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Nutrition Nuggets
 
 
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.

How Long Can My Cat Be Fed a 'Critical Care Diet'?

October 18, 2013 / (1) comments

A couple of weeks back, TheOldBroad ask about the appropriateness of feeding critical care diets to cats on a long-term basis. “It's very palatable and the critters seem to really like it,” TheOldBroad said. “However, it's my understanding that it's not a good option for a long-term diet.”

TheOldBroad is right. Cats do really like these critical care/recovery type diets. They have been designed to be very appealing so that patients with poor appetites find them hard to resist. They are also highly digestible and calorie and nutrient dense, so even if a cat eats a relatively small amount, he or she receives a big nutritional boost.

For me, answering the question of whether or not these products are appropriate for long-term feeding depends on one’s definition of “long-term.” If we are talking about a cat who has been diagnosed with a terminal disease, has a life-expectancy in the range of weeks to a month or two, and is uninterested in other foods, I say “yes.” I do not believe that any nutritional deficiencies that might develop over such a relatively short period of time would be significant enough to adversely affect the cat’s outcome. And let’s be honest, when we’re dealing with end of life care, we’re often more concerned with quality rather than quantity of life. Do we want to put these cats through the stress of an unwanted change in diet or spoil them rotten and give them anything that they want?

Cats who have become addicted to these foods as they are recovering from illness are a different story, however. If you look closely, you’ll see that these products are labeled for both dogs and cats. Even though some say they meet the AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) Cat Food and Dog Food Nutrient Profiles for Maintenance (others do not make this claim), it is impossible for one formulation to provide optimal nutrition to both dogs and cats.

Here’s a comparison of one manufacturer’s critical care food and one of their adult maintenance, canned diets for dogs and cats:

cat food, dog food, critical care pet food

You can see that they are quite different in many regards.

When a cat has developed a strong preference for a particular food, making a dietary change is an exercise in patience. Go v-e-r-y slowly.

Find a life-stage appropriate canned food that has a similar list of ingredients to the critical care/recovery diet. If you can find one that has a smooth consistency similar to the recovery foods, go with that one. If not, put flaked or chunked foods in the blender (adding a little water if necessary) before mixing the old and new together. Gradually increase the amount of new food you are mixing with the old. It may take weeks until your cat is eating only the new food and a few more before you can put the blender away, but getting him or her back on an optimal diet is worth the effort.

Dr. Jennifer Coates

Image: Thinkstock

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Comments  1

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  • Dinner
    10/18/2013 08:13pm

    "a life-expectancy in the range of weeks to a month or two"

    If I had a critter with a life-expectancy of less than 10 weeks or even a few months, they could have anything they want to eat - even if it's people food. I would do anything in my power to make their last days happy ones.

 



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.

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