The veterinarians at Kirkwood Animal Hospital often encounter cat owners that are seeking the best way to feed their indoor cat. The discussion that centers around the proper feeding of an indoor cat can veer off onto many tangents so the veterinarians at Kirkwood Animal Hospital put together the following considerations and recommendations for clients.
The average indoor cat has a great life. They get up each morning go to the food bowl, have a bite to eat, sit in the window, watch the birds go by, jump out of the window, get a bite to eat, take a nap, get a bite to eat, greet their owners when they get home from work, get a bite to eat, take a nap, have dinner, go to sleep for the night. The average indoor cat doesn’t burn many calories each day. In fact, the number one health problem for cats is obesity. If we assume the average cat weighs approximately 10 pounds (5 kg) then the average indoor cat needs 250 calories a day. If the cat owner is feeding a good quality dry food, that has a good quality protein, then the indoor cat needs only approximately 1/3 to 1/2 cup of food each day. Most high quality foods have approximately 500 calories per 8 ounce cup of food. The major protein source of the food is very important. Cats are obligatory carnivores – that means that they have certain nutritional requirements that can only be met by eating animal tissues. In cats, there are specific and essential amino acids (used for proteins), fatty acids, and vitamins that must come from animal sources. High quality cat foods will use high quality meats and meat meals to provide these essential nutrients. Poor quality cat foods will use cheaper meats and meals, which may have unbalanced levels of minerals in them. This often leads to cystitis, a common condition in cats that involves urinating out of the litter box, and very frustrated owners! Unfortunately, the price of the food does not always reflect the quality of the ingredients. Some very expensive foods can use very cheap protein sources. There is also a lot of confusion concerning vegetable base proteins for cats – ie. corn and soy. Cats can use these as complimentary sources for amino acids, but will always need a meat based protein source to have a complete, balanced diet. We recommend feeding your indoor cat Hill’s Prescription Diet Metabolic. Metabolic uses chicken as the protein source. Metabolic is also a very high tech diet, the combinations of amino acids and nutrients actually alters the levels of certain enzymes systems in the cat’s body promoting a much leaner body mass, much like the diets of highly trained athletes. More muscle less fat.
How you feed your indoor cat is also very important. Consider the following scenario. Outdoor cats, pure carnivores, eat mice. The average mouse has a caloric equivalent of approximately 30 calories. So the average 10 pound outdoor cat needs to eat about 8 mice a day if that is all they are eating. Does the outdoor cat wake up in the morning and find 8 dead mice laying in their bowl? No, it must move around and hunt to find them. Outdoor cats rarely have weight issues because of the amount of calories they burn finding food. We recommend hiding multiple bowls of food around the house to encourage your cat to exercise for their food. Approximately 10 pieces of food equal one mouse. Eight bowls with 10 pieces of food in each bowl, hidden around the house. Hiding food can become a real annoyance for some cat owners, a cat feeding toy may be more appropriate. These toys open up and the food is placed inside then the cat must roll the toy around and get the food out, this promotes exercise. We do not recommend free feeding of food for cats at Kirkwood Animal Hospital.
Palatability is also a very important concern for cat owners. Protein levels, fat levels and texture are important factors that contribute to how well a cat will consume a diet. Texture- if a kitten is given exclusively dry food when it is young it may never accept canned food or soft moist treats. Kirkwood Animal Hospital recommends that you feed your cat a 50-50 mixture of dry and canned food. When feeding the adult indoor cat we recommend 1/4 of an eight ounce cup of dry cat food each day fed with 2.5 ounces of canned food (about 1/2 of a normal can of cat food).