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Understanding Your Cat's Eating Habits

Understanding Your Cat's Eating Habits

Compared with humans, your favorite feline needs a high-fat, high-protein diet with certain animal nutrients.

Cats usually eat many small meals throughout the day, so they easily adopt a free-choice feeding schedule to maintain their normal body weight. Dry foods, such as IAMS™ ProActive Health™ Adult Original with Chicken, are best suited for free-choice feeding because they stay fresh longer.



Nutritional Building Blocks

Cats need nutrients from animal-based protein sources. Providing the vitamins, minerals, protein, and other components found in a complete and balanced pet food can lead to a long and healthy life for your cat. It is important to avoid supplementing your cat's diet, as doing so may lead to a variety of health problems. When selecting a pet food, look for ones that offer the following nutrients:

  • Animal protein from meat, poultry, fish, or egg sources to maintain strong muscular structure, vital organs, antibodies, and more
  • Taurine, an amino acid found in meat sources such as chicken and fish, but not in plant proteins, to maintain healthy eyes, prevent heart disease, and promote healthy reproduction, fetal growth, and development
  • Essential vitamins and minerals such as vitamin A, which can be found pre-formed only in animal tissues, and vitamin E to help support the immune system
  • A precise balance of fatty acids to help promote excellent skin and coat health
  • A fiber source, such as beet pulp, that will help maintain your cat's digestive system health



Special Dietary Needs

Pregnant or Lactating Cats
A cat's energy intake should be increased gradually by up to 50% over her maintenance intake through pregnancy. You can use kitten food to provide nutritional support during the last few weeks of gestation.

After birth, the mother cat's energy needs increase by 50% to 75% over normal in the first week to twice normal the second week and to three times during the third week. The third and fourth weeks are the most demanding because kittens are still consuming milk and have not begun to eat dry or canned food. Once kittens begin weaning, the mother cat should be tapered back to normal food portions to avoid unnecessary weight gain.

Avoiding Obesity
Food and energy requirements may vary for your adult cat. In general, indoor cats have less opportunity or need to exercise than outdoor cats. As a result, indoor cats are more prone to obesity, and regular exercise should be encouraged. You may want to control your cat's portions and choose a cat food made to help maintain weight.

Preventing Hairballs
Cats spend a considerable amount of time grooming. In the process, hair can be swallowed and build up in the stomach. If the hairball doesn’t pass into the intestines, a cat may try to cough it up. A special diet can help decrease the likelihood of hairballs, but you may decrease its effectiveness if you combine it with other foods.

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    Understanding Kitten Food Nutrition Labels

    Understanding Kitten Food Nutrition Labels

    Confused by the ingredient list on your kitten’s food? You’re not alone. Marketing pet foods that have “human-grade ingredients” is becoming commonplace. While appealing to many pet owners, it is important to be aware that the term “human grade” has no legal definition and is used primarily for marketing purposes.

    Foods, typically meats, are labeled either as “edible” or “inedible, not for human consumption.” Once a food leaves the human food chain, even if it is of outstanding quality, it has to be labeled “inedible, not for human consumption.” Therefore, meats used in pet food must be labeled as “inedible,” regardless of the source or quality of the meat. The only way to make a pet food with ingredients deemed “edible” is to never let the meat leave the human food chain and actually manufacture the pet food in a human food facility and transport it using human food trucks. Therefore, advertising a product as containing “human-grade ingredients” is untrue if it is not manufactured in a human food facility. However, just because a pet food isn’t marketed as being “human grade” does not mean that the ingredients are poor quality.



    Here are some tips to help understand ingredient labels:

    • The ingredient list is not the only method you should use to select a pet food, because it doesn’t provide pet owners with enough information about the quality of the ingredients or the nutritional adequacy of the overall diet.
    • Instead of concentrating on ingredients, pet owners and veterinarians should look at the AAFCO nutritional adequacy statement and the quality control protocols of the manufacturer. For more information, see the World Small Animal Veterinary Association’s brochure “Selecting the Best Food for your Pet,” available at  Opens a new window
    • The ingredient list may be arranged to make foods as appealing as possible to consumers by the order of the ingredients (e.g., having lamb first on the ingredient list) or inclusion of seemingly desirable ingredients in the diet, but often in such small amounts that they have little or no nutritional benefits (e.g., artichokes and raspberries listed after the vitamin and mineral supplements).
    • Having more ingredients does not make a diet more nutritious.

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