CAT CARE

DIET FOR KITTENS AND CATS


KITTENS
Kittens need a diet that is very high in protein and fat. In fact, a 12-week-old kitten should have a diet consisting of 35% protein and 17% fat. She needs three times the number of calories per pound as an adult cat.

There are different schools of thought about feeding. One school believes that kittens from 12 weeks old, should fast in-between meals, i.e. not have free access to food throughout the day. This is because wild cats (from whom our gentle pussycats are not so far removed) eat their fill and then go up to several days without eating. The constant presence of food for our domestic cats keeps gastric juices continually pumping and never really gives the digestive system a needed rest. It is not healthy for humans to snack all day...why should it be healthy for our cats?

The other school of thought believes that some food should always be available for free feeding during the day. Whichever school of thought makes sense to you, kittens from three to five or five and one half months old need to be fed three times per day, all they can eat. This is a time of major growth and development. Feed your "baby" in the morning (before you go to work, perhaps), early evening and before you go to bed. Leave the food down for no longer than 1/2 hour and do not distract your kitten from her meal (no playing) until she has finished!

Kittens are not generally finicky, but they may not like food straight from the refrigerator. Mix in a little hot water to warm it up. Make sure her food is fresh and her dish is washed with soap and hot water before each meal. At 5-6 months of age, gradually decrease the third meal until you are serving 2 meals per day at 6-6 1/2 months.

ADULTS

Adult cats do best if fed twice daily. There are different schools of thought. One is regarding free feeding i,e., leaving some food down at all times and the other is scheduled feedings i,e., feeding twice daily, leaving food down for no more than one half hour and then removing it.

Many cats will overeat if food is constantly available. They may also be more finicky about their food because they are never really hungry at mealtime. Wild cats, which are not so removed from their domestic cousins, do not "snack" all day long. They eat their fill and then give their gastric juices a rest. This way, their digestive systems are not constantly working.

Free feeding is bad since cats tend to over eat thus making them fat and so ought to be discouraged. To change a "free feeder" to a "scheduled feeder" takes some discipline on your part. Your cat may not eat her whole meal the first few times you feed her this way because she is expecting to nibble on it all day long. However, when she sees that there are no in-between-meal snacks to be had, she will learn to take full advantage of mealtime. Until she has adjusted (usually within two weeks), you will have to listen to loud protests. Stick to it and you will soon get her on schedule.

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