The Proper Feeding of a Cat

The following statements are pure opinion and conjecture mixed with anecdotal reports and the input of some fancy schmancy big wig vet specialists on the East Coast.  These opinions may not represent those of the other vets at Plano Veterinary Group.  So take the following diatribe with a grain of salt. 

I  think we as a pet owning population are not doing a very good job of feeding our cats.  Granted, I’m not a cat owner, as I’m allergic to them and my husband is way more allergic (translation: gets super nose-drippy and red-eyed and whiny)   so we’ve stuck to dogs.  However, I treat lots of cats and I have this nagging feeling that a whole bunch of the health problems I see come from feeding them the wrong stuff.  I think the pet food industry has some work to do. 

I think the general husbandry and care of a cat needs a little work too.  There is a great, great website run by some super smart vet specialists as The Ohio State College of Vet Med that brilliantly covers this.  It’s called The Indoor Cat Initiative and here’s the site: http://www.vet.ohio-state.edu/indoorcat.htm  I think (notice a lot of sentences start with “I think” this is MY OPINION, you can do with it what you want, you’re even CHOOSING to read it, not paying me for it….)  anyhow, a lot of the behavior problems and obesity problems I see in cats stem from sheer boredom.  This website gives some excellent information about enriching the cat’s world to eliminate some of their stress and give them something to do (so they stop eating all the time and peeing everywhere).   

A veterinary behaviorist actually did a field study and observed outdoor cats (Jane Goodall style).  Here’s what it boils down to:

The Cat’s Day:

  • Sleep 9.5 hours
  • Rest 5.3 hours
  • Hunting 3.6 hours
  • Grooming 3.5 hours
  • Travelling 0.6 hours
  • Eating 0.55 hours
  • Other 0.33 hours
  • Not seen 0.58 hours

Now compare that to your typical indoor cat’s day.  Maybe sleep 20 hours, then the other stuff over the remaining 4.  Outdoor cats are much busier than the indoor ones, thus they stay thin and less bored. 

Now on the food part, the diet of the outdoor cat is:  5 mice or other small animals per day.  They don’t eat corn, or oats, or sweet potatoes, or soybeans, or menadione sodium bisulfate or any other unpronounceable chemicals (unless the mouse ran through some in the barn) .  What few carbs they get come from the stomach of the mouse.

So we go off and grab these cats and put them inside and give them nothing to do but eat a bunch of carbs and what do we get:  Fat, diabetic, cats with bad teeth and random vomiting, diarrhea, and other GI issues that pee everywhere. 

Frankly, I think most of  my cat health issues would be solved if people just went to the pet store and bought 5 mice a day and let the cats goto town.  Unfortunately, the general population frowns upon this (plus, I’ll probably be receiving a bushel of hate mail from the PETA people for mouse rights).

So, my challenge to the pet food industry is figure out how to make a diet that is nutritionally identical to 5 mice a day, and package it in an easy to administer form that is affordable and convenient for the clients. 

The reason we feed carb-heavy dry food (it’s REALLY hard to make a low carb high fat/protein- mouse-like dry food, because it tends to go rancid) is that it’s easy, convenient, and cost effective.  The closest thing to mouse is canned food, which is smelly, expensive and not convenient. 

However, there are many studies coming down the pipes that actually point to canned food as being superior to dry (sound of collective intake of breath from legions of cat owners who were told that wet food is bad for their cat’s teeth, and akin to feeding the cat Laffy Taffy every day).  Canned food isn’t perfect, yes, it’s not great for their teeth…(mouse bones do a nice job of keeping the teeth clean though).  So you will have to either brush the cat’s teeth (sound of laughing or groaning or abject terror…depending on the nature of the client)  or give the cat “Pounce Tartar Control Treats” or Feline Greenies, both seem to do a pretty darn good job of cleaning the cat’s teeth. 

Most cats need dental cleanings (gasp…requiring anesthesia…more on that on another blog)  regardless of what kind of food it eats. 

So, lately the best that the “experts” can come up with as the ideal cat feeding method is:  feed that cat 2 -3 meals a day of canned food, then leave a little dry out for them to nibble on (measure it). 

This is as close as we can get to canned mouse at the moment.  There are some holistic foods that are trying to be more mouse-like (California Naturals EVO, Nature’s Variety Instinct) and these are probably good diets, there just isn’t enough information out there yet. 

I would expect the cat food market (HOPEFULLY) will make some significant changes for the better in light of all this new information.  We’ll see.  (Deb Greco is one of  the veterinarians on the East Coast who did the canned food research on diabetic cats, she has revolutionized the way we treat this disease.  By switching the cats to a high fat, high protein low carb canned diet, most of these cats go into remission and rarely need insulin injections, WAY different from the litany of blood tests and insulin injections we struggled with just 10 years ago). 

So, times are ‘a changin’ folks, hope you’re ready…

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4 thoughts on “The Proper Feeding of a Cat

  1. It’s great to hear a vet say this!! My cat is now on 3/4 raw 1/4 grain free canned. Would love to feed her 3 mice a day – but while chicken, turkey, and beef are food, mice are not (according to her!). Still working on that! Her urinary problems have cleared up, and her weight is going down.

    1. On a cautionary note: We vets as a whole are a bit leery (ranging from leery to down right militant to AVMA position statement against) about raw diets per se… The way I look at it is that the cat kills and eats the mouse immediately. The mouse (or cow, pig or turkey) isn’t slaughtered, processed and packaged in some warehouse, creating lots of places for pathogenic bacteria to hide out and multiply (said another way; fresh mouse better than packaged mouse). Plus, feeding the packaged, processed meat puts the owner at risk for infecting themselves with nasty little friends like : E. Coli and Salmonella. CANNED mouse on the other hand would be cooked, thus eliminating any pathogens…

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