A Cat's Daily Diet

Cats need proteins, fats, carbs, water, vitamins and minerals to stay in shape.

More than any other pet, what you feed your cat shows on the outside. With proper nutrition, your cat will be more energetic and have a shiny coat.

Nutrition fundamentals

Protein: Protein should be the biggest part of your cat’s diet. It not only supplies essential substances for growth and repair of body tissue, but also produces the energy your cat needs to run, prowl, and play. Cats can’t convert carbohydrates into energy, so the large part of their nutrition must come from protein and fat.

Taurine: Taurine is a very important amino acid for your cat. Without it, your cat can develop retinal degeneration, which can lead to blindness, heart disease, and developmental abnormalities in kittens. In fact, taurine is so important that the National Research Council outlines in its Nutrient Requirements for Cats a minimum of 0.20% in the diet for growth, reproduction, and adult maintenance.

Fat: While a high fat diet can cause obesity, fat is required in your cat’s diet to absorb vitamins and as a source of fatty acids, which are important for wound healing, reproductive performance, and for a healthy skin and coat. Fat is also a main source of energy for your cat.

Carbohydrates: Some cats have been known to go for the occasional potato chip or even bread, but they are not able to utilize carbohydrates as their primary energy source. High-fiber foods, however, are used in some veterinary prescription diets for weight loss and other diseases.

Water: Water is one of the most important nutrients in your cat’s diet. Canned or “wet” cat food contains up to 75% moisture, which can contribute to your cat’s daily water intake but she should have access to clean fresh water at all times.

Homemade diets: While you might be tempted to cook special meals for your kitty, it is difficult to correctly balance the protein, vitamins, and minerals. A high-quality commercial cat food is usually best for your cat’s overall health and well-being.

Age-dependent needs

Another vital nutritional consideration is your cat’s age: your cat will require different foods at different times in his life. Your kitten will eat differently than your adult cat; and your older cat will require still a different nutritional mix.

  • Kitten’s diet - Focus completely on proper growth and development. You need to provide a good quality kitten or growth food that will have higher a protein and fat content than food formulated for adults. Your young kitten (4-6 weeks) may require a “mush” made of kitten chow softened with water or “kitten milk replacer.” Once your kitten has teeth, she should be able to eat the dry kitten food with no trouble. Free-choice feeding is the best way to see that your kitten gets her daily nutrition. Remember, your kitten is growing and has a small stomach, so it is not unusual for her to eat eight to ten small meals each day.
  • Adult cat’s diet – Most, but not all, adult cats can regulate their feeding if food is left down all day. A regular commercial diet formulated for adult cats (one year or older) is good. The adult cat requires fewer calories than when she was young but may still eat several small meals per day.
  • Senior cat’s diet – Many senior cats (7 – 12 yrs) may require a different diet than the adult cat. The senior cat requires a good quality protein with moderate fat to prevent obesity. Very old cats (12 yrs and older) require high protein, high fat, high calorie foods to support lean body mass and immune function.

A good quality, well balanced diet doesn’t just nourish your cat; it strengthens and helps prevent ailments. Feed your cat the high-quality food that he deserves and you’ll be rewarded with an energetic and healthy companion for years to come.