Here are 10 common mistakes some cat parents make when it comes to feeding cats:
1. Dog Food
It may come as a surprise as to why someone would feed dog food to a cat but it happens more often than you’d think. Many times, it just becomes easier in a multipet household to let the pets eat from whatever bowl they want. Unfortunately, this can have serious health complications. Dog food doesn’t have enough protein for cats. Dog food is also not supplemented with taurine and that’s something cats require in their diet. Since cat food has more protein (and more fat), if your dog eats it on a regular basis it can result in kidney problems as well as obesity.
Tuna as a treat now and then is harmless but as a steady diet can lead to malnutrition. Tuna doesn’t have adequate amounts of vitamin E and this may lead to a condition called steatitis (also known as yellow fat disease). Tuna has a very strong taste and smell so many cats can become addicted to it. Veterinarians refer to them as “tuna junkies.” The problem can be serious because these tuna junkies may refuse to eat anything else. The other problem with a steady diet of tuna is that there’s a risk of mercury poisoning.
3. Raw Fish
Raw fish contains an enzyme called thiaminase which destroys thiamine (one of the B vitamins). A thiamine deficiency may lead to appetite loss, seizure and also death. Although cooking destroys the enzyme, a steady diet of fish doesn’t provide adequate amounts of necessary vitamins and minerals. Fish is not a typical diet for cats and unless they’re exposed to it through their human companions or if it’s their only food source, they would prefer meat sources. There is also the risk of parasites when feeding raw fish.
Once weaned, most cats become lactose intolerant. Although some cats don’t have a problem with the occasional milk treat, offering milk on a regular basis often leads to diarrhea. Milk is not to be a replacement for water and if offered instead, it can lead to dehydration.
Tablescraps aren’t a balanced diet for cats and most are too fatty and spicy. A diet that contains more than 10% tablescraps can lead to deficiencies. In addition to the nutritional concerns, feeding tablescraps can also lead to behavior problems such as begging and food-stealing. Food with bones can lead to choking. Some bones, such as chicken, can splinter and cause injury to the esophagus.
If you’re feeding a well-balanced, good quality diet you shouldn’t have to supplement your cat’s food. Unless your veterinarian advises otherwise, don’t add extra supplements to the food because you can increase them to toxic levels.
Cats are obligate carnivores and must get their vitamin A from meat sources. A diet lacking proper amounts of meat will lead to serious deficiencies and possibly death. If you are a vegetarian, you must not include your cat in that way of life or he will suffer.
Obesity is at epidemic proportions in the pet world. We are simply killing our cats with food. We feed too much and don’t provide enough opportunities for activity. Many cats don’t have anything to do other than waddle from the sofa to the food bowl.
Feeding guidelines on food packaging are very general and may not apply to YOUR particular cat. Consult your veterinarian about how much food your kitty should receive on a daily basis.
9. Inappropriate Stage of Life
Pet food labels include information regarding stage of life. Kitten food, for example, contains more protein and fat than adult cat food and is appropriate for the first year of life. Some foods are labeled for senior cats, young cats, inactive cats, etc. There are also therapeutic diets for specific health concerns. Feed the appropriate food for your cat’s stage of life. If you have any questions, consult with your veterinarian.
10. Too Many Treats
Treats aren’t a replacement for a well-balanced diet. Treats are highly palatable but they don’t contain the necessary nutrients a cat needs for a healthy daily diet. If you feed treats too often then kitty won’t have enough of an appetite for his regular food.
Need More Information?
For more specifics on nutrition, understanding cat food labels or how to deal with mealtime behavior problems, refer to the book Think Like a Cat.
Note: the information in this article isn’t meant as a medical diagnosis and isn’t a replacement for veterinary care. If you have questions about your cat’s nutrition or health, consult your veterinarian. Your veterinarian can also guide you on the appropriate food to feed as well as the amount.
Pam Johnson-Bennett is the star of Psycho Kitty airing on Discovery UK. She is author of seven best-selling books on cat behavior including Think Like a Cat: how to raise a well-adjusted cat – not a sour puss. Think Like a Cat has become known as the cat bible. Pam is considered a pioneer in the field of cat behavior consulting. In addition to her television series and public speaking engagements, Pam owns Cat Behavior Associates, a private veterinarian-referred behavior company in Nashville, TN. Cat Behavior Associates offers private cat behavior appointments on a limited basis. Pam Johnson-Bennett is a Certified Cat Behavior Consultant.