The health and thus the life expectancy of a cat is based not least on a healthy and balanced diet. The cat’s optimal diet is tailored to its individual needs and general state of health. However, it is often difficult for keepers to identify the ideal feed. That is why nutritional advice for cats is becoming increasingly important.
What is nutritional advice for cats?
Similar to nutritional advice for humans, nutritional advice for cats refers to expert advice on balanced and healthy cat nutrition. This includes advising the owner on feed and its composition, general and individual advice on the optimal cat food, calculating the feed rations and the individual creation of nutrition plans, as well as, if necessary, long-term support for diets and dietary changes. Accordingly, nutritional advice for cats is particularly useful if they are kept in an apartment, since it is often difficult to monitor the cat’s eating habits when they are outdoors.
What should you know about cat nutrition?
Cats are naturally carnivores that have specialized in preying on mice and other small animals for centuries. The cat’s entire digestive system is adapted to this and has developed special nutritional features accordingly.
Cats need more protein compared to many other mammals. Cats are dependent on taking in certain vitamins (e.g. vitamin A) and other nutrients (e.g. the amino acid taurine) through food. Cats also absorb a small but important proportion of carbohydrates and plant-based food through the stomach contents of their prey. However, the proportion is only about five percent, larger proportions of plant food can be difficult to digest due to the short cat stomach. Cats have purely carnivorous teeth with no molars and can therefore not chew, but only break up and swallow the food.
One myth is that cats eat grass because they are also herbivores. That’s not true, cats also eat grass to get some fiber and because they sometimes like it. The primary reason, however, is that they cause nausea. In this way, the cat can give up indigestible leftovers (such as cat hair and fur leftovers from the prey).
Another special feature of the cat’s diet is its eating behavior. Cats in the wild eat about 10 to 20 mice throughout the day. The cat’s digestive system can therefore cope much better with several small portions of food per day than with one large main meal.
When feeding a domestic cat, these biological peculiarities must be taken into account. Because cats are so highly specialized and have a keen sense of smell, they are often picky about food. Hence, they have a reputation as a “gourmet” among pets. Conversely, this does not mean that cats need a varied diet with daily changing menus.
On the contrary: frequent changes of food brands and types of food put a lot of strain on the gastrointestinal tract of cats and should be avoided if possible. Ideally, for a cat in the wild, the menu should be a mouse every day, 365 days a year. Much more important than variety is that the daily food is species-appropriate and contains all the important nutrients.
An indication that the cat prefers a monotonous diet is also the so-called food stamping. Once cats develop a personal preference for a particular food, it is often extremely difficult for owners to switch them to a different food.
However, this does not mean that cats only ever eat what is good for them. The cat’s natural instincts have often been blunted by breeding, learned habits, chemical flavor enhancers, or medical interventions (such as neutering), and malnutrition, obesity, and digestive problems are common results. Therefore, it makes sense to offer kittens different diet options, but not to change diets afterwards (for no reason).
Offering several portions of food throughout the day is good for the cat’s digestion. However, wet food in particular should not be left outside, as it spoils quickly and smells stale to the cat long before humans can notice it. Another peculiarity of cats is that they do not taste “sweet”, but perceive “sour” as tasty. For some cats, therefore, food or water can be increased by adding a little lemon juice.
In contrast to dogs, cats cannot be motivated by food or are more related to people. If you want to tie the cat to you, hunting games or other activities are much better suited than treats.
What are the most common diets in cats?
Most indoor cats are supplied with industrially produced whole food in the form of dry or wet food. This has the practical advantage that feeding is extremely uncomplicated for the owner. However, owners often do not know exactly which ingredients are behind the products and whether they optimally cover the cat’s actual nutritional needs. Although all products advertise that they provide the cat with the best possible nutrition, the grain and sugar content of inferior products or a lack of vitamins and minerals are actually problematic. Industrial additives such as preservatives, flavor enhancers or antibiotic residues can also have long-term health consequences in cats as well as in humans. The most common consequences for cats are obesity, digestive problems and food allergies.
Many pet owners therefore do not trust ready-made food and put their cat’s food together themselves. A current trend is BARFing, raw feeding. With this method, the feed rations consist mainly of raw muscle meat and offal. However, without nutritional background knowledge when putting together the rations, this can lead to serious undersupply and deficiency symptoms.
Some keepers prey, i.e. they feed frozen, rarely live animals such as day-old chicks, rats and mice in order to come as close as possible to the cat’s original diet. However, there is an increased risk of parasites and infectious diseases, both in preying and in BARFing, which can be dangerous for both cats and humans.
Another alternative to cat feeding is home-cooked meals. More and more pet owners cook for themselves and, depending on their own beliefs, feed their cat a mixed diet, vegetarian or even vegan. It is quite possible to feed cats a balanced diet with self-made rations. There are also health factors such as severe allergies that make home cooking necessary. However, the composition of the nutrients must be carefully tailored to the needs of the cat, otherwise there is a risk of undersupply and deficiency symptoms.
Vegetarian and vegan food in particular are questionable here, as they do not correspond to the cat’s typical diet and physiology. From a veterinary point of view, this is not advisable at all, since cats, as explained above, are not omnivores but carnivores. According to § 2 of the Animal Welfare Act, the species-appropriate diet of the cat is also obligatory, i. H. if the diet is not appropriate to the species, the owner is liable to prosecution.
As the owner, you must therefore take responsibility for a healthy and species-appropriate diet and should always consult the veterinarian if you have any questions about the cat’s diet. This is of course easier for indoor cats, but nutrition also plays an important role for outdoor cats. Mixed forms between feeding in the house and free hunting are often found here. The owner has only limited influence on the diet, since one cannot control what and how often the cat hunts and what the neighbor might offer as food. If an outdoor cat has diet-related problems, the outdoor activity should definitely be addressed during the nutritional consultation.
In which cases is nutritional advice recommended for the cat?
Nutritional advice for the cat: for orientation on the food market
Pet nutrition science is constantly evolving, and with it the range of pet foods. In addition to the selection in the specialist stores for animal feed, the online mail order business offers owners a large selection. There is ready-made food in different price ranges, for different age groups, breed-specific food and much more. m. In addition, there is a large number of dietary supplements and special foods such as hypoallergenic food, food made from insects or food for certain diseases. So the question is justified as to which food is actually the best for the cat.
Nutritional advice for cats is becoming increasingly important here as a guide that is based on medical expertise and not on marketing and nutritional trends. In the best case, owners deal with nutritional issues before acquiring the cat. In most cases, kittens are given by the breeder with special kitten or junior food. At the latest when the change to the new food is due, you should seek advice from the veterinarian about the optimal diet for the cat and/or seek nutritional advice for cats.
In general, owners should always consider a change of food or supplements when the cat’s nutritional needs change. If, for example, the movement behavior (free run vs. indoor cat) or the hormones (e.g. in pregnant or lactating cats, or after castration) changes, this always has an effect on the need for nutrients.
Nutritional advice for cats: with individual feeding
Professional cat nutritional advice should also be sought if cat owners wish to mix their own food. Just as nutritional philosophies are a current trend in humans, more and more owners are also dealing with conscious nutrition for their cats. Many do not want to use conventional ready-made food out of conviction. On the one hand, this is due to animal feed scandals that have become public, in which animal feed was found to contain too much pollution and a too high proportion of carbohydrates (especially sugar). On the other hand, nutritional philosophies that apply to humans are often transferred to cats, for example that good nutrition must be freshly prepared, only organic food is used or the cat should eat vegetarian/vegan like its master or mistress.
Attention: The number of cats with nutritional deficiencies, parasites and secondary diseases increases due to incorrectly compiled nutrition plans by the owners! In contrast to ready-made food, each ration must be carefully put together when switching to an individual nutrition plan. The cat’s nutritional plans must not be based on human preferences, but must correspond to the needs of the cat. Therefore, nutritional advice for cats should always be sought when planning an individual diet.
Owners should also inform the vet about the (new) composition of the cat’s food. This is the only way the veterinarian can establish possible connections between the special diet and symptoms of the disease and ensure the correct medication during the diagnosis.
Nutritional advice for cats: in the case of health restrictions
For cats, nutritional advice is also becoming increasingly important in therapy. On the one hand, this is due to the fact that many cats are much older and therefore suffer more from illnesses or receive medication that necessitate a change in diet or special food supplements (e.g. obesity, diabetes, joint damage). This is related to the changed living conditions of the domestic cat (e.g. breed breeding, lack of exercise, castration).
In addition, cats are increasingly developing intolerances or allergies to components of the food, e.g. B. proteins, certain grains or feed additives. Unfortunately, incorrectly designed nutritional plans also increase the number of cats with nutritional deficiencies, parasites and gastrointestinal problems. This applies in particular to cats on a vegetarian or vegan diet, but also cats with an unbalanced raw diet or such cooked rations.
Signs of allergies or problems with the food include symptoms such as:
These can be digestive problems, but also indications of allergies and metabolic disorders. These include symptoms such as:
Conspicuous eating habits (e.g. loss of appetite, refusal to eat)
Digestive problems (e.g. frequent flatulence, diarrhea, constipation, vomiting)
Changes in the coat (e.g. coat or hair loss)
Unpleasant fur smell, bad breath
Lack of vitality.
With all these symptoms, it is always necessary to first clarify with the veterinarian whether diseases are involved!
In addition, there are various health reasons that require a change in diet, a special diet or additional preparations. Obesity is probably the most common “civilization disease” of indoor cats, and nutritional advice can help with this. But other common diseases (e.g. problems with teeth and gums, diabetes, chronic kidney failure, bladder infections, urinary crystals, musculoskeletal problems, etc.) can also be positively influenced by a change in diet or even cured without medication. In these cases, the vet will discuss the dietary change themselves or recommend cat nutritional counseling. There are also diseases or operations where cats can only recover with selected cooking rations.
In the case of health problems with nutrition, the veterinarian will often recommend a change in diet himself or refer the owner to a nutritional advice service for cats.
How does nutritional counseling work for cats?
Nutritional advice for dogs and cats is provided on the one hand by trained veterinarians, but also by freelance nutritionists for dogs and cats. The vet should always be the first address, especially when it comes to the cat’s health problems. The veterinarian will also advise on this if nutritional problems are diagnosed.
Not all vets offer nutritional advice, especially when it comes to providing ongoing advice on meal plans for home-cooked meals. Here the offers of the independent animal nutritionists are often more extensive. With such nutritional advice for cats, the owner is comprehensively asked about the likes and dislikes of the cat and their own feeding requirements. Then it is clarified what needs to be considered in relation to the health status of the cat with regard to the composition of the food. With good nutritional advice for cats, you will receive well-founded information and will be advised independently of the feed manufacturer when choosing a product. An individual feeding plan is created that is tailored to the needs of the cat and the wishes of the pet owner. In addition, owners receive tips on how to optimize their own behavior, for example if the cat has difficulty accepting the changeover to the new food. Furthermore, especially in the case of cats that refuse to eat, the nutritionist is a personal contact with whom the gradual change in diet and individual problems can be discussed.
If there is no nutritional advice for cats near your home, online advice is now a common option. How often meetings or consultations are necessary for nutritional advice depends on the individual case.
However, from a legal point of view, animal nutritionists or nutritional advice for cats is not a protected term. There are also courses in this regard in Germany, but theoretically everyone can give themselves this title and market themselves accordingly on the Internet. Therefore, when choosing a freelance nutritionist, one should first obtain references from the veterinarian. It should be ensured that it is a professionally trained animal nutritionist who can demonstrate specialist knowledge of feed science and animal nutrition. It also makes sense to visit a nutritionist for the cat nearby so that the nutritionist can check the cat’s health at regular intervals. A reputable animal nutritionist should always be able to provide information about what training he has completed. In addition, the advice should be provided independently of sponsors from the animal feed industry.
The cost of nutritional advice for cats varies from case to case and depends on the fees of the respective veterinarian or nutritionist. Reputable providers will inform you about the costs incurred before the treatment begins.
Conclusion: Why is nutritional advice becoming increasingly important for cats?
For both ideological and health reasons, the issue of nutrition is getting more and more of a spotlight for many cat owners. It is well known that a high quality and balanced diet is important for a cat’s health and quality of life. The optimal composition of the diet varies from cat to cat. With professional nutritional advice for cats, the food can be tailored to breed, gender, age, weight, state of health and other individual factors.
Depending on the motives for the change in diet, however, caution is also required. Many changes or diet models that do not cover all nutrients should be viewed critically from a veterinary point of view. And not all nutritional advice for cats is reputable!
The first point of contact for questions about the cat’s diet should therefore always be the treating veterinarian. Regardless of whether the cat shows digestive problems or the owner wants a change, it is always advisable to address the subject openly. If the vet doesn’t even provide nutritional advice themselves, they can certainly make recommendations for tried and tested cat foods and a nutritionist.