As the owner of a cat, you have the responsibility to decide what your cat eats, and you should not let your cat dictate the menu to you! Cats do not intrinsically know what is right for them and they are programmed to seek out the richest sources of food for their survival. In their natural environment cats would eat small rodents, birds and carrion and for larger wild cats, whatever large prey the group could bring down. In their natural environment, wild cats will only drink water, something that the domesticated cat will still commonly do today and is why cats often prefer to drink out of puddles. Today for most of us the simplest way for us to mimic the cats natural diet is to feed commercially prepared diets especially the dried forms.
We encourage cat owners to feed just one diet suitable for their nutritional requirements which then allows the digestive tract to settle on digesting this type of food. Chopping and changing diets to provide a variety is very much a human need that we impose on our cats and may actively encourage tummy upsets, fussiness and food intolerances. If you have selected the correct diet for your cat’s requirements, then it is not necessary to change it. However, we do recognise that a small minority of animals do have a higher than normal requirement for certain vitamins and minerals in their diet such as zinc or biotin.
The number of times a day you feed your cat should be tailored to suit the individual. Generally, we do not recommend feeding less than twice daily. Too infrequent feeding can lead to a very slow metabolic rate that encourages food to be laid down as fat rather than being used for energy immediately. Infrequent feeds can also promote the vomiting of bile as the stomach ‘craves’ something to digest. And of course, the cat may decide to go to someone else’s house for food!
Any changes that have to be made to a diet for whatever reason should be done gradually by mixing the old and new diets together for a week, and then slowly decreasing the proportion of the old diet and increasing the proportion of the new diet. Before making an assessment of whether a new diet suits your cat, it should be on that diet solely for a week, unless the cat’s health is at risk in which case a decision will have to be made sooner. When tempting finicky eaters onto a new diet, especially cats which have been “spoilt”, it is acceptable to moisten, warm or even dry fry foods to make them more aromatic and palatable. You may have to hand-feed such cats initially. If the cat is a healthy adult that has no special requirements, it is acceptable for them not to eat for up to two days but no longer. Particular care must be taken with oriental cats some of who would rather starve than have food that is good for them!
Cats should only drink water. Most adults have lost the ability to digest dairy products which are probably the biggest single cause of upset tummies. Cats are particularly fond of still spring water provided in large shallow bowls so that their whiskers do not touch the sides.