A Little of What you Fancy does you good…or does it?

Swansea Cats Protection with Lyn Gardner

Food and the importance of good nutrition has been a hot topic for a long time and is no less important for our pets too. Maintaining a good diet for our cats (and other pets) is a key responsibility for owners and with the cost of living increasing, we need to ensure we’re doing all we can to feed our cats appropriately. One of the first questions we’re asked when people adopt cats from Swansea Cats Protection is ‘what does puss eat?’ and usually the answer is very simple and straightforward. Yet meet that cat again in a few months and it’s often a different story…Puss now has a preference for food in gravy, not jelly, fishy flavours, never beef; dry food if you pick out the star shapes and give it to him in a saucer, never a bowl! I think you’re getting the picture ha ha! We love to indulge our precious cats and cats love to indulge in our devotion to them. But let’s see if we can streamline things a little and ensure our cats are fed appropriately by looking at what Cats Protection can suggest.

Five important things

  1. Cats must eat meat. They are ‘obligate carnivores’ which means cats cannot be vegetarian or vegan. There are certain nutrients essential to cats that are only found in meat and If they are fed a diet that does not contain meat they can get very unwell. This is often a difficult choice for vegan or vegetarian cat owners (myself included), but if you choose to care for a cat you must feed it appropriately…life is full of compromises.
  2. Choose a cat food that is complete rather than complementary (you’ll see this written on the packaging) so that your pet gets a complete, balanced diet. Also ensure that it is suitable for their life stage, eg kitten, adult or senior cat – the food packaging will advise which life stage it is aimed at. Nutritional needs vary and change over a cat’s lifetime.
  3. Follow the instructions on the food’s packaging for how much to feed and how often…surprising how few of us actually do this!
  4. In general cats like to eat away from other cats.
  5. Keep food, water and litter trays in different places so your cat knows that their food and water are clean.
  6. Your cat needs fresh water, which should be changed daily. Some cats like running water so if your budget stretches that far you might like to invest in a water fountain. My cat Arlo loves his! But beware…this fountain had originally been bought for a cat who refused to use it, passed on to another owner whose cat rejected it, before, third time lucky, Arlo slurps from it daily!
  7. If you have a tubby or overweight cat you might find using so-called feeding enrichment toys will help stop puss scoffing down meals all at once. You can make these yourself (check out online for ideas) or buy from pet shops. Basically it’s a way of making your cat ‘work’ to find their (dry) food or treats using puzzle feeders and dispensers which the cat has to bat about a bit before a biscuit drops out. But obviously speak to your vet if you have any diet questions or if you’re concerned about your cat’s weight.

How much food for my cat?

  1. Check the label on your chosen food for advice on quantities – sounds obvious of course, but I’m not sure how many of us do this, especially as experienced cat owners. But if we change a brand or type of food, quantities may vary…so give the guidelines a quick glance!
  2. Keep an eye on your cat and check their weight to make sure you aren’t under- or over-feeding. Preventing your cat from gaining weight is easier than helping them lose weight.
  3. Neutered cats typically need less energy, so consider reducing the amount of food you provide. This may not make you popular with puss though!
  4. Kittens have small stomachs and high energy needs, so they need to be fed little and often. Remember to check their food and replace it four times a day. It is imperative they are fed specific kitten food which provides nutrients required for growing and is more energy dense.
  5. Adult cats – your cat is an ‘adult’ when they are between one and eight years old. Your adult cat needs to be fed once or twice a day, but some will regulate their food intake, so their daily ration can be left out, particularly if you give them dry food.
  6. Senior cats – as your cat grows older, their nutritional needs change and you can buy special foods that cater for them. These foods may have less protein and a balance of minerals and vitamins designed to keep them in good health.

How often?

 Cats in the wild like to eat lots of small meals – an incredible 10-12 times throughout the day. Pet cats often prefer smaller, more frequent meals too, although their feeding behaviour depends on their environment and their past experiences. At Swansea Cats Protection we find that cats who have struggled to get enough to eat, such as strays or cats from some multi-cat households, will often eat voraciously at first.

  • Fresh wet food should be replaced at least twice daily.
  • Dry food should be replaced at least once daily.

What should I feed my cat?

Head to your nearest supermarket’s pet food aisle and you’ll find plenty of cat foods to choose from. But with so much on offer, how can you decide what is best for your cat?

Before you buy, remember to choose food specially formulated for cats. Dog food simply isn’t suitable and food intended for humans doesn’t necessarily include all the nutrients that your cat needs. Homemade cat foods might be good for occasional treats, but it is very difficult to give your cat the right balance of proteins, vitamins and minerals your cat needs to thrive – unless this has been recommended by your vet.

Milk is a definite NO! Cats can’t digest lactose and drinking cows milk will cause digestive problems and is bad for their teeth too.

What treats can I feed my cat?

 Every cat-owner will be all too aware that cats love treats. If you do opt to give your cat treats, make sure you limit the amount throughout the day so they don’t gain weight.

Can cats eat vegetables?

 Cats are meat eaters, making vegetarian and vegan diets unsuitable for their needs. Your cat needs more protein than many other mammals and they need specific amino acids such as taurine in order to survive. This is why it is important to feed your cat food that is made just for them.

There are a few vegetables that you can feed your cat (if they’re keen!) These include: carrots, peas, corn, broccoli and spinach. Steer clear of garlic and onion as these can be difficult to digest and can make cats very ill.

Can cats eat cooked chicken?

 A couple of our volunteers regularly buy roast chicken for the rescue cats in our care, and treating them while they wait for a new home really brightens their day. It also helps with newly arrived cats who are fearful and bewildered…a gentle stroke, a calm voice and a few bits of chicken can work wonders.

Donating cat food…yes please!

As a Branch of Cats Protection volunteers we help support the many kind people who feed feral or stray cats in their gardens or workplaces. We regularly drop off supplies for these cats who would otherwise go hungry, or cost the feeders more than they could afford. So we really, really value and appreciate the generosity of people who donate to our food collection bins which are located in a number of shops in Swansea including our charity shops in Mumbles and Brynymor Road. This food literally saves lives. But hey…cats being cats, even feral or strays sometimes start getting fussy!

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If you’re interested in adopting or fostering one of our rescue cats or kittens please get in touch. You can see the cats currently ready for adoption on our website at cats.org.uk/swansea

IMPORTANT: we are keen to match the right cat to the right home, based on our knowledge of the cat and the information you provide. However, due to the high number of applications we’re sorry to be unable to respond to unsuccessful applicants. Please remember we are ALL UNPAID VOLUNTEERS trying to do our best for the rescue cats and kittens of Swansea.

We can be contacted via our Helpline 0345 2602 101 or email us at swanseacats@hotmail.co.uk. Please note our helpline is answered by a messaging service and we will respond as soon as we can.

 

 

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