Cats are not far removed from their ancestors, the African wildcat. It is important to keep this in mind when you are rooming with a feline friend. The most important characteristic to remember is that they are obligate carnivores. This means they NEED to eat animal protein to live. They cannot be vegetarians, and thrive best on meat-based, grain-free diets. They are also skilled hunters, making them the biggest threat to local wildlife and conservation efforts (besides humans). These two traits alone play a major role in their overall health and behavior. Here, we will make some recommendations on how to feed your cat to ensure you are doing everything you can to keep them happy and health.
FIRST: Stop free feeding! Cats are built to hunt and stalk their food. We do not recommend allowing your cat to hunt outdoors for the sake of local wildlife, but giving them a way to burn off energy and use their brains and bodies is vital to their overall well-being. Feeding 2-3 meals a day tends to keep cats more physically active and more mentally stimulated. Puzzle feeders are a great option for dry meals because they are required to work for their food. Trixie Pet Products (can be found on Amazon) have great cat puzzle feeders. There is also a No Bowl movement going on, where cat behaviorists are encouraging cat owners to ditch feeding in a bowl altogether, and to find creative ways to offer dry food. More information can be found at https://nobowlcat.com/
We recommend actively playing with your cat before each meal. A typical feline behavior sequence around mealtime goes: stalk, ambush, eat, groom, and sleep. Playing with your cat before feeding helps to mimic this. All cats are playful, you just have to find the right toy and put some imagination into it (some cats do not like to play alone, which is why it is important to set aside special times to play with your cat). Feeding meals also makes cats more receptive to training! Yes, training. Just like your dog, cats can learn commands, and can even be clicker trained. It is all about finding the right motivation. A cat who can feed itself whenever it wants has no reason to listen to you. When you feed meals, your cat has to listen to you at least 2-3 times a day. Ask your cat to sit on a mat before receiving a meal. If you have a vocal cat, wait until they are quietly sitting on their mat.
NEXT: Never feed a dry-only diet! Dry food is very convenient and cost effective for us, but is not good for cats as the sole mode of nutrition. Cats obtain most of their water from food. They do not have a strong thirst drive, so when you only feed dry food you are severely limiting their water-intake. If you have a male cat, this is especially important since they can build up crystals in their urine and become blocked. A blocked cat can cost you thousands in vet bills, so it is better to be proactive and feed wet food. Many vets are now saying ANY wet food is better than ANY dry food. At TGDS, we often advocate for high-quality, meat-based products for your dogs and cats. We do recommend this for your cat as well, but if you cannot afford the high-end canned or raw food for your cat, we still recommend feeding any wet food you can afford at least once a day.
We hope that this information is beneficial to you and your cat. Even though we are called The Good DOG Spot, our staff members are knowledgeable about cats as well, and we are happy to answer any questions!