10 Nutrition Tips for Cats Every Newbie Owner Should Know

November 17, 2023

Planning to own a cat? Good for you as they are one of the best pets to keep in the house!

Of course, there are a lot of things that you need to keep in mind when you start owning a cat. Among the many things to consider is your cat’s nutrition.

Unfortunately, many cat owners are overwhelmed with giving the right nutrition to their pet cats.

Even the most seasoned owners still think that cat nutrition is intimidating because of how precise you should be when around it.

But it doesn’t have to be intimidating!

So, if you are a new cat owner, then this article is for you.

In this article, we'll be sharing with you 10 nutrition tips for cats that every newbie owner should know.

From the primary macronutrients, up to recommended calories, we’ll talk about actionable tips on your cat’s nutrition.

Are you ready to learn these newbie-friendly tips?

If your answer is yes, let’s start!

1. Cats are Obligate Carnivores

It may come as a surprise to you, but cats are unexpectedly obligate carnivores!

What that means is that they require a diet that mainly consists of meat.
After all, our feline pet came from a lineage of big cats who hunt and prey on creatures in the wild. There was even a scientific literary review in 2017 that examined why cats are obligate carnivorous.

In the paper, it explained that the digestion and metabolism in cats still bear a resemblance to that of lions, cheetahs, and other big felines. So, even as we, humans, had domesticated cats, their carnivorous traits remained in them.

But what does that have to do with you as a cat owner?

Well, knowing that cats are carnivorous, matching the diet ensures that your pet gets the nutrients that it needs. And for your furry feline friend, that means serving them a diet that’s rich in protein.

Cat looking at a plate with cooked meat

2. Keep Their Carbohydrate Intake Minimal

Aside from considering your cat’s protein intake, you should also be wary of its carbohydrate diet too. Ideally, your cat should have a diet consisting of a lower carbohydrate percentage. Here’s why.

From the 2017 literature review, several studies point to cats achieving a balance in their macronutrients in a low-carbohydrate diet. This is because cats don’t efficiently digest the carbohydrates compared to other creatures.

So, if a low-carb diet is already the optimal diet for cats, imagine what would happen if they ate as much carbohydrates as we do.

High-carbohydrate diets, according to the 2017 academic paper, can lead to excess calorie intake, feline obesity, and even diabetes.

That’s why experts and vet nutritionists recommend that your cat’s diet should only consist of 10 to 15% carbohydrates.

3. Cats Don’t Need a Lot of Fiber Intake

Like carbohydrates, a cat’s need for fiber is only minimal.

Since cats are carnivorous creatures, their digestive tract isn’t built to properly churn plants and fibers into much-needed nutrients.

So, most probably, a lot of the plants, veggies, and fibers that your cat eats would end up in its stool if it ever ate one.

Commercial cat foods will also contain fiber in the form of grains, wheat, flour, and even animal tissues. You should check the product’s label to see if the amount exceeds your cat’s recommended fiber intake.

4. Secure a Water Bowl Beside Your Cat’s Food

Water is one of the most important nutrients for cats. They get their water mostly through their food’s moisture.

But with the rise of kibbles or dry cat food for our feline friends, cats risk not getting their much-needed water intake.

This is because kibbles only amount to 10% water. And often it’s nowhere near its recommended water intake of 3.5 to 4.5 ounces of water per 5 pounds of their body weight.

If you’re feeding your cat kibbles, you should also always place a fresh and crisp supply of water beside their meal.

RELATED: How Much Water Should a Dog Drink?

5. Canned Cat Food is Healthier than Dry Food

Wet cat food or canned food has long proven to be a healthier alternative to dry cat foods.

For one, canned cat foods are made up of 80% water.

This is important because cats are not known drinkers. So even if you have a water bowl set up near its food, you still can’t be sure that your cat will drink its daily intake.

With canned foods, there’s enough moisture in the meal, so cats stay hydrated even without drinking.
Canned cat foods also contain less carbohydrates than dry foods.

A lot of commercial dry cat foods use flour as a binding agent to hold the ingredients in shape. The flour all becomes just added carbohydrates in the meal which would inevitably become excess calories for cats.

6. Energetic Cats Require More Calorie Intake

If you’re trying to monitor and control your cat’s weight, it’s important to know how much calorie your cat spends for the day.

So how many daily calories do cats need? Well, the answer depends primarily on the activity level for the day.
You can start by knowing your cat’s resting energy requirements (RER) first.

RER is simply the minimum calorie amount that your cat burns at its normal resting activity. It’s also the minimum calories that your cat needs to function well for the day.

American Animal Hospital Association placed a simple calculation for your cat’s RER expressed in kcal: RER (kcal per day) = 30 x (body weight in kg) + 70. This would be your cat’s caloric needs when it’s in its resting mode.

But if you own active cats instead, they will need 20% to 40% more than their RER. You may refer to your vet or a feline nutritionist to work out your cat’s energy needs.

RELATED: Help Your Cat Battle Obesity

7. Consult Your Local Vet about Making Homemade Cat Food

Cats who are picky eaters may put you in a tough spot to find a cat food brand that they’ll like. When that happens, you’re more likely to lean to alternative options like making a homemade diet for them.

And a homemade diet seems like an appealing alternative too! After all, unlike commercial cat foods, you can see what ingredients go into your cat’s diet.

But as it turns out, you may be doing more harm to your cat than good.

This is because commercial cat foods are designed specifically to provide your feline friend with the perfect mix of nutrients and energy.

Organizations like the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) and Feline Nutrition Expert (FNE) have set out the essential nutritional guidelines for cats. They also ensure that cat food manufacturers meet these nutritional standards to offer your cat a balanced diet.

It’s also the same reason why most of the homemade cat food recipes will often fail to meet your cat’s nutritional needs. Since it’s not following any nutritionist-approved guidelines, homemade diets can even malnourish your cat and harm them.

But who says homemade diets are completely out of your options?

With proper recommendations from your local vet, you can craft homemade diets that can meet your cat’s nutritional needs.

8. Provide More Energy to Your Kittens During their Weaning Phase

Weaning in kittens is the gradual transition from mother cat's milk to solid foods as they grow and become independent eaters.

It’s also in this stage where they grow double or maybe even triple their original size! With their growth comes a huge demand for nutrients and calories.

This is where you, a cat owner should step in and help.

To better support their growth, you should pick kitten diets that are rich in protein, essential amino acids, and fats.

You can also feed their meals in smaller but more frequent portions than what adult cats are having. In this way, you’re helping your kitties transition better to solid foods without overwhelming them.

RELATED ARTICLE: Cat or Kitten: Which Should You Adopt?

veterinarian milk feeding a small kitten

9. Senior Cats Might Require More Vitamin Intake

With an aging body comes an inevitable metabolic issue. Often, senior cats don’t absorb the nutrients from their food as efficiently as they used to before.

When that happens, our senior friends may benefit from a bit more attention to their vitamin intake.

You may want to consider getting them cat foods that are specifically formulated for their age. Vitamin supplements also help regulate most of the nutrient deficiencies that your senior cat will have as they age.

A few of these supplements go a long way in keeping your cats still feeling fresh and chipper!

Just remember to consult your local veterinarian before you start fidgeting with your senior cat’s vitamin and mineral levels.

10. Cat Treats Should Only Account for 10% of the Diet

Are you fond of giving your feline pals treats? That’s great!

Giving treats to cats helps you train them better. It also fosters a closer bond with your cat as it’s an excellent positive reinforcement tool.

But while it's tempting to spoil your cats with treats, you still need to keep your use of treats in check.

As a good practice, treats should only make up about 10% of your cat’s overall diet. Any more of that and your cat will suffer from an imbalance in their nutrition!

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