The facts of feline nutrition
Dr Divya Tiwari
Dr RK Jain
Cats have most unusual and complicated nutritional requirements among all pet animals. Let’s find out why!
Protein requirement of cats is high because they need two to three times more protein than other pet animals. Cats have shorter small intestines. Their caecum (junction of the small and large intestines) connects with the ileum, not with coral unlike in case of dogs. Saline intestine of cat is adapted for a high fat, high protein diet that is high energy and low bulk diet. Cats are unable to synthesise arachidonic acid from linoleic acid so it must be supplied in their food. Tourine must also be supplied in the form of dietary meat and fish products as they have limited ability to synthesise tourine.
Formulation of balanced diets
In general, most cats given with adequate opportunity of exercise and a variety of environmental options learn to regulate their food intake and maintain a relative lean body mass.
Feeding during pregnancy
The diet must contain essential nutrients in the proper balance for the developing kittens and prepare the mother cat for stress of lactation. Throughout gestation, the mother cat may show steady increase in body weight and at the same time increase in food intake. Hormonal or behavioural changes that occurred during pregnancy may cause under eating, over eating or not eating. Nutrient requirement for mother cat will increase during the last two to three weeks of pregnancy as she must be fed several times. She may lose her appetite when delivery time is closer; so food refusal during the 9th week of gestation is frequently an indication that delivery will occur in a day or two. Usually, mother cat regains her appetite slowly within 24 hours of delivery.
Feeding during lactation
Demand for milk by nursing kittens will continue to increase for about 20 to 30 days. Consequently the mother cat’s food and water requirements increase during this time. She needs to be fed two or three times a day. Fresh water should always be made available. Newborn kittens typically quadrupled their body weight in first month of life, which in turn re-emphasises extreme nutritional demands to the mother cat. Kittens start nibbling solid food by 6 weeks of age. So, full weaning usually takes place from 8 weeks of age.
Feeding of kittens
Help the kittens to suckle their mother. In an emergency like the mother’s inability to nurse her kittens due to agalactia on mastitis or orphan kittens, artificial feeding is required from the very first day of life and you must consult your veterinarian for this.
Feeding of weaned kittens
As mentioned above, kittens who are after 8 weeks of age require higher level of proteins. It is recommended to feed them two to three times a day during their rapid growth period, which extends up to six months of age. Kittens are fed a number of small meals throughout the day. If they refuse to eat, too much noise, new surroundings, cleanliness of food and water dishes may be the root cause.
Feeding of mature cat
In case of multiple cats, they should be fed individually. Because cats tend to be nibblers or occasional eaters, they should have access to their food for several hours each day. Fresh clean water has to be made available, always.
(Dr Himanshu Pratap Singh, Dr Divya Tiwari, Dr RK Jain and Dr MK Mehta are from College of Veterinary Science and Animal Husbandry, Mhow, Madhya Pradesh)