The pet food industry is large, with a huge range of diets and advice on offer, which can be overwhelming. There are diets for everything: different breeds, different ages, different medical conditions – you name it! This blog aims to clear up any confusion and give cat owners advice on where to get started. If you are concerned about your cat’s diet, your veterinary team are always available to give advice.
Table of contents
- What should I look for in a cat food?
- How much food do they need?
- Why would my cat need a breed specific diet?
- What do the diets actually do?
- What if my non-pedigree cat eats some breed specific diet?
- If I have a pedigree cat do I have to feed a breed-specific diet?
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What should I look for in a cat food?
Like all cat species, domestic cats are carnivores (primarily eat meat), and are well adapted to hunt their food. They are actually so dependent on meat that they are ‘obligate carnivores’; they cannot thrive without meat forming a substantial part of their diet. This means that they have quite specific dietary requirements which are very different from humans, dogs or other species.
The easiest way to ensure your cat gets a balanced diet with all their nutritional needs met is to feed them a good-quality cat food. Cat diets are usually either ‘complete’ or ‘complementary’. A complete diet is one that provides all the nutrients that your cat will need and so are a good choice. Fresh water must be available daily. You can feed your cat wet food, dry food or a mixture of both.
How much food do they need?
Different diets vary in their recommendations, so always check the label on your chosen diet. These labels are based on average needs, so the best way to know if your cat is being fed enough is to monitor their weight and body condition. If you are concerned your cat is not eating enough, or too much, consult your vet for advice. Neutered pets need less energy daily and are prone to weight gain, so may need less food than they did before neutering.
Cats are grazers, and would naturally hunt small prey and eat up to 10-12 times a day! They are not well adapted to eating a single big meal daily. If your cat is fed on dry food, replace it fresh daily, or put small amounts down at a time to allow grazing. Wet food is trickier, as many owners prefer not to leave it lying around, so should be given in small amounts and must be replaced at least twice daily.
Why would my cat need a breed specific diet?
Pedigree cats, although not as common as their canine counterparts, are still popular pets. The different breeds have different body shapes, coat lengths, activity levels and propensity to certain diseases. There are now diets available for some of the most common breeds, designed specifically with the individualities of the breed in mind.
What do the diets actually do?
Here are some of the breeds with individual breed diets available, and how these diets are tailored to the breed.
Maine Coons are one of the largest breeds of cat, and have very long thick coats. Breed diets for these cats tend to contain joint supplements, as their weight makes them more likely to suffer from arthritis and other joint diseases. They also often contain ingredients such as L-tyrosine and fish oils which can help keep their long coats healthy and glossy. The diets tend to be high in very digestible protein, as Maine Coons generally have high energy requirements as they are so big.
Persians are another long-haired breed, and therefore the breed diets often contain fish oils and L-tyrosine again. They are also brachycephalic (flat-faced). This means they can struggle to pick up small kibble pieces and are prone to dental disease. The breed specific kibble pieces are shaped to help them be easily eaten, and are also formulated for good dental health. Persian cats are also much more likely than other breeds to develop bladder stones, and so the breed diet is also designed to maintain bladder health and prevent crystals forming in the urine.
Siamese cats are known to eat very quickly. And are then prone to regurgitating the food back up as it was taken in too fast. Their diets often have kibble shaped to help slow eating and try and prevent this happening. They are also high in protein and L-carnitine to maintain the lean figure they are known for.
What if my non-pedigree cat eats some breed specific diet?
It doesn’t matter! Breed diets are designed with that breed in mind, but as long as they are a complete diet, they are fine to be fed to any cat. The only diets that might need restricting to other household cats are prescription diets for certain medical conditions.
If I have a pedigree cat do I have to feed a breed-specific diet?
Not at all. Breed diets can be useful as they cater for many factors that you might want to consider when feeding a pedigree cat. However, the most important elements are less about breeds and more about individual health: a Persian with hairball issues will need similar nutritional help to a long-haired moggie with the same problem. A large moggie would benefit from a diet with joint supplements just as a Maine Coon does.
Breed diets have been developed to counter certain health issues that are more prevalent in certain breeds. However, each cat is an individual and the most important thing is that they are fed a good quality complete cat food that will fulfil their nutritional needs. If you would like to discuss which diet may be best for your pet, speak to your veterinary surgeon.