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Your cat's nutrition is important for a healthy & happy life. petMD experts help you to know what to feed your cat, how much food to feed, and the differences in cat foods, so your cat gets optimum nutrition.
Nutrition Nuggets is the newest offshoot of petMD's Cat Nutrition Center. Each week Dr. Coates will use her expertise and wisdom to blog about the intricacies of cat nutrition.

What to Feed a New Cat

November 13, 2015 / (3) comments

I just adopted a new cat!


Our old girl, Victoria, died a few months ago. Truth be told, I was enjoying life without litterboxes and did not feel in need of a new feline friend. But what was I to do when the “perfect” cat for my family needed a home?


Minerva (named after Minerva McGonagall, the professor from Harry Potter who routinely morphs into a cat) had been hanging out around a friend’s house for several weeks. My 2-year-old son and I were visiting one day when she approached us. After enjoying several minutes of head butts and ridiculously loud purring, I thought, “What a sweetie! How many cats actually seem to enjoy the company of a 2-year-old?”


To make a long story short, my friend eventually started fostering Minerva, had her scanned for a microchip (none present), kept an eye out for “Lost Cat” signs, and then began asking around to see if anyone was interested in adopting her. The rest, as they say, is history.


Before I brought Minerva home I made a trip to the nearest pet supply store –

  • Litterbox… check
  • Litter… check
  • Scratching post… check
  • Toys… check
  • Bowls… check
  • Food…  Oh no! What was I going to feed her?


Initially, I took the easy way out. I knew what my friend had been feeding Minerva so I decided to stick with that, at least during her transition to our house. A change in diet is the last thing a cat needs to deal with when her whole life is in upheaval.


Now that she’s settled in nicely and her first bag of kibble is about to run out, I’m faced with the question every new cat owner must answer: “What type of food should I buy?”


I believe that feeding a diet of primarily canned food is best for many cats. The higher moisture content and protein level and lower carbohydrate percentage may be associated with a reduced incidence of obesity, diabetes mellitus, and several diseases of the urinary tract. That said, I’ve known many a cat who has lived a long and healthy life while eating only dry cat food. I sure hope Minerva turns out to be one of them because I’ve decided that to avoid throwing the family schedule into turmoil, we’re going to have to feed her dry food and leave it out all day long.


But I’ve come up with a plan to offset some of the problems that can be associated with feeding cats in this way:

  • The diet that I have chosen for her is very high in protein and low in carbohydrates.
  • I’ve purchased a puzzle feeder. She is going to have to work for her food, which should lead to her eating multiple, small meals throughout the day.
  • I’ve put her puzzle feeder in an out of the way location that forces her to go up and down stairs and get some exercise.
  • She has ready access to fresh, clean water at all times.


Finally, if I ever get the feeling that her health would be significantly improved by switching her to a canned diet, I’ll do just that.



Dr. Jennifer Coates



Image: Eva101 / Flickr

Comments  3

Leave Comment
  • Sympathies and Congrats!
    11/13/2015 06:26pm

    I'm so terribly sorry about Victoria.

    Congratulations on your new addition! Minerva sounds wonderful! You're right. How many cats actually enjoy the company of a toddler?

    Looking forward to pictures.

  • Dry food only?
    03/29/2016 12:05pm

    Why would you withhold wet food purely for your own convenience? It takes all of a minute to open a can and put food in a dish on your way out the door.
    After saying that wet food is better for cats - that's exactly what you decided to do? Really?

  • 03/29/2016 07:18pm

    I'm with you FlaladyB. Dry food is so far removed from what a cat would eat in the wild, I find it cruel that Minerva is offered only that. A friend has had her cat on dry food only for years and has also spent thousands of dollars on vet expenses for her cat's diabetes and hypothyroidism, but has still not bothered changing the cat's diet. How hard is it to open a can?




Photo of Jennifer

... graduated with honors from the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine in 1999. In the years since, she has practiced veterinary medicine in Virginia, Wyoming, and Colorado. She is the author of several books about veterinary medicine and animal care, including the Dictionary of Veterinary Terms, Vet-Speak Deciphered for the Non-Veterinarian .

Jennifer also writes short stories that focus on the strength and importance of the human-animal bond and freelance articles relating to a variety of animal care and veterinary topics. Dr. Coates lives in Fort Collins, Colorado with her husband, daughter, and pets.