Just like people, pets need to eat the right diet and get enough exercise to stay fit and healthy. But as many of us know this is not always easy!
In this handy guide, you’ll find lots of information on feeding and exercise to help keep your cat healthy and happy. And if your cat is carrying a few extra pounds, there is also advice on how you can help them lose weight and get back into shape.
Your cat needs the right food to stay healthy and happy. The type and amount depend on their breed, species, age, health and lifestyle. Your cat needs fresh water to drink at all times.
What should I feed my cat?
Life-stage feeding matches your cats diet to what they need at different ages and stages of development. For example, kittens need different food from older cats because their bodies are still growing. Feeding your cat a complete food is the easiest way to make sure they get all the nutrients they need.
- You will find guidelines on how much to feed on the packet.
- You can check you’re feeding the right amount by weighing the food out.
How often should I feed my cat?
Cats prefer lots of small meals rather than one large one. They graze, eating between eight and sixteen times a day so it is best to leave food out for them, unless there is a chance it will go off or be eaten by another cat. It’s a good idea to weigh out your cat’s food at the start of the day. Most cats are very good at knowing how much they need to eat, but some are greedy! If your cat is eating too much and putting on weight, it may be better to feed them three to four meals a day, instead of leaving food out. If your cat is hunting and eating the prey, they need much less food in the house.
Should I give my cat milk?
Our vets recommend that you don’t give cats milk to drink. Cow’s milk contains sugar that cats find hard to digest, which can cause tummy upsets.
What about food scraps?
Do not feed leftovers, bits of meat and other scraps because:
- Cats that are used to getting scraps may refuse to eat their normal food without them.
- It unbalances the cats regular diet, and they often get overweight.
- Your cat may misbehave during your mealtimes, thinking they are going to get food.
What it means if your cat is overweight
For cats being overweight can cause a whole host of health problems. These can include heart, liver and joint problems, breathing difficulties and diabetes; obese cats also find it harder to exercise and cope with hot weather.
Cats put on weight simply by eating more food than they need. Luckily, in most cases, the answer is simple: it just takes time and a bit of effort to get them back into shape.
Pets rely on us to keep them fit and healthy. Cats are designed to be active in short bursts, so playing with them is the best way to make sure they get enough exercise, especially if they live indoors. It is also a great way to bond with them and show them how much you love them!
Most cats love playing games, especially with:
- Things they can hit. Cats enjoy batting at light things that move easily across the floor: a ball of paper is ideal. Its important not to give them anything they can chew up or swallow.
- Things they can chase. Wind up toys, or a piece of string dragged across the floor, will turn even a couch potato into a hunter. Store the string in a sealed container.
- Things they can climb into. Cats can have hours of fun with an empty box.
- Things they can scratch. Scratching keeps a cat’s claws sharp and tones their shoulder and back muscles. A scratching post will meet this need.
Although it is tempting, it is not a good idea to use your hand or fingers as ‘bait’. Your cat will think it is okay to scratch and bite you.
It is important not to make big or sudden changes to your cat’s diet or exercise routine. If you have any questions or concerns, we will be happy to help.
Special cat toys and activities will help to keep your cat busy and interested in life. This is important because cats that are bored tend to eat too much and get fat. Getting them a new toy every now and again is a perfect treat and much better for them than extra food.
What you can do to help
Start by coming to see us. Our nurses will be able to tell if there is some other reason your cat is putting on weight. We run FREE weight clinics for pets.
It is best for your cat to lose weight gradually: about 1% of their starting weight each week is a good target. If your cat is just slightly overweight, feeding a bit less, or changing to a lower-calorie food may be all you need to do. Cats that are very fat or obese may need a special diet, as reducing their food too much may mean they don’t get all the nutrients they need which can also cause liver problems. Our nursing team can advise you on this.
Another top tip is to keep a food diary for a week and take it with you when you come to see our nurses. This can help you spot where your cat is getting extra calories and makes it easier to cut them out without a special diet. As well as diet, exercise is very important in helping your cat to lose weight.