Plus, tips and tricks for feline enrichment to
help your cats live their very best 9 lives!
–by Courtney Wennerstrom
Welcome to your EVERYTHING CAT resource Guide!
*note–this is a guide for adult cats, who Courtney lovingly refers to as “kittens” occasionally. Please stay tuned for more articles specifically about kitten health, behavior, and nutrition–and what to do if you find a litter in your neighborhood.
Smitten with Kittens
My husband, Steve, and I cohabitate with two teenagers, Maddox and Adia, two huskies, Sasha and Saint, and two feline furballs, Leche and Mojo. Our home is lively–full of howls and meows–and our exuberant animals are the glue to our family.
Leche, a “foster-fail,” is the feline love of my life. He sports a tuxedo and resembles a dairy cow–hence his name. Highly social, Leche loves hanging out with the dogs, sitting on my computer, cuddling, and sleeping on my hip. I love him more than I could ever describe. Mojo, our beautiful, food-obsessed Maine Coon, appreciates chasing moths and escaping our busy household to visit the neighbor cat–he has a crush :)–even though he is not supposed to go outside. He and my husband are inseparable, so it’s not unusual for Mojo to groom Steve’s bald head, which is hilarious. 🙂
Despite how much our family adores our feisty felines, as a first-time cat mom, I will admit that I have made some mistakes. Mojo has kidney disease and Leche, who is FIV-positive , has bladder issues. If I had known when I first adopted them all the things I now understand about cat nutrition, I might have been able to prevent their kidney or bladder problems altogether. But we all live and learn.
Mojo and Leche refusing to look at the camera 🙂
Photo Credit: Belle Vie
And when it comes to cats, we are all still learning. Even the experts–animal behaviorists, scientists, specialty veterinarians, and animal welfare professionals–are just scratching the surface of what makes cats tick, chatter, pounce, and purr, both as individuals and as a species. New research and findings mean that we are constantly revising our theories and approaches to veterinary medicine; gaining insight into feline psychology; and discovering how humans and cats interact and communicate. It therefore behooves us to be as curious about our cats as our cats are about everything else. Because we’re all smitten with kittens, I wrote this as a comprehensive–but certainly not exhaustive–guide for fellow cat parents who, like me, want to improve their parenting skills. I sincerely hope this synthesis of current trends and expert resources will help you navigate and translate the feline world almost as easily as our cats soak up sunshine.
A copy of this document with a table of contents can be downloaded here in pdf format for your easy reference.
Part 1. Research has been Going to the Dogs–that is changing, and it’s a Good Thing for our Feline Friends
Cutting-edge Research on Cats
Cats are enigmatic, wondrous creatures. They twirl around our legs, purr contentedly in our laps, chirp for affection, chase our shoestrings, and melt us into puddles with their adorable antics. There is something familiar yet also alien about these beings who stalk our feet and bite us, apropos of nothing, only to turn around 5 seconds later and curl up in our laps. Lively, and often unpredictable, cats have taken over our homes and hearts. Our fascination with cats–both big and small–reflects just how profound our bond with them truly is. Yet despite how they intrigue and mesmerize us, we are only just beginning to study and understand them in meaningful ways. The good news is that researchers are asking more sophisticated questions now–not just about why cats behave the way they do, but investigating lines of inquiry that just might teach us how to speak their language.
The Feline Cultural Paradox
In clinical research and reporting, cats have traditionally gotten the short end of the proverbial stick compared to their canine counterparts. James Gorman explores the differential treatment of cats and dogs in this New York Times article, examining how attitudes towards animals have shaped how we study and perceive them. He turns to Elinor Karlsson–a geneticist who works on dog genomes, but who also has three cats of her own–for insight. She affirms that, “the research has lagged behind in cats. I think they are taken less seriously than dogs, probably to do with societal biases”.
These biases underscore the paradoxical position cats occupy in the cultural imagination. On the one hand, they are estimated to be even more popular pets than dogs, and they completely dominate the Internet . On the other hand, if no longer directly associated with bad omens or evil, they continue to fall prey to remnants of outdated superstitions. Black cats may not connote bad luck anymore, but many people still misinterpret cat body language or behavior as spiteful, even though researchers agree that cats simply are not capable of malice. From their exalted status as beloved companions–to cultural tropes that feminize and link cats to the female body; a shocking lack of legislation to protect big cats from being held in captivity; and damaging misconceptions that cats are low maintenance pets who basically care for and entertain themselves–cathttps://www.avma.org/resources-tools/reports-statistics/us-pet-ownership-statisticss are simultaneously revered, elevated, mistreated, neglected, and abused.
As a result of lingering negative views of cats, we tend to spend more money and invest more time and energy on our dogs; are less likely to seek professional help for feline behavior problems (which are often health issues); are less willing to search for them when they are lost (too often assuming they have run away rather than thinking they need help getting home); and more likely to punish or turn them out of doors for things they truly cannot control without our love and intervention.
Luckily, This is Changing
First, a shout out to the many organizations devoted to improving all nine of our cats’ lives, and to those attempting to add one more. The Ten Movement, for instance–whose name puns on giving cats an extra life–works tirelessly to increase spay/neuter numbers and drastically reduce euthanasia rates in shelters to give cats an opportunity to thrive. They encourage transparency between shelters and their communities, and are doing everything in their power to create a culture that accepts and supports community cats by spaying and neutering and allowing them to live freely. Their super cool mascot–Scooter, a neutered male cat who struts around in aviator sunglasses and a gold chain–has made an enormous impact for the no-kill movement.
The results of such large-scale ideological shifts towards respecting ALL cats–informed by recent movements initiated by animal welfare professionals and cat enthusiasts–are reflected in new research trends. Steve Dale, Certified Animal Behavior Consultant and aapp monthly columnist, serves on the board at Every Cat Health Foundation –a nonprofit dedicated to understanding feline psychology and enhancing veterinary medicine. Dale is effusive in his praise of the catastic work they do, and from everything I’ve read, it’s well deserved:
If you have a cat, you can pretty much thank the Every Cat Health Foundation (formerly known as the Winn Feline Foundation)–for everything we know about cat health and welfare. Since its creation by the late Robert Winn in 1968, this non-profit has funded nearly $8 million for cat health studies. Arguably no organization on the planet has had the impact for cat health, behavior and welfare.
The Foundation for Feline Renal Research seeks better treatments for kidney and other diseases, and various other impressive organizations–listed and described here by Catster –focus on many types of cancers or rare diseases. These are good options for feline devotees who want to donate to cat science. As an aside, I’ve read that only 2-3% of all philanthropic dollars go to animal welfare, so the need is real and pressing.
Research on the Human-Cat Bond
Moreover, researchers are more focused than ever before on the human-animal bond, rather than just on studying cats in isolation. HABRI (Human Animal Bond Research Institute) and HABA (Human Animal Bond Association) celebrate and advocate for the importance of animals on human health and wellbeing; fund and conduct studies that advance veterinary science and reveal mysteries of animal psychology; and put pets at the center of wide-reaching initiatives to enhance our relationships with animals and to one another. HABRI, for instance, has published research on how cats and other pets help us age more gracefully; alleviate depression, stress and social isolation; detect cancer and improve the lives of cancer patients; facilitate cardiovascular health; improve the workplace; build community, and so much more. HABI likewise invests in human-animal bond research, with an emphasis on education, certifications, and partnerships. Another organization to watch is The American Association of Feline Practitioners, whose mission includes, “ support[ing] its members in improving the health and welfare of cats through high standards of practice, continuing education, and evidence-based medicine”. These wonderful organizations are good to follow because they are constantly advancing new ideas.
While plenty of people take issue with the term “pet parent,” science is confirming that our individual lifestyles and personalities shape our cats in ways that mimic the parent-child relationship. Lauren R. Finka, Joanna Ward, Mark J. Farnworth, and Daniel S. Mills argue that:
Higher owner Extroversion was associated with an increased likelihood that the cat would be provided ad libitum access to the outdoors; higher owner Agreeableness was associated with a higher level of owner reported satisfaction with their cat, and with a greater likelihood of owners reporting their cats as being of a normal weight. Finally higher owner Conscientiousness was associated with the cat displaying less anxious/fearful, aggressive, aloof/avoidant, but more gregarious behavioral styles. These findings demonstrate that the relationship between career personality and the care received by a dependent, may extend beyond the human family to animal-owner relationships, with significant implications for the choice of management, behavior and potentially the broader wellbeing of companion animals.
In other words, we have a much deeper influence over our cats’ behavior and well-being than we ever imagined possible, and science is starting to explain exactly why and how we are their surrogate parents. It is perhaps unsurprising, then, that cats have learned to mimic the sound of human babies when crying for food. How brilliant is that?!
PART 2. Cat Behavior and Health Are Deeply Intertwined–and the surprising connection is Enrichment.
CATitude: Is your Cat Bored, Stressed, or Understimulated?
Cats are communicative and social. When they do something that annoys us, we often assume that they have a behavior problem when in reality they may be trying to tell us something important. As Steve Dale explains, when cats fail to use the litter box, chase our ankles, yowl, get under our feet, or bite, they aren’t misbehaving or acting out. Instead, they are either: 1) expressing natural behaviors or instincts; or 2) articulating that something is wrong.
If you notice a dramatic change in your cat’s behavior, it is important to make sure there are no underlying medical conditions. A proper diagnosis is crucial because stress and boredom manifest psychosomatically in cats–meaning domesticated cats who lack enrichment often suffer very real, extremely painful conditions as a result. For instance, I recently learned about Pandora Syndrome –a complex set of psychosomatic and physical symptoms caused by stress/ a dangerous lack of stimulation–that humans frequently label as behavior problems. In reality, without new smells to enjoy or insects, mice, and birds to hunt and chase, indoor cats are particularly susceptible to this painful condition, and as a result of the pain, may urinate outside of the litter box, even though they do not have a urinary tract infection. What vets used to call idiopathic feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD), has now been linked to feline interstitial cystitis, or Pandora Syndrome: a pathologic condition resulting from chronic activation of the central stress response system. Put another way, boredom and a dull home life that does not allow cats to express species-specific behaviors cause serious harm. Cats who pee outside of the litter box do so because they associate the box with their suffering–and they need medical help, not some misguided attempt at discipline.
In essence, cat health and cat behavior are deeply intertwined–and it can take some rigorous investigation to get to the root of the problem. If you think your cat is being naughty, you can begin by studying this MERCK catalog of feline behavior problems; however if your cat has recently picked up an irritating habit or seems off somehow, I recommend a vet visit.
How to Know if Your Cat is Sick
Several years ago, I was brushing my teeth when Leche uncharacteristically hopped into our bathtub. Initially amused, I giggled but then almost fainted when he peed blood right in front of my eyes. This was a clear sign that he needed immediate medical attention. The vet discovered that he had crystals in his urine, which almost shattered my heart :(–but I felt fortunate that we caught and treated his bladder issues very quickly. Unfortunately, cats do not always demonstrate their pain or illnesses so transparently–especially because, in the same way as their wild counterparts, they have deep instincts to hide sickness and mask their vulnerability as defense mechanisms against predators.
I’ve read that love is the act of paying attention, which really applies here, since cats rely on our careful analysis of their behavior, moods, and routines to keep them healthy and pain free. When your cat begins demonstrating odd or concerning behaviors, please absolutely 100% trust your instincts and seek help. Here is a list of signs and symptoms of sickness or injury to look out for.
Once you have a diagnosis, work with your veterinarian on a treatment plan. I also encourage you to research your cats’ conditions to make sure you understand exactly what’s going on to make educated decisions about their healthcare. Cornell Feline Health Center’s A-Z catalogue of health topics is a quick and fairly thorough reference guide to everything cat health-related, from aging to zoonotic diseases. Read widely and do not be afraid to ask your vet questions.
How to Give a Cat a Pill or Medication
If your cats are anything like Leche and Mojo–they might resist taking any form of medication. Cats are notoriously difficult patients who often fight us whenever we try to play nurse. Here are some handy tips for giving your stubborn kitties medicine like a pro.
Enrichment for Cats = the Key to long, healthy lives
Enrichment sounds like something extra cats might enjoy but do not really need. Kinda like I want, but do not theoretically need, a new pair of Flys of London shoes. Nothing could be farther from the truth and my shoe metaphor does not stand, so to speak (see what I did there? 🙂 ). As I mentioned above, enrichment is NOT optional, but imperative. It is really just a term for finding creative ways to let our cats express natural, species-specific behaviors–like hunting–while they are essentially captives in our homes. Without activating their prey drives or acting on instincts, they suffer and can become gravely ill. There are, of course, tons of books and websites on cat behavior and enrichment, but verify that any you come across are written by respected experts. I highly recommend Decoding Your Cat– -a collaboration of 20 veterinary behaviorists, with an introduction by our own Steve Dale–which dedicates an entire chapter to cat enrichment and discusses it throughout the book.
If you are a visual learner and prefer to watch videos, Space Cat Academy is an online school that teaches cat parents how to train their feline students! From cool tricks, like how to keep cats from climbing the Christmas tree–to how to harness-train your cats for outdoor adventures or clicker training for cats–this website has a really inventive perspective and a wealth of knowledge. While the articles are free, the courses are not, but most of them are fairly reasonably priced. I spent $35 for their course on harness-training–and while I haven’t yet experimented with Leche and Mojo, Tori Peterson, the instructor, is very informative and engaging. She welcomes questions via email or the discussion board provided. Even though some people will think I’m crazy, I know my cats love walks and will document the journey of getting them accustomed to their harnesses so they can stroll with me–so keep following my corner if you’d like to explore with us!
*If you try this resource, please share the results with all of us at aapp! Simply become an AAPP Infinity member for $18, log into your account, and click on our Pet Social page! Your membership supports our nonprofit work, and a percentage goes to our partner shelters across the US to help save more cats’ lives!
There are also plenty of inexpensive or free ways to provide enrichment. Here are some fun DIY ideas from the ASPCA that require items you already have lying around the house, like toilet paper rolls and Q-tips.
The joy of enrichment activities should not stop with our cats, but ought to be entertaining for us too, especially as they solidify our bonds with our pets and give us a chance to play. Approach enrichment=quality time with your cats with a sense of wonder, mischievousness, and whimsy. By channelling your inner MacGyver, you can delight your cats’ senses, bring a bit of the wild home for them to enjoy, keep them healthy and happy, and discover what kind of games and shenanigans they love the most! It’s a win-win!
*If you have any pawesome tricks or tips for amusing your feline kids, we want to hear about them! Share your adventures across our social media platforms: 🙂
Instagram Facebook Twitter LinkedIn
Preventative Medicine and Precautions
I’m sure everyone reading this knows that cats, especially kittens and seniors, need regular vet visits and vaccinations, so I thought I would share some perhaps lesser-known ways to stave off disease and prepare for emergencies and CATastrophes–including spay and neuter surgeries, microchips with up-do-date registrations, and disaster and emergency preparedness.
Spay and Neuter–It’s the Cat’s Meow
As an animal welfare professional, I cannot stress enough the importance of spaying and neutering your cats, which helps them live long, happy lives. Like routine vet visits, bloodwork for senior cats that screen for unseen illnesses, and vaccines to prevent rabies or the “distemper shot,” veterinarians consider this simple surgery to be important preventative medicine since it reduces the risk of uterine, testicular, and other types of cancers. It also makes your cats more social and keeps them closer to home. You don’t have to trust me…you can read my interview with the spay-neuter experts themselves!
Microchip and Register Your Cats
Microchips are vital for keeping pets and families together and thus prevent a lot of heartache. Cats who are easily stressed by moving or travelling–or become spooked by fireworks–can slip through their parents’ paws pretty quickly. And this is never good. Nationally, on average, only about 8% (on the high end!) of all cats who end up at shelters are ever reunited with the people who love and need them most 🙁 Cats cannot tell strangers that they are lost or give out their addresses–so pet parents must make sure their cats are microchipped and that their registrations are up to date!
To be clear, microchips on their own–without current registrations–are TOTALLY useless. Let’s say you adopted a cat 4 years ago, and have moved 3 times since then or changed your phone number…your old information will still be on the national database unless you actively change it on the website of the company who sold the microchip to the organization you adopted from. Take a breath. I know this is confusing! Let me explain. Microchips are NOT GPS technology: they are merely simple radio transponders that contain a string of numbers–and those numbers must be linked to your current information to be useful. Shelter and rescue staff use universal microchip scanners to read the microchips of animals who come through their doors, and then look up the number using the AAHA Universal Pet Microchip Lookup database. They then contact the company who sold the chip directly for your information so they can reach out and put your cat back on your lap. Otherwise, your cat will have what we call in the industry a “dead-end chip” and it will be exponentially harder to get her home. 🙁
Microchips are also key essentials in disaster preparedness! If you ever have to flee quickly due to a hurricane, fire, flood, or another other natural calamity–and if your cat escapes in the chaos or you lose sight of her–microchips dramatically increase the odds of being reunited once you reach safety.
*If you don’t know what brand of microchip your cat has or the microchip number itself (it is usually on your adoption paperwork or on file at your vet), you can always take your cat to the vet or visit your local shelter to have them scan the number and help you figure out where to update your registration.
Cat First Aid & CPR and Poison Control
This is such a terrible thing to think about, but medical emergencies can happen anytime and you may need to perform first aid or CPR while rushing your cat to the vet due to a sudden injury, accidental poisoning, or other tragedy. The worst time to figure out what you need to do to save your cat’s life, ease her suffering, or prevent permanent disfigurement is the exact moment when you need to ACT. So let’s all do ourselves a favor and study cat First Aid & CPR BEFORE we need to use it. To begin, I recommend that you prepare a first aid kit to have on hand at home. Adventure Cats has a wonderful list of essentials to include. Let’s also study and bookmark resources like Blue Cross for Pets and VCA Animal Hospital’s guides to First Aid for Cats. You may even want to take a Cat & Dog CPR and First Aid certification class, which I’m hoping to do soon–and of course, I will share everything I learn with you in future posts.
If you think your cat has gotten into something she shouldn’t have–perhaps eaten a poisonous plant, pesticide, or dangerous food, or has been exposed to chemicals, call the ASPCA emergency hotline immediately: (888) 426-4435. There is a fee for using this service, but it is well worth the price because they are THE EXPERTS in veterinary toxicology and know more than regular veterinarians about how to treat poisoning. The ASPCA also has an app with a comprehensive list of medications, food, plants, warm and cold weather hazards, and household items that are and are not toxic for dogs, cats, birds and horses. Take 2 seconds to download it now and study their website to learn what kinds of common plants, medications, fertilizers, and other household products are life-threatening for cats so you can store them properly.
A final note on behavior and health. Earlier this year, I learned that–whether you live in a single or multiple cat household–experts agree that every cat should have 1.5 litter boxes each, and that the boxes should be separated (not lined up), so cats always have a safe, calm space to retreat if necessary. Providing your cats with an extra litter box may even help your veterinarian find the source of any litter box problems, since they will already know that your cats have adequate room to get some privacy. Also, cats love to be clean and neat, so please scoop the box at least once a day. This is important for your health too, since cats love to climb all over us and everything we own!
Part 3. Feline Nutrition and Diet
Veterinarians DO Understand Nutrition
There is a prevalent myth that veterinarians know nothing about nutrition. As a result, misinformation and wild, unscientific claims about the ideal feline diet permeate the Internet. Tragically, pet parents are often more willing to believe complete b.s. about cat food–including propaganda from companies vying for our money–than to trust their cats’ doctors. How many times have you heard someone say… “Veterinarians are in bed with these giant food corporations and don’t understand my cats’ dietary needs”…? In the majority of cases, this is patently false.
Dr. Amy Farcas debunks the myth of the clueless veterinarian and advocates for having productive conversations about diet with yours instead. She even recommends that we make an appointment specifically to have this dialogue, which makes sense because nutrition deserves more attention than just a few minutes at the end of a routine visit. Not only is nutrition fairly complex, but dietary needs can change over time. Moreover, cats are individuals with varying health issues at varying stages of their lives. A healthy senior needs to eat differently than a sick kitten, for instance. And it’s not only what you feed them, but how much, that can make a difference. Getting the proportions on cat food right is a feat of genius in and of itself. You practically need a magnifying glass and a PhD in applied mathematics to decipher the miniscule print and do the calculations on pet food labels. But veterinarians are trained in this art and science, and it is their job to do it well…so if you truly do not think your veterinarian understands nutrition, then it’s time to fire her and find a new one who does. Period.
Wet Food IS Better than just Dry
Wet food is better than just dry, for so many reasons, and a combination of both might be ideal. From my extensive research, it is clear that cats, anatomically and evolutionarily, are made to consume a larger percentage of their water intake through food, rather than from simply drinking. This means that cats on a dry-food only diet are missing the moisture they need for their bodies to function properly. Understanding all of this now, I look back at the many years I gave Mojo and Leche only dry food and cringe. I’m almost entirely sure this is why they developed kidney disease and bladder issues, respectively.
This does not mean that cats can only have wet food. In fact, there is compelling evidence suggesting that cats might get a better overall nutrition with a combination of wet and dry food. Discussing a study published in The Journal of Comparative Physiology B, scientist, Dr Adrian Hewson-Hughes summarizes the implications of this study for our pets: “it shows that cats are able to select and combine wet and dry foods to achieve their target intake of protein, fat and carbohydrate. In terms of products currently on the market, wet foods typically have higher proportions of protein and fat, while dry foods have a higher carbohydrate content”–adding that a variety of wet and dry food fulfills our cats’ quest for culinary exploration and a “desire to sample different foods.”
Best Wet Foods for Cats
Deidre Greives, writing for Great Pet Care, illuminates the benefits of wet food and lists her 17 favorites here. And check out All About Cats’ ridiculously-pawesome, medically-reviewed guide to the best wet cat foods out there.
Best Dry and Freeze-Dried Foods for Cats
As with wet foods, dry foods vary in quality and because different cats have different nutritional needs, there is not a one-size-fits all formula for feeding. That said, you can still look at independent reviews, like this one at CatFood DB to find the best possible dry or freeze-dried foods on the market.
Human Foods for Cats
Let’s be real–it is fun to share snacks with our animals. On that note, I take issue with the term “human food” since food is food for everyone–it is just that, like humans, some foods are healthy and nutritious while others cause more harm than good. Because nutrition is species-based, we do have to be careful with what we share with our babies. Mr.BossCat offers a comprehensive list of foods that our cats can and cannot enjoy safely.
Cat Food Recalls
Unfortunately, both wet and dry cat food can be contaminated with bacteria, such as salmonella or listeria, or contain dangerous levels of vitamins or minerals. In these cases, pet food companies often voluntarily recall their products. The American Veterinary Medical Association and the FDA update, track, and verify recalls–so keep an eye out to make sure your brands are not on their lists. If you usually store your dry food in a larger container and throw out the original bag, you may want to take a picture of the original barcode in case you need to check to see if your cats’ food has recently been recalled. DO NOT FEED RECALLED PET FOOD TO YOUR ANIMALS UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCE. It is absolutely not worth the risk.
Homemade Diets for Cats
Making food for your cats gives you more control over the quality of ingredients and prevents illnesses from contamination that can occur with industrial pet food, hence eliminating concerns over recalls. Cats enjoy novelty, and it is nice to shake things up a bit for their taste buds. It is comforting to know exactly what they are eating. But it is tricky to properly balance feline nutrition: you not only have to work in necessary micro and macronutrients, like taurine, but you must do so in the right proportions. This is why so many vets will dissuade you from trying this at home, so to speak. But as long as you a) do your research; b; talk to your veterinarian; and c) add a complete vitamin and mineral supplement to every meal…your cats ought to get all the energy they need to chase toy mice, run along the bookshelves, and party like the feline rock stars they are.
Cooked Cat Food
The Spruce Pets is a wonderful resource, and I recommend reading through their entire section on cats. In her article on homemade diets for cats, Franny Syufy provides several yummy recipes and supplements to use.
Raw Cat Food
I have mixed feelings about raw diets, but find them intriguing. Personally, I worry about intestinal parasites and don’t have the stomach to grind up bones. However, according to The Feline Nutrition Foundation , there are compelling, research-based arguments for the benefits of raw diets for cats. They say that it is fairly easy and inexpensive to make raw cat food at home. This website shares recipes and provides comprehensive instructions for making special diets for cats with specific health issues. If you go this route, make sure you do your homework so you do not unintentionally make your cat sick.
There are plenty of companies where you can buy raw food as well, including Darwin’s natural pet products.
Dietary Supplements for Cats
Cats with ailments, joint aches and pains, immunodeficiencies (due to a chronic or acute conditions or surgeries), digestive or skin issues, or those on homemade diets, can often benefit from dietary supplements, including probiotics. Our friends at The Spruce Pets have 7 favorite supplements.
Probiotics–these are really good for our cats! Learn how these tiny superheroes help boost your cats’ immunity and gut-health.
TIPS for Feeding Your Cats
- Discuss your cats’ diets, including any changes you might make upon reading this article, with your absolutely-not-clueless-about-nutrition veterinarian.
- DO NOT try a vegan diet for cats. Ever. They are obligate carnivores, so they cannot survive without meat. I realize that many animal lovers are vegan themselves, but no matter how hard this is to swallow ethically, we cannot subject our cats to a meatless diet without disastrous consequences.
- Sneak as much water as you can into their food–either with a canned diet OR by adding some water to their kibble, which will soak in.
- Leave plenty of fresh water around the house, and encourage them to drink by getting a pet water fountain or even putting catnip inside the water bowl. Many cats dislike the taste of tap water (as do I!), so filtered water is preferred.
- Be careful to carefully balance homemade diets–lest your cats can end up with serious nutrient deficiencies.
- Do not under or over feed your cats. Talk to your veterinarian to get the right proportions, which can change if you switch from dry to canned food, or even between brands.
Do the Best You Can with What You Have
There is no getting around this: high-quality pet food is often quite expensive. So try this formula: do the absolute best you can with your budget and be resourceful. For instance, if you cannot afford wet food, you can add water to your cats’ dry food, giving it time for the brown crunchies to soak it up before feeding. You may also wish to buy high-quality food in bulk when it goes on sale or make your cats homemade food from scratch. Either way, as long as you are making an effort to give them good nutrition, try not to stress too much over the “puuurrrrffect diet”. There are many good options available and there is no one right way to go about nourishing your cats. Life is too short to beat ourselves up–spend more time playing with your cats instead :).
Note: If you are experiencing financial hardship, many major metropolitan areas have pet food banks as well. Call your local shelter for more information.
Thank you for reading! If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, please join our community as an Infinity member and become part of the conversation. You can ask questions, spark discussion, give feedback, and even get pet advice on our Pet Social page.
Cheers and purrs to all of you!
XO, Courtney, with special guests, Leche and Mojo
P.S. Dog parents–your guide to EVERYTHING DOG is coming soon–stay tuned!