Hi stranger! Signing up for MypetMD is easy, free and puts the most relevant content at your fingertips.

Get Instant Access To

  • 24/7 alerts for pet-related recalls

  • Your own library of articles, blogs, and favorite pet names

  • Tools designed to keep your pets happy and healthy



or Connect with Facebook

By joining petMD, you agree to the Privacy Policy.

petMD Blogs

Written by leading veterinarians to provide you with the information you need to care for your pets.

 
 
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.

Feed Cats Like They Eat in the 'Wild'

April 15, 2016 / (1) comments

Researchers have done a lot of work to determine what the feline “natural” diet looks like. The reason is simple. Many of the most common feline diseases we diagnose these days are linked to how and what we feed our cats. Obesity and diabetes mellitus are obvious examples.

 

One study looked at how feral cats get their food. It showed that a “typical” feral cat will kill and eat approximately nine mice throughout the day, with a number of unsuccessful hunts scattered in as well. Another paper revealed that feral cats got 52% of their calories from protein and 46% from fat, which only leaves 2% available to come from carbohydrates.

 

So, left to their own devices, cats will eat multiple small meals throughout the day that are high in protein, high in fat, and low in carbohydrates. But that’s not all. These cats have to work to get their food. Their behavior is characterized by periods of rest broken up by short bursts of relatively intense activity.

 

This is quite unlike a typical housecat’s diet and exercise regime. Commercially available cat foods, particularly dry formulations, are generally much higher in carbohydrates than is the “natural” feline diet. If cats are fed canned food, they probably eat two meals a day (three if they’re lucky). Most cats who eat dry food have access to it all day long, which on the surface seems better since they can help themselves to small meals whenever they want, but this is the perfect set-up for obesity when cats don’t have to work for their food.

 

Short of releasing a bunch of live mice into your house for your cat to hunt every day, what’s the answer?

 

Pick your cat food wisely. High protein, moderate to high fat, and low carbohydrate formulations are generally best. Most quality canned foods fit this profile, and contrary to what you might have heard, a few dry varieties do a pretty good job as well.  Here’s the nutritional profile of one dry food taken from the website of its manufacturer:

  • Crude Protein 52.76%
  • Crude Fat 23.86%
  • Carbohydrate 8.41%

 

Consider purchasing a timed feeder that allows you to schedule multiple meals (preferably at least six) throughout the day. Feeders like these are also a godsend when cats want to eat in the wee hours of the morning. Another option is to place multiple food bowls in out of the way parts of the home, ideally in areas that make cats climb stairs or otherwise exercise before they eat. Food dispensing toys that cats have to roll around the house can also be helpful.

 

Don’t forget to make use of your cat’s natural hunting instincts to encourage exercise. Play with your cat several times a day using a kitty fishing pole, laser pointer, or other chase and pounce type toy. Your efforts to improve your cat’s diet and promote exercise will be rewarded with better health and fewer trips to the veterinary clinic.

 

Comments  1

Leave Comment
  • Very nice post
    07/14/2016 04:26am

    This is really a best guidance for feeding the older cat. Several diseases can affect cats as they age. The Old cat should eat a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet. The older cats often require higher levels of vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants.

 



ABOUT NUTRITION NUGGETS

JENNIFER COATES, DVM

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.


 
MORE FROM PETMD.COM