A lot of research has gone in to special diets for cats with conditions such as heart disease, digestive disorders, lower urinary tract disease and obesity. If you think your cat needs a special diet, talk to your vet, as most are only available on prescription.
All cats need protein to replace worn-out tissues and as an energy supply. But as cats get older, they become less active and their organs deteriorate, and they need less protein in their diets.
If you give you cat the same diet as when it was young, it will have too much protein. This will put strain on the liver and kidneys, as the protein is broken down. If they kidneys are not functioning properly due to age, they compensate by increasing thirst, so the cat urinates more. This flushes out some toxins, but also removes some of the essential vitamins and minerals.
Old cats only need 30% protein compared to the 40% young adult cats need. An increase in fat consumption is required to make sure that there is enough non harmful energy sources, but not too much as the cat may become obese. Carbohydrates should be avoided, as an old cat cannot digest them properly and this can cause diarrhoea. Some times you may notice weight loss in your cat, although its appetite is still the same, if this happens consult your vet as it may be due to hyperthyroidism, which can be treated.
If a cat is pregnant you will probably not notice the increase in size first but her demand for food. If the queen is in good condition when she mates, she will probably not require any extra food until she is in the last third of her pregnancy. By this time, the kittens will be growing and the cat will need small frequent meals up to four times a day. Quality food of low bulk is especially important at this time.
A nursing queen will need double her normal food intake to maintain milk for her kittens. The food should be as energy high packed into as small a quantity possible, being very high quality. There are foods available especially for nursing queens, or alternatively you can feed her a kitten food.
Kittens will feed from their mother for the first 3-4 weeks of their lives. As they become aware of their surroundings they will start to nibble their mothers food, this is sign that they are ready for weaning. The queen will nurse her litter until they are about 3 months old. But at about 8 weeks old the main part of their diet will be provided by the owner. The weaning process should be gradual, and kittens should be fed little and often, with high protein food that is small for easy consumption. The easiest method is to use readily available kitten food, in canned or dry versions.
Kittens generally prefer canned foods for weaning as they like the meaty smell. Plan the meal times carefully so the mother and kittens can have some peace away from other animals or household activity.
At 8 weeks old the kittens should be fed little and often. If you are feeding your kitten on dry food, try giving it on a continual basis so they can nibble as required. Four or more meals a day is normal for a kitten and can be reduced to three meals at the age of three months and two meals a day at six months.
A the kitten gets to nine months the meals can be reduced to one a day. However young active cats will get hungry if let 24 hours between each meal. Many owners offer a snack in the morning and the main meal at night. Most cats reach their adult size at one year old although some longhaired cats will grow until they are four years old.
If you have a slow maturing cat it is important to make sure they have a supply of high quality food. A routine of 2 – 3 meals a day with a dry-weight of protein of 30% should continue while the cat is still growing.