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How to properly feed my cat?

The cat is a « Hyper Carnivore»

More than 8 cat owners on 10 feed their cats exclusively with pre-cooked food. In fact, 80% of pet food is sold in Supermarkets², however vet advice must be privileged: feeding a cat with high quality food, and that corresponds to his health and lifestyle, can increase his welfare in the long-term.

When able to choose, a cat will spontaneously go towards high protein food. This behaviour shows that the instinct that pushes a cat to hunt and eat protein-rich prey is still present! Indeed, a mouse contains less than 3% of carbohydrates (or sugar) and little fats.

By entirely eating its prey, the cat also keeps a “provision” of fatty acids (abundant in the nervous system), vitamins (present in the viscera) and minerals (constituting the bones) that are essential to him.

A cat needs a high protein diet: it does now know how to stock protein when they are scarce. Unlike the dog, a cat cannot compensate for a protein deficit by using carbohydrates. It is with protein that he produces the necessary energy every day. A deficiency in protein can therefore easily affect the cat, when his diet in not balanced.

An abundance of protein: multiple benefits for the cat

When a cat is fed with a high protein diet, this promotes the cat’s good health. A diet rich in protein has many benefits on the cat: the skin’s health and beauty of the coat are enhanced, the immune system is strengthened and the risk of bad digestion of carbohydrates is limited as the nutriment contains little carbohydrates, his blood sugar level is stabilized, etc..

 

  • Better weight control

The average weight of a cat is 4kg, however 1 out 3 cats weighs over 5kg. The high rate of sterilization (about 80%) comes with a high trend of obesity, especially with the 25% of cats living in apartments, with no possibility of physical activity. After sterilization, the risk of gaining weight is 3 times higher and male cats must be watched3 attentively. Be careful, a cat that gains 500g is equivalent to a human gaining 10 kg ! If a kitten is neutered at puberty, before the end of his growth, it is necessary to change his regime in order to avoid any excessive gain of weight, but still cover all the needs related to his proper growth.

A high protein diet promotes maintenance of muscular mass, which consumes more energy than fat reserves. The more a cat is muscular, the more it burns calories and therefore the less it stocks superfluous fat! On the other hand, protein promote the installation of satiety and help the cat regulate his appetite. This type of diet fits perfectly any neutered or sedentary cat4.

 

  • Maintenance of urinary health

Many cats suffer from urinary stones or cystitis (inflammation of the bladder) associated with anxiety. One of the easiest ways to limit the formation of stones is to encourage them to drink and to eliminate. The more a cat drinks, the less likely the bladder will be attacked by irritating substances in the urine.

A diet rich in protein significantly increases the amount of water a cat drinks and the urinary volume he produces. The urine is more diluted and stones are less likely to form in the urinary tract. Such a diet is very well tolerated by the cat, as long as the rest of the diet is balanced and that the cat can drink at will. Contrary to a misconception, protein do not tire the kidneys; no study has ever shown a link between protein and the development of any kidney disease.

A longly underestimated protein requirement

In order to know if the protein level of a cat food is sufficient, it is recommended to observe the evolution of lean mass (ie muscle mass).

A recent study has shown that for a neutered cat, at leaset5.2 to 6g of protein/kg was needed to maintain lean mass intact. Thus, a cat that weighs 5kg needs to consume at least 26g of protein per day to maintain its muscle mass. (Relative to the energy consumed, this amounts to providing 87g to 104g of protein per 1000kcal ingested)5.

Do you provide your cat with the amount of protein he needs?

If a cat eats pet food purchased in a supermarket, it is possible he will only receive 22g of protein per day, a deficit of 15% compared to its optimal need6. On the other hand, if your cat is fed with Veterinary HPM® Adult Neutered Cat, he will consume 32g of protein per day, a safety margin of 23% compared to his optimal need! This makes it possible to cover the needs of all cats, even those with larger needs, such as long-haired cats!

Many cat foods contain a high content of cereal and starch. Excess starch can lead to fat storage, and therefore to overweight; it can also cause digestive disorders because the cat’s organism digests it badly. For a good tolerance, it is recommended not to bring more than 25% of the energy in the form of carbohydrates7. A diet that is adapted to the carnivorous nature of the cat can keep it healthy for a long time.

Some practical tips
  • A cat must be able to spread his food consumption over 24 hours: he spontaneously eats in small quantities and must be able to eat at will (but still controlling the total amount consumer every day!)
  • Fresh water must be available at all times (renew every day). To encourage your cat to drink, it is advised to set multiple water spots in the house and garden. 
  • If you change your cat’s diet, do it progressively: replace the old food with the new, by gradually increasing the share of the new compared to the old. Spread the transition over 7 to 10 days.

References 
1. FACCO/TNS-SOFRES. Résultats des enquêtes bisannuelles : enquête 2014 sur un échantillon de 14 000 foyers français - www.facco.fr/IMG/pdf/PAFF2014_-_communique_de_presse.pdf 
2. Leforestier E. Le chat sur toutes les gammes. Petmarket magazine, avril 2017: 15-21.
3. Courcier EA, et al. Prevalence and risk factors for feline obesity in a first opinion practice in Glasgow, Scotland. J Feline Med Surg 2010; 12: 746-753.
4. Nguyen P, et al. High protein intake affects lean body mass but not energy expenditure in nonobese neutered cats. J Nutr 2004; 134 : 1084S-2086S.
5. Laflamme D et al. J.Féline Med Surg 2013 ;15 : 691-697
6. Comparaison réalisée en 04/17 en France sur la base d’une sélection d’aliments physiologiques secs pour chats adultes stérilisés vendus en circuit grand public.  7. Blanchard G. Alimentation du chat, carnivore de compagnie. Pratique Vet 2015 ; 50 : 640 -644

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