Whether your cat is a picky eater or a little on the pudgy side, they probably let you know how they feel about what you put in their bowl.
“Cats are very opinionated about food, and a lot of their food preferences are formed in the first year,” says Julie A. Churchill, DVM, PhD, associate professor of nutrition at the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine in St. Paul. So if your cat is a kitten, now is the time to get them used to different types of food — wet, dry, and semidry.
But even if your pet is older, there are still ways to make sure they are getting all the nutrients they need to be healthy. Start by learning more about what you’re buying and what your cat needs.
Choose Balanced Food
All cat owners should know how to read a cat food label, says Richard Hill, PhD, associate professor at the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine in Gainesville.
“With so much advertising, people tend to focus on ingredients, but the nutrients are more important, namely protein and fat,” he says.
It’s trendy to bash grains and carbohydrates in pet food, but those are not necessarily bad, Churchill says. Plus, food made of only protein and fat gets pricey. “Carbs can be valuable to hold dry food together and make food more affordable, and many cats like that crunch. As long as carbs are in an amount cats can handle, it’s OK.”
How do you know if your cat’s food is balanced? Look for a statement from the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) on the package.
“It will say that the food is complete and balanced, either through a feeding trial or because the recipe meets cats’ nutritional requirements,” Hill says. If the food has this distinction, there’s no need to give your kitty extra vitamins or supplements — the food has all they need.
How Much, How Often?
Most cats will eat their main meals at dawn and dusk, when they would normally be hunting and catching prey in the wild, so those are often the best times to feed them.