What food is right for your cat?

A cute ginger cat, walking or creeping along some grass
Fussy feline: cats are notoriously picky and can suddenly stop eating certain foods Credit: Getty

Fat cats are an increasing problem in the UK, and yet many pets are picky eaters. Here are some things to consider when choosing your cat’s food

Nutrition know-how

Cats need 42 essential nutrients to stay in perfect shape, and a “complete” or “balanced” cat food will contain a combination of high-quality animal protein for good muscle strength and mobility, fat and carbohydrate for energy, plus minerals (including calcium and phosphorus) and vitamins.

Both wet and dry foods are available and, if served correctly, both will keep your cat in perfect shape. Some cats will happily eat dry food, and enjoy “grazing” throughout the day – dry, crunchy foods also help to keep your cat’s teeth clean. However, other cats may prefer wet food, served in two or three small meals each day. Dr Maeve Moorcroft, head of pets at Pets at Home, says: “Remember to always provide plenty of fresh, clean water, too – especially if your cat is eating dry food.”

Eating for health

A good diet with all the right nutrients will ensure your cat has a dense, shiny coat, healthy skin, bright eyes and clean teeth.

Some cats can develop allergies to ingredients such as corn, wheat, meat and milk, so grain-free recipes with easy-to-digest protein sources, like chicken or turkey, are available. Urinary infections can also be a problem for felines, so some cat foods now include cranberry extract.

Even furballs can be tackled with special anti-furball recipes – these are usually a dry kibble, with vitamins and minerals to improve fur condition and reduce hair loss, plus vegetable-based fibre to help “sweep” excess fur through the gut.

Controlling calories

“When cats are obese, it can make it hard for them to run, jump and groom themselves. Excess weight can also lead to more serious problems including diabetes and arthritis,” says Dr Moorcroft. Cats are naturally active and, without regular exercise, unused energy from food quickly turns to body fat. If your cat is overweight, you can gradually switch them to a “weight-control” cat food containing less carbohydrate and less fat, and by carefully following the recommended portion size.

Fussy eaters

Cats are notoriously picky and can suddenly stop eating certain foods without warning. It’s a good idea to ensure you have other options available.

Fussy felines may prefer wet-food recipes; serving your cat’s food at room temperature, or even slightly warm, can also make it smell more tempting. Dr Moorcroft says: “Even the bowl you use can make a difference: some cats prefer a flat plate so that their whiskers don’t touch the sides.”

Senior cats

“Older cats have different nutritional needs from around the age of seven – this includes less protein to keep the kidneys healthy, and less fat and fewer calories to prevent weight gain as they gradually become less active,” she adds. Some senior cats may develop joint stiffness, so cat foods with increased levels of omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, and nutritional supplements such as glucosamine and chondroitin sulphate can all help to maintain mobility.

Useful advice

Cat nutrition can be confusing, especially if you have never owned a cat before. If you want more advice, nutrition advisers at your local Pets at Home store can explain what the feeding guides on cat-food packaging mean, and offer guidance on what a healthy cat should weigh.

Choosing the perfect family pet

Pets at Home is the UK's largest pet supplies store. From toys and bedding to tailored food and in-store veterinary clinics, it's the first place to go for any pet need.

To learn more, and find your local store, visit petsathome.com