Beware of Misleading Guidance on Feeding Cats

Learning just about everything about our kitties is really important. But don’t worry for a moment. There’s a plethora of information about felines from which to choose for your edification available at bookstores, magazine stands and floating around on the Internet. There you can find a wide assortment of books, articles and scientific papers related to feline health and wellness, behavioral concerns that are puzzling, and loads of advice on nutrition.

Pet food in a store in the UK

Pet food in a store in the UK. Photo: LK9 Premium Pet Food.

But the expression caveat emptor, buyer beware, is one that is fitting. While there is an astounding amount of accurate and well written material to peruse; be careful. Unfortunately some information is extremely confusing, limited, misleading and often just dead wrong.

As an example, the other day I ran across an article in a highly prestigious feline magazine on how to feed cats based on their life stages. It got me so hopping mad! This one-sided article was written in part based on the opinions of a veterinarian whose expertise is in feline veterinary nutrition and obesity prevention. This article advised that in order to prevent obesity, kittens should be fed only twice a day, with the highest affordable dry or moist kitten food. Twice a day?

Since kittens are extremely active, they burn calories like crazy. Many feline-savvy nutritional experts recommend feeding kittens four times a day until they are at least 6-8 months old. What I found fascinating was when I compared the labels of a can of high quality kitten food and a can of adult cat food; the kitten food is a 11% minimum crude protein while the adult food is a minimum 10%. Some veterinarians believe that even these amounts are not sufficient.

Felines are obligate carnivores meaning that they need animal tissue (meat) to meet their dietary requirements. Since cats lack amylase in their saliva they are not able to digest carbohydrates. Plant protein is not at all appropriate. Guess what? Dry food is loaded with carbohydrates and doesn’t offer sufficient water.

The magazine article stresses the importance of not permitting cats to graze. To prevent grazing it’s suggested that once the cat has finished eating (even if there is food remaining in the dish) that the bowl should be removed.

But isn’t this hard and fast feeding rule ignoring the fact that there are cats who do extremely well when grazing? As far as I am concerned, as long as the amount of intake of grazed food equals the equivalent of a can of cat food divided into two portions a day; why not offer them food more often?

Not to throw the baby out with the bathwater, there is some excellent scientifically based information about feline nutrition available too. Articles stressing the importance of feeding high quality protein to cats as they age written by Dr. Karen Becker who is in the video:

Dr. Lisa Pierson’s article “Feeding Your Cat: Knowing The Basics of Feline Nutrition” on her site: catfinfo.org is a goldmine of fascinating, accurate information.

As I see it, the problem we have in feeding cats appropriately is that many commercial cat foods on the market are selling products geared for age-specific and even breed specific foods with flashy advertising appealing to the public. But are we doing justice to our kitties? I often feel that it’s not so much.

What do you think? Tell us your opinion in a comment.

Jo

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Beware of Misleading Guidance on Feeding Cats — 9 Comments

  1. I hate to say it so harshly but…..all the dry cat food is made for the benefit of the manufacturers because it is easy to store and transport etc.. It should all be banned or most of it.

    The pet food industry is a bit of a scam as far as I am concerned. There needs to be a rethink. Some experts are really good: straight talking and knowledgeable but a lot of it is not written by people who are genuinely expert.

  2. What king of idiot thinks that obesity is an issue with kittens which are not only highly active but also growing and thus need all the food they can get? Only the recommendation to give dry food in itself is a red flag that indicates incompetence.
    In general very little attention is drawn to the main failings of dry cat food, all brands whether cheap or rip-off, is their unsuitability as feline nutrition through the lack of high quality animal, fish, or fowl protein, the high level of useless carbohydrates, and the plant protein which is of limited nutritional value.
    The problem is when so–called experts who use that status to irresponsibly direct people towards unsuitable commercial food. People think ” Oh he or she is an expert. That must be true”, but as we can see that advice is often not only baloney, but dangerous. These “experts” often appear in high profile popular magazines and write books which makes them all the more dangerous.

  3. Cat ‘experts’ don’t know everything, I think good cat caretakers know much more than they do, including the best way of feeding our cats.
    It’s just a shame that gullible people might read the ‘advice’ of those ‘experts’ and the ones to suffer will be their cats.
    We have fed our cats on demand for 40 years, they have been/are fit and healthy, it only takes common sense to learn how to care for cats.

  4. I have learnt to demand feed my cats since Tiggy was old and unwell,and it has worked well with the others so I’ve stuck with it. They have a pouch or 2 a day and I put a bowl of dry food dowm for them to snack on fresh water too !!

    • Sounds like me. I feed Charlie on demand but don’t always respond or I respond by restricting the amount. I put down a bit of dry food for grazing at night. Hills Light. He eats very little dry food. Charlie tends not to like the very expensive cat foods which is disappointing.

  5. I believe in leaving dry food out 24/7 and believe it or not not one of my 7 cats is over weight. Dry food helps keep tartar off their teeth. I also if you can believe this take one can of chicken & gravy cat food (smaller size not large cans) and a even smaller different brand and divide it between 6 of the cats. Having one cat that just was found with a problem with a stone in her bladder (Removed) I do not give her any kind of moist cat food because it has too much calcium in it. She is on a special diet for the rest of her life and I just have to make sure I have her checked about every 6 -8 weeks for now to see how it is working for her.

    • Hi Amy. Thank you for commenting. I think you will find that the general view is that dry cat food does not keep tartar off the teeth of a cat. The idea is that the firmness of the food brushes against the teeth and thereby cleans the teeth but in truth I don’t think this theory is a reality but there are no definitive studies on that.

      You may know that dry cat food can exacerbate a tendency to develop a urinary tract infection in a cat because it is dry and therefore the cat urinates less often and is partly dehydrated so the urinary tract becomes a better place the bacteria to develop. I think that is fairly well accepted amongst veterinarians at present.

  6. Thanks for a great article. After years of be owned by many animals I have learned to read labels and bags and decide what is best for the cats, goats and sheep.
    I take a rather slow burn at some people that work in the local pet food super store in our area. At the check out counter one day the sales clerk tried to tell me that the food I was buying was substandard. My reply was that most foods are not to my liking but I had done enough research to know that the food I was buying was best for my cats. The clerk gave me a nasty look and told me that with the food I was buying my cats would not have a long healthy life. My only reply was, ” Thanks for that observation. I will tell all my senior cats what you said.” At that point she asked ages of the cats. Currently their ages run from 9 years to 18 years of age. Our 26 year old just passed away recently. The clerk shuttith her mouth.
    Learn about nutrition, read labels, be informed. I sometime listen to our vet. She no longer pushes her recommended foods. We understand that my cats’ nutrition is more important than her making money.

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