W hat you feed your cat goes a long way to how easy — or challenging — the food is to break down in the digestive tract and then the quality and quantity of the excess waste exiting out of your cat’s body.
Food is not only fuel to fortify the body, but the right foods may help stave off diseases, especially a host of urinary issues.
It’s easy to be confused when it comes to selecting food for your cat in the store or online. You may secretly wish you were a veterinary nutritionist. But don’t fret. Help is here. Catster reached out to two of the nation’s leading authorities on cats and feline nutrition to help you come up with a food game plan to keep your feline friend healthy.
First up: Joseph Bartges, DVM, PhD, professor of veterinary medicine and nutrition at the University of Georgia in Athens.
“I believe cats should be fed a higher protein, lower carbohydrate diet, which is more natural to prey that they would eat if they were feral,” he says. “A higher moisture content might be better from a urinary health perspective. We can use diet to modify the urine to help prevent stones from forming and to help cats who have idiopathic cystitis (a general term to describe urinary conditions with no identifiable cause).”
“I strongly urge cat owners to feed their cats canned food predominately,” she says. “Everything I have seen and know scientifically about cats supports the usage of canned diets. We have to get more moisture into cats because cats are notorious for not drinking water, and their bodies are designed to suck water out of everything. Quality diets give the water cats need in the canned foods.”
From the day she rescued and adopted her three now-senior cats named Wyatt Earp, Calamity Jane and Hi Ho Silver, Dr. Carney has helped prevent any of them from developing urinary stones or crystals as well as urinary blockages. She feeds them quality canned food with kibble in food puzzles. Where she places their bowls also plays a big role in their overall health.
“Cats do not naturally eat and drink in the same place in the wild if given the opportunity, because they do not want to contaminate their food with water,” she explains. “During mealtime, cats do not want to have visual eye contact with each other, because it can cause stress and that can lead to lots of health issues. So, I make sure all my cats are fed separately without being able to see one another.”
Offer your cat tasty fluids like water-based tuna juice, clam juice or salt-free chicken or beef broth. Besides keeping your cat hydrated, supplements can also help in the war against urinary diseases. Dr. Bartges touts the healthy benefits of antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids in commercial cat food as well as probiotics designed to help good gut bacteria thrive.
Dr. Carney sees the value of talking to your veterinarian about adding these two key supplements to your cat’s diet:
While male cats are at more risk, any cat at any age can develop urinary stone or crystals, urinary infections, blockages and a host of other issues. Some pop up quickly, while others develop over time.
Booking semi- or annual physical exams for your cat may help your veterinarian catch a condition early where treatment may be more effective.
If your cat is diagnosed with a urinary issue that requires a diet prescribed by your veterinarian, the good news is that there are more therapeutic diets in canned and dry food now available than even a decade ago.
Dr. Bartges says, “No one diet and no one pet food company makes the best food for a specific patient under a specific circumstance. However, the good news is that there are options.”
He points out the value of urinary care diets made by Royal Canin, Hills, Purina and Blue Buffalo as well as considering tailor-made, homemade diets formulated by a board-certified veterinary nutritionist. Learn more by visiting acvn.org.
Dr. Carney says, “These therapeutic diets have been tested and shown to benefit cats with interstitial cystitis or urinary issues. The three major companies — Hills, Royal Canin and Purina — have controlled feeding trials that look at the entire health of the cat, and I have been invited to visit their testing facilities.”
She adds that therapeutic diets are medically beneficial to cats with urinary issues.
“Cats can die from blockages and toxins, so it is a huge deal when it comes to deciding what to feed your cat,” Dr. Carney says. “I recommend canned food, plenty of water bowls in the house and using dry food in food puzzles to work their minds and their bodies.”
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