There are countless options and varieties when it comes to feeding your cat, but how do you know you’re choosing the right one? From food type, to meal timing, water and treating, feeding your cat can be a delicate process.
If you’ve ever been left wondering whether your cat is getting the most she can from mealtime, check out the articles below, where we breakdown the differences between wet and dry food, feeding habits, and how to get the balance just right.
MIXED FEEDING: THE BEST WAY TO MIMIC YOUR CAT’S NATURAL DIET
Thanks to many thousands of years of nature’s opportunities and challenges, your cat’s body, metabolism and dietary needs have evolved to become quite specific—much more so than a dog’s.
Today, even if your cat occasionally hunts and consumes mice, birds or insects, most of her food intake depends on you. Understanding what kinds of food and feeding conditions cats have evolved to favour—meaning why they prefer some textures and temperatures, and their unique hydration balance—can help you make the right choices.
Studies have shown that mixed feeding—combining both nutritionally complete dry and wet foods every day—is best adapted to fulfil your cat’s health needs because it comes the closest to the species-specific behaviour that cats first developed in the wild.
1. Cats crave the crunch of dry food
Sticky cartilage from prey is what cleans cats’ teeth in the wild, not its bones, as some have said. But crunch is naturally satisfying to cats. In nature, they fulfil the craving by eating protein-rich insects. If you’ve ever watched your cat chase and trap a bug, now you know one reason why. However, a diet of exclusively dry food can make dehydration a bigger risk for your cat.
2. Cats evolved to get their hydration from prey
Cats love the texture of dry food, but they need moist food too. Why? They evolved in dry climates like the African plains, where their main source of hydration was the blood and water in prey like mice and birds. With mixed feeding, you can maintain this healthy hydration balance by making sure part of their daily diet includes helpings of moisture-rich wet food.
Cats naturally seek out water, too. Make sure your cat always has a bowl full of clean, fresh water in a place that’s easy for her to find and come back to. If your cat is a light drinker, you can also put multiple bowls around your home, making finding water even easier.
3. Meat is the most important ingredient
Unlike dogs, who are natural omnivores, cats belong to a group of species called “obligate carnivores.” This means their health depends on them eating meat, with its important quantities of proteins, fats, amino acids, vitamins and minerals. Both the wet and dry foods made by PURINA ONE provide healthy levels of these crucial ingredients. They’re also studied for overall palatability by the cats in PURINA ONE’s pet care centre.
4. Cats like food at “mouse temperature” best
That means the wet food in their daily diet should be served at room temperature. If it comes straight from the refrigerator, help bring it up to ambient temperature by stirring and mashing it up vigorously before serving.
5. Cats prefer certain times of day for eating
Getting the best results out of a mixed feeding program means feeding around your cat’s natural cycles. Cats are most naturally active at dusk and before sunrise. If you’re not up before the sun’s out yourself, leave out some dry food before bed so your cat can serve herself. While there’s nothing wrong with feeding your cat her wet food portion in the morning, know that at dusk she’ll be even more receptive to it, and more likely to eat it all without leaving any behind to dry out or spoil.
Find a mix you can trust!
Not all mixed feeding protocols are the same because no two cats are the same. Find the right balance according to your cat’s health and activity levels.
SOMETIMES THE SOLUTION TO PESKY BEHAVIOR IS IN THE BOWL
Some feline behaviour can be attributed to individual quirks. Sometimes it signals a need to go to the vet. Sometimes it’s just your cat trying to get her health and wellness needs met. In every case, you can help. Here, some clues to tell when it’s her or you, and what to do.
1. She’s chewing on everything
There might be swelling in her gums that the chewing temporarily provides relief. Gum irritation indicates a possible oral health problem and trip to the vet may be necessary. Some cats just like to vary the texture of what they put in their mouths. Be careful about keeping certain house plants, such as Easter lily, because chewing on that type of plant can lead to severe toxicity.
2. She’s urinating outside of the box
While there could be many reasons for this—for example, if you changed to a new litter she doesn’t prefer—one strong possibility is that she has a urinary tract problem. In cats, urinary blockage can quickly become toxic. Take her to the vet as soon as possible.
3. She keeps stealing water from your glass
Feeling an urgent need to drink is one sign of dehydration. Mixed feeding—giving your cat both wet and dry food throughout the day—is an easy and natural way to rebalance her hydration levels. If she’s already on a mixed diet, you can increase the amount of wet food you give her and reduce the quantity of dry, or add some water to her wet food.
Some cats also like discovering water in new places. Try putting out a few extra bowls around the house and monitoring her intake. However, cats only seek out water if they’re dehydrated. So if she’s drinking in different places obsessively, and a change in her diet doesn’t remedy it in a few days, she needs to visit the vet.
4. She’s suddenly refusing her food
Before you start to worry, it’s important to know that cats can go for 48 hours without eating. She might be bored and wants a new flavour. Mixed feeding not only goes a long way for a healthy hydration balance, it provides texture and flavour variety on a daily basis. If you’re not already mixing wet and dry foods throughout the day, give it a try. If she hasn’t touched anything for more than 48 hours, she needs to go to the vet.
5. She’s put on weight recently
If your cat is spayed or neutered, it’s normal to put on a little extra weight in adulthood. Consider your cat’s current diet. Since dry food tends to be higher in calories than wet food, start to mix her feedings. If she’s already on a mixed diet, increase the quantity of wet food you give her, and reduce the amount of dry.
6. She’s started vomiting more frequently
If you’re not brushing your cat, or not brushing her very often, start doing it more often. Most cats love it! Vomiting can also indicate the presence of hairballs so you might consider feeding a hairball formula. Since vomiting always increases her chances of dehydration, consider adding more wet food to her diet, and encouraging water consumption. Vomiting can also indicate parasites, infections or inflammation of the intestinal tract, so visit the vet if it continues.
MIXED FEEDING SUPPORTS HEALTHY HYDRATION IN CATS
Because cats evolved from a period when they relied on hydration from eating their prey, they aren’t the most conscientious water drinkers. Cats often love the satisfying crunch of dry food, but cats on a dry diet have a higher tendency to become dehydrated. Without enough water in their system, they can develop overly concentrated urine, which can quickly lead to kidney or urinary tract problems.
One of the most efficient and easiest ways to ensure that your cat is properly hydrated is to feed her all wet food or a combination of both wet and dry food daily. The right mixed feeding program will satisfy your cat’s instinctual cravings while keeping her water levels in balance.
If you’re not sure you’ve found the right hydration balance for your cat, check for the following signs in appearance and behaviour with some helpful tips on how to manage her hydration.
Your cat might be dehydrated if…
1. She’s drinking water obsessively. Cats don’t seek out water at all if they’re adequately hydrated. So if she’s stealing your water, licking up stray droplets in the sink, or returning to her bowl over and over, she is likely dehydrated.
2. She’s not visiting the litterbox enough. If she’s not urinating at least twice per day, it can strain her kidneys and eventually even become toxic. If you are using clumping litter, take note of the size of the clumps your cat usually leaves so you know what is normal.
3. Her skin is less elastic. Like people, cats’ skin loses elasticity over time. But, if you notice a rapid change, her hydration level is too low and needs to be remedied.
4. Her eyes are sunken. Too little fluid in a cat’s eye socket, which leads the eyeballs to look as if they’re retracting slightly into her skill, is a sign there’s too little fluid in her overall system.
5. Her mouth or gums are dry. Cats need adequate saliva to protect their teeth and gums and to mix with food for swallowing.
Here’s how to encourage healthy hydration
1. Increase her ratio of wet food to dry. You can even add a little water to her daily portion of wet food.
2. Try running the tap when she’s nearby or use a water fountain. Studies have found that cats avoid standing water. Some believe this is due to still water’s potential to harbour parasites and harmful bacteria.
3. Make sure her water bowl is the right size and shape. Many cats will avoid taller, narrower bowls if the sides touch their whiskers, or if the bowl blocks their ability to keep their surroundings in view. (never place bowls in a corner).
4. Make her water more appetizing by adding cooked meat broth to her food or water bowl.
5. Change her water at least once a day. Clean, fresh water is naturally more appetizing to everyone; your cat is no different! For finicky cats, consider using bottled water.