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Supplementing Your Cat's Diet

Aug 17, 2007
Saying "no" when your cat looks at you with pleading eyes and coaxes for food from the table can be difficult. However, succumbing to your cat's wiles has the potential to create several problems.

Consistently adding human food to a nutritionally balanced commercial cat food may upset the nutrient balance of the diet. You may also be creating behavior problems. Your cat will come to expect food from the table when it coaxes. If a handout is not forthcoming, the cat may steal food from the table or the food preparation area. To avoid this problem, try feeding your cat at regularly scheduled times, such as when the family is having breakfast or dinner. Feed only enough to maintain your cat in good body condition. Ignore its coaxing for additional food, or give hugs instead.

Supplementing with human food adds calories to a cat's diet and may lead to an obese cat. When you do give your cat treats, use those formulated for dogs or cats. Remember that the treats contain calories. Reduce the amount of your cat's regular diet proportionally to the treats being offered.

Perhaps you are among the cat owners who worry about whether or not your cat is getting all the nutrients it needs from a commercial food. Having a variety of foods in our diets is necessary to get the balanced nutrition we, as humans, require. However, all the needed variety is built into complete and balanced cat foods.

When it comes to providing optimum nutrition for our cats, reputable cat food manufacturers have done the work for us. Research scientists have formulated commercial diets containing all the nutrients normal, healthy dogs or cats need for a particular life stage. However, factors like feeding table scraps, inconsistent exercise, or stressful changes in routine can leave dogs and cats with special nutritional needs.

Some foods fed in excess may cause health problems. For example, repeatedly adding raw eggs to a cat's diet may cause a deficiency of the vitamin biotin. Egg whites contain an enzyme which destroys the vitamin biotin. Symptoms of biotin deficiency include dermatitis, loss of hair and poor growth.

Milk, if it is offered, should be in small amounts and never used as a substitute for water. Some adult dogs and cats are not capable of digesting large amounts of milk. It contains the sugar lactose, which requires the enzyme lactase for breakdown in the intestinal tract. If the intestinal tracts does not contain sufficient lactase, consumption of a high level of milk may cause diarrhea.

Although we may associate meat or meat by-products with a dog or cat's nutritional needs, meat in itself is not a balanced diet. While meat is a good source of certain nutrients, it must be combined with other ingredients to provide complete nutrition. High quality cat foods provide the nutritional balance a cat needs.

When it comes to minerals, some cat owners believe that additional calcium, and possibly other minerals, should be added to the diets of pregnant and nursing females and growing puppies and kittens. It is true that more minerals are needed at these times, but they are normally obtained through increased consumption of a high quality nutritionally balanced diet. Adding them out of proportion to other nutrients can create skeletal deformities and other problems.

Some cat owners feed baby food to induce a cat to eat or as an ongoing treat. Recent studies suggest that certain baby foods contain levels of onion powder which are toxic to cats. If your cat is not eating, it may be a sign of illness and your veterinarian should be consulted. Commercial cat treats are your best bet to reward your cat for being your good friend.

Always keep chocolate out of your cat's reach. It contains theobromine, which is toxic to cats.

Sometimes it's difficult to take a firm stand with a cat who is a consummate "con artist" and knows how to get its own way. Remember the problems excessive supplementation may cause. This should help you take a firm stand and feed a nutritionally balanced diet that tastes good to your cat and is good for their health.
About the Author
Tristan Andrews writes useful articles about cats and kittens. Discover and explore the feline world. Find out how to better care for, train and live with your cat at the cat forums at http://www.i-love-cats.com
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