A Little Bit About Cats
Mistakes feeding cats are generally due to a lack of knowledge about how our feline friends evolved and became domesticated. Feeding cats in an evolutionarily, biologically, and behaviorally appropriate way improves their health and well-being. An added bonus is that they are less likely to develop behavior problems that are annoying, dangerous, or can even lead to the cat’s euthanasia.
Cats are not just obligate carnivores, requiring meat-based protein for survival. They are also predators, which influences their behavior in more ways than you probably know. Feeding cats properly takes both their nutritional and their behavioral health into account.
In this post, you’ll learn some quick tips about feeding cats for their optimal well-being. Purchasing through our affiliate links will help It Takes a Village Rescue.
Feeding Cats Mistake #1 Feeding Only Dry Food
Dry food (kibble) has a lot of carbohydrates, which is necessary for the manufacturing process of making the food dry. Cats evolved eating 3- 5% of their calories from carbohydrates, and kibble is 30-50% carbs! Unfortunately, the increased carbohydrates negatively impacts the digestibility of proteins, meaning the cat has to eat more in order to maintain their energy requirements. Cats can not derive energy from carbohydrates the way omnivores and herbivores do. The increased consumption of food leads to obesity, which can cause arthritis, diabetes, cancer, bladder stones, heart disease, hypertension, and increased anesthetic risks.
Myth Buster: Regular dry cat food does not improve dental health or prevent dental disease. Only foods like Science Diet t/d or Oral Care, or Royal Canin Dental Care are formulated to prevent dental disease in cats.
I recommend feeding high quality canned cat food, such as Purina ProPlan Complete Essentials, Wellness (especially Core), Fancy Feast, Reveal Natural Grain Free, or Instinct Freeze-Dried Raw.
Use ceramic, glass, or stainless steel bowls and wash them between feedings with hot soapy water. Plastic bowls, even food-safe BPA-free, collect too much bacteria for me to recommend them.
There is a place for a small amount of kibble in a cat’s life. See Mistake #2.
Feeding Cats Mistake #2: Feeding Only in a Bowl
Our predatory feline friends need to hunt. It’s their nature. A cat’s day revolves around hunting. Consider this: a cat in the wild eats about 8 times per day, and is only successful hunting about 30% of the time. That means a cat hunts about 30 times per day! If your cat can safely enjoy the outdoors, that provides a great outlet to perform natural behaviors. It’s not so great for the local bird and rodent population, but at least your cat is happy. And that’s what it’s all about, right? (only slightly kidding)
But what happens if an indoor only cat is fed in a bowl? They still hunt. Anyone who has been attacked by their cat in the middle of the night as they went to the bathroom know this!
So what do you do?
Give the cat an opportunity to hunt their food inside. Take a little bit of dry food (2-3 tablespoons per day total) and put it in food puzzles hidden around the house. Some of my favorites are seen below. You can also just put a couple of kibbles into wadded paper or tin foil balls.
The Our Pets Sushi feeder can be used with canned food as well.
Feeding Cats Mistake #3: Feeding All Cats in One Area
While multiple cats will gather around a bowl or a couple of bowls to eat, they don’t like it. In the wild, cats hunt and eat alone. Forcing them to gather to eat may cause undo stress, which can be manifested with such undesirable behaviors as urinating outside a litter box or fighting. Some cats may get too much food and others not enough. If you don’t have enough space to feed your cats in different areas, perhaps you have too many cats.
There’s no reason that cat food bowls have to be on the ground. You can mount hanging bowls to cat trees and walls so there are plenty of places for each cat to eat in peace. Also keeps friendly fidos from indulging in cat food!
Cats only eat this way when resources are limited. They prefer to eat alone.
Feeding Cats Mistake #4: Providing Water Only in a Bowl
In the desert, flowing water is safe to drink. Stagnant water, like in a bowl, not so much. Cats that eat mostly canned food often don’t drink water as they get plenty from the food. That’s how cats evolved to get their water- from their prey. Cats that eat mostly dry food must drink water. But many won’t drink from a bowl because somewhere in the back of their primal minds, it’s stagnant and nasty.
Cats prefer moving water, from a spigot or a fountain. It’s a bit wasteful to leave the water in your sink or tub running all day, so a fountain is much more practical. Just make sure that the water is replaced daily, and the fountain cleaned according to manufacturer’s instructions to prevent bacterial, fungal, and algal growth. I prefer ceramic or stainless steel bowls that are dishwasher safe, but you still need to clean out the pump parts manually.
Highly rated, easy to clean, quiet, good for cats and small dogs.
Much larger capacity for multiple cats and/or larger dogs.
Stainless Steel, 60 oz, quiet water sounds, easy to clean in dishwasher.
1 gallon stainless steel fountain for multiple cats and/or dogs.
Feeding Cats Mistake #5: Feeding an Unbalanced Diet
Some people prefer to make their own pet food, and that is perfectly acceptable- as long as the recipe is complete and balanced. Cats have very specific requirements for certain nutrients, especially amino acids such as taurine, methioine, and cysteine and vitamins A and D. Feeding strictly skeletal muscle meat (ie, chicken breast, cooked or raw) will kill your cat dead due to deficiencies in these essential nutrients.
If you want to prepare your cat’s food, go to www.balanceit.com and pick your protein, carbohydrate (if desired), fat, and other foods, and it will produce a recipe for you. You will need the supplements to make the diet complete and balanced.
Feeding Cats Mistake #6: Feeding Non-Evolutionary Protein Sources
While our domestic cats are related to lions and tigers, they are not in fact lions or tigers. They did not evolve taking down bovine or ungulate prey, so feeding beef or lamb doesn’t make much sense. Because cats came from the desert, they didn’t have the opportunity to eat much fish either. In fact, beef and fish top the food allergy list for cats.
Most cats do best on poultry or rabbit diets. That isn’t to say that all cats are allergic to beef or fish- some do great on those diets. But if you are switching your cat from kibble to canned, and they are having diarrhea on a fish or beef based diet, try poultry or rabbit. If your cat seems to have trouble with chicken, try duck or turkey- they aren’t the same. Canned food does not cause diarrhea.
If your cat is acting picky, has continued GI problems, or is losing weight, please contact your veterinarian immediately, as these can be signs of serious disease. Kitties in the Sanford and Southern Pines areas of NC can contact us to schedule a Fear Free in-home exam.
Feeding Cats Mistake #7: Adding Toxins to the Cat's Diet
While fleas are blood-sucking insects, they are not actual vampires. Studies have proven that feeding a pet garlic does not prevent fleas from feeding on that pet. Garlic is a toxin, causing hemolytic anemia (destruction of red blood cells). Also not safe for cats: cranberries, rosemary, peppermint, essential oils (I’ve seen cats die from them applied topically never mind consumed), avocado, and vegetable fats.
Sorry folks, garlic doesn’t work on fleas, just vampires!
- Feed a high quality canned food or homemade balanced diet for the bulk of your cat’s meals.
- Give your cat an opportunity to hunt with food-dispensing puzzle toys.
- Have at least one feeding station per cat in separate areas of the home.
- One source of water should be a fountain.
- If your cat develops any signs of GI upset during the transition from dry to canned food, try switching to a different protein source.
- Don’t poison your cat! That one should be obvious….
If you have any questions, feel free to post them below!