Diet - Keeping A Cat

Accustom your kitten to a varied diet

The cat is a creature built to eat meat. This is not to day that cats to not like or need some vegetable matter in their diet. Among wild species, the flat-headed cat of Malaysia and Indonesia has a particular love of fruit and sweet potatoes.

Although proteins play important roles in a cat’s diet, particularly at certain times of life, a purely protein diet for a cat would be unnecessarily expensive and wasteful. There are also health aspects. Proteins produce many waste products after digestion, and these have to be eliminated by the kidneys, organs which may be under great pressure in older animals. A luxurious menu consisting of nothing but raw filet de boeuf, contains far too little calcium and vitamins for healthy feline living.

Variety, then, is the watchword for your familiar’s diet, and will enable a cat to balance its diet instinctively. Accustom a kitten to a broad selection of foods. Even if you inherit an old animal that is set in its ways and seems determined to fast until death unless fed on nothing but crayfish or caviar, there is a fair chance that a bit of culinary effort will succeed in enticing him out of his monotonous diet.

When acting as chef to a newly arrived puss, introduce your carefully considered diet gradually. Change him from the old menu to the new bit by bit over a period of a couple of weeks or so.

Besides variety, the other important factor in feeding your cat is freshness. Do not give him stale food or food you bought because it was cheap but which may have been on the store shelf so long that it has lost its nutritional value.

As mentioned above, protein is one of the essential parts of a cat’s diet and should form at least 25 percent of the diet of an adult cat, or 35 to 40 percent of a kitten’s. The daily requirement of an adult cat is 3 grams of protein per 450 grams (1 pound) bodyweight, and for a kitten this should be increased to 8.5 grams. Proteins foods include the pre-packed special cat foods you can buy, and fresh foods such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, milk, and cheese.

In addition to proteins, your cat needs fats as an important source of calories, particularly as the animal gets older. Fats should from 15 to 40 percent of the ration, and they have the advantage that they do not load the kidneys with waste products. It is essential to avoid feeding fats that are old or rancid, as although a hungry cat may accept such foods, they cam make it ill. Fats are usually found in the protein foods mentioned above, but can be specially augmented by adding one teaspoonful of fat to the food of older animals which no longer absorb nutrients very well, and have lost their layers of insulating fat. The best sources of high-quality fat are soft animal fat (chicken fat or bacon grease), butter, and lard.

Filler foods
Cats also often get their energy in the form of filler foods such as carbohydrates, bulk and fibre. These are not essential but can be included to make up to half of the ration of desired. Filler foods include fruit and vegetables, and starchy foods such as bread, pasta, and cereals.

Minerals and Vitamins
Minerals of all kinds are essential for a cat’s growth and the maintenance of its vital functions. If you feed your cat a well-balanced, varied diet, mineral deficiencies are most unlikely to occur. The same is true with regard to the vitamins, and special vitamin supplements are not normally necessary for the healthy cat unless recommended by the veterinarian. The cat does not have the same need as a human of vitamins B12, C, and K in its diet.

A double feeding bowl for water and food. Cats should always have water available

As long as fresh, clean water is always available, worry not about how much of the stuff your feline friend is drinking, unless you have settled for the lazy man’s diet of nothing but food pellets. It is well known that animals can survive perfectly well on a diet of fish and beef without ever drinking water. A meat diet has a high water content, and the cat’s kidney is capable of concentrating the urine and thereby saving water; about two-and-half times more than the human kidney. Of course, outdoor cats may be tippling at a favourite puddle.

If your cat really does seem to do without H2O, there is no cause for concern – it is quite a common phenomenon. As well as the water in the food itself, all creatures get a large proportion of their daily water requirements by chemical action – the fats and carbohydrates in their food are “burned” within their bodies, producing water molecules. Cleverly, cats also lose very little water through panting or sweating, and only an insignificant quantity evaporates during breathing. Even big wild cats like lions have been known to go without a drink for up to ten days. Nevertheless, a supply of fresh, clean water must be made available at all times for your cat.

We should perhaps pause at this point to doff out hats in memory of one Jack, a black tom living in Brooklyn, which in 1937 at the age of three, gave up water-drinking for milk laced with Pernod. As he grew older he demanded stiffer and stiffer saucers of “milk”, until it was a question of lacing the Pernod lightly with milk. Jack gave up the ghost in eight years old. At the post-mortem his lives was found to be in distinctly sad state.

Seasoning and supplements
Most cats are discerning and prefer intelligent seasoning of their food. I have had cats who adored curried chicken and spaghetti with clam sauce – very civilized and utterly beneficial. If you are cooking some of your pet’s meal, season with iodized salt to taste (your taste) Enough iodine, which is a trace element, can be assured in this way, it is particularly important in pregnant queens where iodine is needed to prevent resorption of the fetuses within the womb. Stock bouillon cubes make a gravy containing all essential salts.

A collection of vitamins and minerals for cats: yeast tablets, fortified milk-food powder, cat 'sweets' containing vitamins

If you are using proprietary dry or soft-moist food, remember that these products tend to be low in fat content. Add eight teaspoonfuls of fat, butter, or lard per 500 grams (1 pound).

How much to feed
Scientists have calculated that the daily requirements of a cat on a diet containing 25 percent protein is 15 grams (half an ounce) of food per 400 grams (1 pound) of bodyweight, but this is a theoretical guide only. In practice, like their human companions, cats vary widely in appetite. The ancient Greeks believed that cats put on weight as the moon waxed and lost weight as it waned. In my opinion, obesity does not generally lead to the health problems for cats that it does for dogs. Show cats may need to have their outlines watched, but the fireside feline is a different case and my advice is to feed him up.

The following is a rough guide to daily food quantities for kittens and cats of different ages:

Planning your cat’s meals

Meals per day
Amount in grams
Weaning to
3 months


4 to 5 months4-6275
6 to 7 months3-4370
7-8 months3370
9 months and over2-3400
Pregnant Queens3-5420-460
Senior citizens3-6300-370

Fresh food and water are a must for cats, whose noses are as sensitive as that of a Guide Michelin inspector. Cats will stalk away from the first hint of staleness. Giving fresh food frequently is the best way to avoid waste and the risk of tummy upsets.

Under abnormal circumstances, cats can go without food for weeks and lose 40 percent of their bodyweight without dying, although if they lose 10 to 15 percent of the total water in their bodies that is usually fatal.

The Major Foods (read more)
Myths and Fallacies (read more)