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Feline Care & Prevention

Pet health problems can take their toll on owner and pet alike. Learn more about certain feline health problems or conditions and come to a better understanding of their symptoms and potential solutions.

Feline Care & Prevention

Pet health problems can take their toll on owner and pet alike. Learn more about certain feline health problems or conditions and come to a better understanding of their symptoms and potential solutions.

Cat Losing Weight

My cat is losing weight even though she eats well. What could be the problem?

The following article is taken from the "Purina® Animal Instincts” Podcast Series. Learn more at www.purina.com.

Is your older cat high-strung? Does she lose weight but eat like a pig? She may have an overactive thyroid. Older cats sometimes begin producing too much thyroid hormone. It’s a condition called feline hyperthyroidism. Veterinarians don’t know what causes it, but it speeds up the cat’s metabolism, causing a gradual weight loss and hyperactivity. In fact, hyperthyroid kitties are so high-strung, it can seem as if they’ve had a few too many cups of coffee! They will also drink and urinate a lot, and may lose hair, vomit, or have a goiter or thyroid nodule.

If your cat displays any of the symptoms, contact your veterinarian. A blood test can detect the disease, and with appropriate treatment, a cat with hyperthyroidism can live a normal life.

– Dr. Andrea Looney, DVM

Poison Response For Cats

If my pet eats something poisonous, what should I do?

The following article is taken from the "Purina® Animal Instincts" Podcast Series. Learn more at www.purina.com.

If your pet swallows poison, you have to decide whether to treat him at home or make a fast trip to the veterinarian, but you shouldn’t make this decision on your own.

If your pet ingests something dangerous, the first thing you should do is to call your vet or the animal poison control center. Tell them what substance your pet has swallowed, how much, and when it happened. They’ll also need to know your pet’s age, sex, and approximate weight. Then follow their instructions to the letter.

There’s a chance they’ll ask you to induce vomiting in your pet at home using hydrogen peroxide. They might also tell you to go to the veterinarian immediately. If so, hurry, but don’t panic. Take a moment to collect a sample of whatever your pet ate – it might be helpful to the vet.

– Dr. Andrea Looney, DVM

Wet And Dry Cat Food

Why might my veterinarian recommend feeding my cat both wet and dry food?

The following article is taken from the "Purina® Animal Instincts" Podcast Series. Learn more at www.purina.com.

People fight like cats and dogs about whether it’s best to feed your favorite feline wet or dry food. Some say that wet food better mimics a cat’s natural diet, and because it contains more protein and water, it helps prevent dehydration and urine crystals. But dry food doesn’t spoil as easily, and the texture may prevent tartar buildup and other dental problems.

So what to do? Many veterinarians believe the best option is actually a compromise. Feeding both wet and dry food allows you to give your kitty the best of both worlds. So put the debate to rest and focus instead on providing plenty of water and a high-quality diet that suits your cat’s age and lifestyle. Ask your veterinarian for a recommendation.

– Dr. Andrea Looney, DVM

Comparing Cat Foods

Types of Cat Foods

The three main types of cat foods are dry, soft-moist and canned products. With today's advanced technology, all types of cat food products can be formulated to provide complete and balanced nutrition for your cat.

Dry Diets

Dry products consist of crunchy kibbles, which help reduce the build-up of plaque and tartar on a cat’s teeth. Dry foods also have the advantage of staying fresh longer than soft-moist and canned products once the package is opened.

Soft-Moist Diets

Soft-moist cat foods generally offer higher palatability as compared to dry diets, are convenient to serve and store easily.

Canned Diets

These diets generally offer the highest palatability when compared to dry and soft-moist products. Once a can is opened, unused food should be stored in the refrigerator.

Comparing Label Guarantees

The difference in moisture content among the various types of cat food impacts the nutrient density of the products or the amount of nutrients per ounce or pound of food. As the water content of the diet increases, the amount of protein, fat and other essential nutrients decreases. That means the cat must consume a larger portion of the high-moisture products to receive the nutrition they need.

This difference in moisture and energy content also prohibits a direct comparison of the nutrient content of one product type to another. For example, you cannot compare the 12% protein content of a canned cat food to the 21% protein level of a dry cat food and conclude the dry food will supply more protein. You can, however, make a fair comparison of the 21% protein content of one dry cat food to the 30% protein content of another dry cat food and conclude that the cat will receive more protein by eating the higher protein product. The higher protein product, however, is not necessarily superior. The key factors are the life stage and lifestyle of the cat eating the product.

Pet Foods to Meet Special Needs

For more information about individual cat food products, contact the manufacturer.

Facts About Feeding Cats

Some pet owners forget that humans require a variety of foods to ensure the consumption of nutritionally balanced meals. A quality cat food has the proper balance of all the nutrients a cat requires together with a high level of palatability. Adding human food to a nutritionally balanced commercial cat food may upset the nutrient balance of the diet.

Milk is a food and not a substitute for water. As a food, milk is incomplete and does not provide a balanced diet. Milk contains lactose, which requires the enzyme lactase for breakdown in the intestinal tract. If the intestinal tract does not contain sufficient lactase, consumption of a high level of lactose can cause diarrhea.

Repeatedly adding raw eggs to a cat's diet can cause a deficiency of the vitamin biotin, which can lead to dermatitis (inflammation of the skin), loss of hair and poor growth.

Some raw fish can cause a deficiency of the vitamin thiamine. Signs of a thiamine deficiency include anorexia (complete loss of appetite), abnormal posture, weakness, seizures and even death.

Although we may associate meat or meat by-products with a cat's nutritional needs, it must be combined with other ingredients to provide complete nutrition. Raw meats may contain parasites, and cooked meats can be high in fat and do not contain a proper balance of nutrients.

Raw liver, fed daily in large quantities, can cause vitamin A toxicity in cats. Small soft bones (such as pork chop or chicken bones) should never be given to cats, as they may splinter and lodge in a pet's mouth or throat.

Supplements are not necessary when a normal, healthy cat is being fed a complete and balanced food. However, factors like feeding table scraps, inconsistent exercise or stressful changes in routine can leave cats with special nutritional needs.

Some pet owners believe that additional calcium, and possibly other minerals, should be added to the diets of pregnant and nursing females and growing puppies and kittens. It is true that more minerals are needed at these times, but they are normally obtained through increased consumption of a high-quality, nutritionally balanced diet. Adding them out of proportion to other nutrients can contribute to skeletal deformities and other problems.

Finally, table scraps should not be fed, as they will not provide the balanced diet which cats require.

Feeding Cats For Life Stages

Feeding Kittens

Kittens require about twice the energy per pound of body weight as a mature cat. Kittens should be completely weaned by six to eight weeks and be accustomed to a regular diet of a complete and balanced growth-type food for kittens. It is recommended that kittens be fed three to four times a day during this period of rapid growth, and a source of fresh, clean water should be available at all times. Moistened dry food or canned food left at room temperature can become unpalatable and may even spoil if left out for several hours, so uneaten portions should be removed and discarded after one hour. As with other animals, any diet changes should be made gradually over a 7 to 10 day period to avoid causing digestive upset.

Kittens tend to be "occasional" eaters as they take a large number of small meals throughout the day. After consuming a small portion of the food, the kitten leaves and returns at intervals to eat. This behavior should not be confused with a reluctance or refusal to eat. If food refusal is prolonged and/or the kitten shows signs of illness such as listlessness, diarrhea, repeated vomiting, discharge from the eyes or nose, straining to urinate or constipation, or unusual hiding in dark places, a veterinarian should be consulted.

From seven months to one year, kittens should be fed twice a day. Kittens should be fed as individuals, and amounts to feed will depend upon activity and body condition.

If a cat becomes overweight, her food intake should be lowered. A veterinarian can help the owner assess the cat's body condition and, if necessary, help plan an appropriate weight reduction program.

Feeding Adult Cats

An adult cat with normal activity requires only a maintenance diet. A good-quality commercial cat food that is complete and balanced for maintenance or for all life stages is appropriate to feed to adult cats. Cats should be fed as individuals, and the factors that influence the amount of food a typical adult cat requires to maintain good body condition include activity level, temperature, and body metabolism. An ideal body condition is one in which:

  • The animal is well proportioned,
  • Has an observable waist behind the ribcage
  • Ribs can be felt with a slight fat covering over them

Because cats tend to be nibblers or "occasional eaters," they should have access to their food throughout the day. And, as with other animals, an available source of clean, fresh water is important.

Cats require a higher level of dietary protein and a different nutrient balance than dogs. Like kittens, mature cats require the addition of taurine to their diet. For this reason, cats should only be fed a complete and balanced cat food and never a dog food. A cat can be fed a maintenance diet after she is one year of age. Maintenance diets are not appropriate for kittens, or pregnant or nursing females.

Even when all factors are the same, two cats of similar size, age, and activity may need different amounts of food simply because they have different metabolism rates. A cat's appetite and total food consumption will vary from day to day. Loss of appetite or reluctance to eat are not problems in adult cats unless they persist for several days or the cat shows symptoms of illness. If this happens, your cat should be examined by a veterinarian.

Feeding During Pregnancy

While nutrition is a key factor in keeping a cat healthy, its importance is heightened during gestation and lactation. Diets labeled for adult maintenance, intermittent feeding, or therapeutic uses are generally inadequate for gestation and lactation. A diet selected for feeding during this time should be labeled as nutritionally complete and balanced for all life stages or for growth and reproduction. If a maintenance diet is fed prior to breeding, a gradual changeover should be made to a diet appropriate for reproduction during the last trimester of pregnancy.

Throughout gestation, the female may show a slow, steady increase in body weight and at the same time a gradual increase in food intake. Hormonal and behavioral changes that occur during reproduction may cause periods of under eating, overeating, or not eating. However, if under eating is prolonged, or if the female's body condition begins to deteriorate, she should be examined by a veterinarian for health problems. As littering nears, a female may also lose her appetite. Usually within 24 hours after delivery the female's appetite will slowly increase.

Feeding During Lactation

Females may have to be fed two or three times per day, and fresh water in a clean dish should be available. Dry food should be fed moistened during lactation to increase the female's food and water intake, and to encourage kittens to start nibbling solid food.

When kittens are three to four weeks of age, interest in solid food begins and the female's interest in nursing declines. Moistened food in a shallow dish should be available to the kittens for several hours each day.

For females that continue to maintain significant milk production, mammary congestion and discomfort can be a problem. Resolution of this problem may be hastened by limit-feeding the queen according to the following procedure:

On the first day of weaning, the queen should not be fed, but a source of clean water should be provided. The kittens should be separated from the queen and offered food and water. Dry food moistened with warm water may help stimulate the kittens' food intake. On the 2nd, 3rd and 4th days after weaning, limiting the queen's food to 1/4, 1/2 and 3/4 the usual amount, respectively, is recommended. By the fifth day, food intake should be resumed to the queen's normal amount fed prior to gestation and lactation.

The Later Stages

Some veterinarians believe that cats reach their geriatric years around age 12. Other experts are more generous, categorizing cats as being "old" at about 15. When your cat is between the ages of 12 and 15, be on the lookout for behavioral changes. You may notice that he catnaps a lot more. It's normal for some old cats to sleep more than 18 hours a day.

Because an older cat rests more and moves less, he may need fewer calories. Your veterinarian can suggest ways to reduce his caloric intake and still make sure he gets all the nutrients his aging system needs. And however tempting it may be to treat him to table scraps, it's really not wise. Overfeeding a cat at any age - especially with fatty foods - is actually setting him up for obesity and related health problems in the future.