When your cat is happy, you are happy. When your cat has delicious chewy treats, he is usually pretty happy. But cat owners oft forget that their furry friends only need about 200 calories a day. At about 1.5 calories per piece, a single handful of Meow Mix is over 25 percent of your cat's daily intake.
I have a 12-year-old calico kitty who eats a regular diet of commercial fish cat food and some assorted cat food pates. She also loves whole milk, and we give it to her after her meals on a daily basis. A friend of mine told me that I should not give her milk, as this can be harmful. Is this true?
In our quest to eat healthy food, we often extend that enthusiasm to our cats. We evaluate their diets with the same scrupulous care we give our own, but commercial cat food can still remain somewhat of a mystery. We question if preservatives are safe. Should we avoid genetically modified ingredients? What about artificial coloring?
A touch of green around the house during a long, cold winter provides a reminder of spring and creates a festive mood for the holidays. Although plants like lilies are lovely, the effects on a cat who ingests them are decidedly not. In the case of lilies of the Lilium species, cats can suffer potentially fatal kidney failure.
Conventional wisdom has long held that cats need less protein as they age. The truth is exactly the opposite, says Joseph Wakshlag, DVM, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Nutrition at the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. “What we realize in geriatrics is that nobody pays much attention to muscle mass. We’re starting to realize you lose muscle mass as you age — human, dog, cat. You can’t reverse it,” he says. “You have to lift weights to maintain current muscle mass, but it’s hard to get a cat to lift weights.”
An intriguing trend has developed among singles in the U.S. Single people — men particularly — are becoming pet owners at rates greater than families. They’re “turning to pets for love and a sense of family,” according to a survey by the American Veterinary Medical Association. In a five-year period, pet ownership among the never married, widowed and divorced grew 16.6 percent. Excluding people who never married, growth in pet ownership among singles rose 17.7 percent during this same period.
Obesity among pets in the U.S. continued to climb in 2012, with the number of overweight cats reaching an all-time high. Veterinarians reported that 58.3 percent of their feline patients — up from 55 percent over the previous year — were overweight or obese in the sixth annual survey by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP). Given the cat population of 74.1 million in this country, that equals about 43.2 million cats, the association says. Surprisingly, the survey also revealed a “fat gap,” according to APOP founder Ernie Ward, DVM. When veterinarians asked owners to describe their fat cats’ body condition as too thin, normal, overweight or obese, 45.3 percent said normal.
Treats provide welcome rewards for good behavior, but their overly generous use can contribute to obesity. One reason is that owners don’t count treats as calories. “But the bigger problem is a multiple-person household in which every time someone walks by, they give the cat a treat,” says Joseph Wakshlag, DVM, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Nutrition at the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine.
Biologists at the Royal Veterinary College in London may have discovered the reason for the cheetah’s record as the fastest living land mammal. Researchers at the college’s Structure and Motion Laboratory compared the cheetah’s gait to that of racing Greyhounds, whose speed tops out at 37 miles per hour. The big cats have been clocked at 64 miles per hour. “Cheetahs and Greyhounds are known to use a rotary gallop [in which the limbs fall in circular sequence around the body] and physically they are remarkably similar, yet there is this bewitching difference in maximum speed,” says researcher Alan Wilson, Bsc., Ph.d.
Bringing out the nutritional best in your cat goes beyond the food in the bowl. Frequency of meals, location, post-meal bowl cleaning and other environmental factors also influence his health. “One of the biggest problems is that far too many people overfeed their cats, and the cats become overweight and some even become obese,” says nutritionist Joseph Wakshlag, DVM, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Clinical Nutrition at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. “Dogs give you those begging eyes when you sit down to eat, but in most cases, you can get them to go into another room and leave you alone.” They excel at begging. “Cats, however, are aggressive beggars. They will keep purring and meowing. If you tell them to go away, they will just come right back and start meowing again. They are more persistent than dogs and far too often, the person gets frustrated and will get up and put more food in their bowls.”
I work at a large no-kill animal sanctuary with special-needs cats. Often when one becomes ill and stops eating, we tempt him or her with people food like baby food or boiled chicken. I have heard a lot of conflicting things about feeding cats baby food or straight meat. Someone recently told me that a good all-meat baby food and straight chicken are nutritionally complete, but I have read in a few places that cats need other nutrients like taurine and vitamins A and D or they will get very sick. Does straight meat provide full nutrition for cats? In the wild, how do cats get full nutrition if meat does not provide it all? What is the best kind of food for our dear kitties?
Sweetness is detected by a specific receptor protein (what we commonly refer to as a ‘taste bud’) in the tongue. Cats are known to be insensitive to sweet tastes, but the specific reason was not known until recently. Researchers analyzed the genes encoding the taste buds in twelve different carnivorous species, including cats (“Major taste loss in carnivorous mammals,” in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, US, 2012 ). They found that those species such as cats — whose diet is exclusively meat-based — had lost the gene encoding the taste bud for sweetness.