Understanding feeding needs of cats


Dr Himanshu
Dr Divya Tiwari
Dr RK Jain
Of all the animals domesticated by men cats have the most unusual and most complicated nutritional requirements. Let’s find out the feeding needs of the feline friends. Of all the animals domesticated by men cats have the most unusual and most complicated nutritional requirements. Let’s find out the feeding needs of the feline friends. 
Feline metabolism has evolved into that of an obligate carnivore, which means the cat has adapted its metabolism to efficient utilisation of a strictly carnivorous diet.
Facts of feline nutritionl

  • Cat has shorter small intestine. The caecum of cat connects with the ileum and not the Coral unlike in case of dogs. Saline intestine is adapted for a high fat, high protein diet that is high energy and low bulk diet.
  • Cat is somewhat peculiar in her attitude towards food and her eating behaviour.
  • Cat are unable to synthesise arachidonic acid from linoleic acid so must be supplied by animal fat in diet.
  •  Taurine must be supplied in the form of dietary meat, fish products because of the limited ability of a line liver to synthesise tourine.
  •  Protein requirement of cat is highest as cat needs two to three times more protein than other animals.
  •  Cat has higher dietary requirements for arginine and niacine.
  •  Cat lags the synthesis of beta carotene, so they depend on dietary source of preformed vitamin A.

Formulation of balanced diets
In general, most cats are given adequate opportunity for exercise and a variety of environmental options to regulate their food intake and maintain a relative lean body mass. Cats can adapt to a single daily meal.
Feeding during pregnancy
The diet must supply essential nutrients in the proper balance for developing kitten and prepare the female for stress of lactation. Throughout the gestation period the female cat may show a steady increase in body weight and at the same time a gradual increase in food intake. Hormonal or behavioural changes that occurred during reproduction may cause periods of under eating, over eating or no eating. During the last two to three weeks of pregnancy nutrients requirement will increase. In this period, diet has to be offered several times. As littering nears, a female may also lose her appetite. Food refusal during the 9th week of gestation is a good indication that littering will occur within the next 1 or 2 days. Usually within 24 hours after delivery appetite of the mother cat will gradually increase.
Feeding during lactation
The demand for milk by nursing kitten will continue to increase for about 20 to 30 days. Consequently the mother cat’s food and water intakes increase during this period. They have to be fed two or three times per day. Fresh water should always be made available. Newborn kitten typically quadrupled their body weight in the first month of life, which re-emphasise the extreme nutritional demands placed on the nursing mother.
Kitten starts nibbling solid food at about 10 to 12 days. When the kittens are of 3 to 4 weeks old, interest in solid food begins and the mother’s interest in nursing declines. For mother cat who continues to maintain significant milk production, mammary congestion and discomfort can be problem. Resolution of this problem may be hastened by limited feeding her.
Feeding of kittens
Help the kittens to suckle their mother. In case of emergency like the mother’s inability to nurse her kitten due to agalactia, mastitis or orphan kittens artificial feeding is required from the very first day of life. Kittens have to be trained to drink cow or buffalo’s milk and feed egg yolk, cereal flour, cream, minerals and vitamins. All of them have to be fed at the rate of 10 to 15 percent of body weight per day at birth. This however gradually increases to 20 to 25 percent. They should be fed four times daily. Kitten normally starts nibbling on solid food from 3rd to 4th week of age.
Feeding of weaned kittens
Kittens should be weaned by 6th to 8th weeks of age. Kittens require higher level of proteins and pups. It is recommended that they tend to be fed to two/three times a day during this period up to their six months of age. Too much noise, new surroundings, the cleanliness of food and water dishes may be reasons if they refuse to eat.
Feeding of mature cat
A cat can be fed maintained diet after one year of age. Cats should be fed in individuals. Kittens from the same litter may acquire different tastes and eating habits, because cats tend to be nibblers or occasional eaters, so they should allow to access to their food for several hours each day. Fresh clean water has to be made available.
(Dr Himanshu Pratap Singh, Dr Divya Tiwari, Dr RK Jain and Dr MK Mehta are from the College of Veterinary Science and Animal Husbandry, Mhow, Madhya Pradesh).