Your cat’s nutritional needs vary from kittenhood to its senior years. Here are some key points to feline feeding.
Cats are carnivores. Their bodies are engineered to digest lots of high-quality protein very rapidly and they should never be fed a vegetarian diet.
Cats also need the right balance of amino acids and vitamins for healthy organs and a thick, shiny coat.
Your cat’s dietary needs change as it reaches each life stage, either because its body is absorbing nutrients in a different way, or it is doing more or less exercise.
It may also become more vulnerable to age-related health conditions, such as diabetes and arthritis. So it’s very important to choose the right cat food for your pet’s life stage.
Young cats burn calories rapidly. Kitten-specific recipes are rich in protein (chicken, turkey, lamb or fish) to fuel muscle growth, and high in calories for fast-release energy.
Kitten foods contain phosphorus and calcium for strong bones, and omega-3 and -6 fatty acids to benefit the heart, brain and immune system. Dry food is likely to have smaller pieces of kibble to suit growing teeth.
Cats are considered adult at around 12 months old. For the next few years, your cat will remain active and inquisitive, and should be served what is often called a “maintenance” diet – with high-quality protein, carbohydrates and vitamins and not too much fat.
As cats get older, excess fat gathers around the joints, discouraging mobility, so it’s key to measure portions carefully and avoid unlimited treats, or move to a “light” or “indoor” cat food for inactive felines.
Cats spend an incredible 40 per cent of their lives as seniors. This life stage starts at around seven and it involves lots of physical changes, including a decrease in activity levels and a lower metabolism, which can all be balanced with the right diet. Your senior cat needs small, tasty meals that are easy to digest, with less fat, fewer calories and high-quality protein. Dental problems at this age can make wet food or small pieces of kibble more comfortable choices.
Some senior diets also contain less sodium and phosphorus to avoid straining the kidneys, plus vitamins C and E to boost immunity. Omega-3 and -6 are also important to help maintain healthy skin and shiny fur. If your elderly cat is losing weight, your vet may recommend a low-fibre diet to boost nutrient absorption.