dehydration, such as being tired or lethargic or panting excessively, see your vet immediately.

, Are You Feeding Your Cat the WRONG Food?, The Comforted Kitty

How Much Food Does Your Cat Need?

The next consideration in your furry friend’s diet is how much food to give each day.

There’s no doubt about it: obesity (defined as 20% above the ideal weight) is a big problem in domestic cats. It is estimated that up to 50% of cats seen in veterinary clinics are overweight or obese.

It’s easy to overfeed a beloved pet. A cat’s instinct is to constantly seek food. In the wild, that’s what she’d be doing; cats are natural hunters. At home, your cat may run for the bowl every time you go into the kitchen, or you may mistake her meows for hunger. And treats are as tempting for you to give as they are for her to beg for!

But it’s important not to overfeed or underfeed your cat. Cats have different feeding needs at different life stages. Here’s how much food you should give your kitten or cat.

How Much to Feed Your Kitten

Kittens are very active and have higher nutritional needs than adult cats. Always ask your vet how much to feed your growing kitten, and never try to force-wean a kitten too early.

As a general rule of thumb:

  • For weaned kittens up to 19 weeks, feed 1 oz. of food per 1 lb. of bodyweight.
  • For kittens 20 weeks to 1 year, feed ½ oz. of food per 1 lb. of bodyweight.
  • Try to divide your kitten’s food into 3 feedings daily so she has nutrition throughout the day.

How Much to Feed Your Adult Cat

An adult cat’s nutrition needs will vary depending upon her activity levels, her overall health, and other factors.

As a general rule:

  • Adult cats weighing 8-11 lbs. will need ½-⅔ cups of food per day.
  • Adult cats weighing 12-15 lbs. will need ⅔-1 cup of food per day.
  • Adult cats weighing 16+ lbs. will need 1 cup of food per day.
  • For cats that weigh more than 16 lbs. and are not a large breed, ask your veterinarian. An overweight or obese cat may or may not need a reduced quantity of food. Sometimes a special nutrition profile is called for rather than reduced food.

How Much to Feed Your Aging Cat

Aging cats often eat less than they did in their prime. While this can be a natural part of the aging process, too little food can contribute to muscle wasting in elderly cats.

Make sure to ask your veterinarian about a special diet for your elderly cat so she gets the nutrition she needs during this important time in her life.

Foods To NEVER Give Your Cat

Vet-approved cat treats are fine in moderation if your cat is healthy overall and has no special dietary considerations.

But the temptation is there to give your purr-fect pet a little bite from the family table every now and then.

Be careful –– the following “human” foods can be very bad news for your cat:

  • Dairy. Adult cats are lactose intolerant. NEVER give your cat milk, cheese or other dairy products.
  • Onions and garlic. These foods contain thiosulfates, which are toxic to cats.
  • Chocolate. The theobromine in chocolate is metabolized more slowly in cats than in humans and can be toxic.
  • Raw meat. Yes, it’s a natural product, and cats kill and eat animals in the wild. But wild meat may contain parasites that can be dangerous or even fatal to your cat.
  • Liver. Occasional liver is fine for cats, but don’t overload your feline pal on this treat. Liver contains Vitamin K, which can build up in your cat’s system and cause a dangerous vitamin imbalance.
  • Raw dough. Your pet may be tempted by the smell, but raw dough swells inside your cat’s intestinal tract and may cause an obstruction.

The Bottom Line

The guidelines above are meant to give you a head-start on feeding your cat the best diet for her needs. Remember that your best feline buddy is unique, and so are her nutritional needs. So always consult your veterinarian for feeding advice.

By avoiding the wrong cat foods and choosing the best ones, you can get your cat on the path to her best possible health.

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