The right diet and the right food are essential for the well being of your pet. There is a lot more to caring for your animal than opening a tin or ripping open a sachet of pet food.
THE history book suggests the only truly balanced and complete diet for the cat is the one provided by nature – freshly killed prey. Cats evolved as pure carnivores and this means their nutritional requirements are much more specialized and fragile than those of dogs or humans, who are not pure carnivores.
But since today’s house cat is mostly unable to hunt and is instead dependent upon us to provide food, it is important that we understand the impact of substituting the natural diet of fresh raw meat with packages and cans of processed, refined, highly-cooked commercial cat food.
And a walk round the supermarket suggests that feeding your pet couldn’t be easier. Buy one of the brands, take it home, open and serve. That’s it. But like humans, the dietary needs of animals are quite complex and balance is needed for your pet to stay healthy and have a good life. The needs of the cat change through its life.
Cats, despite 5000 years of domestication, remain strictly carnivorous. They are incapable of digesting and receiving nutrition from the majority of vegetable proteins and there can be no vegetarian cats. In the wild cats are equal-opportunity carnivores and devour the whole of their prey: muscles, organs, viscera, bones, offal, skin. In this manner, cats ingest not only the flesh and organs of their prey but also the partially and wholly digested vegetable foods the prey had eaten. With the assistance of the prey’s own digestive processes, the cat then is able to derive nutrition from various vegetable sources.
This evolved approach to eating means that the cat has lost the ability to manufacture various vitamins, enzymes and other substances necessary to life, receiving these substances directly from its food. This “laziness” has caused the nutritional requirements of the cat to be radically different from that of the dog, which in turn has caused cat food to be considerably more expensive than dog food.
To start. Kittens have very special feeding needs to consider. For their growth and health they need a high-energy diet and because they grow quickly, it is essential to provide them with adequate nutrients. The nutritional value of your kitten’s food is on the label. By paying close attention to your kitten’s nutrient intake, you have a better chance of raising a healthy and happy kitten.
Older cats, on the other hand, have different needs and often have a decreased sense of smell, decreased sensitivity to thirst, decreased thyroid function, decreased saliva production, and tooth and gum deterioration. These changes can lead to many problems that range from obesity to insufficient food intake and weight loss. You may also find that your older pet becomes more picky. By mixing the type of food you serve – dried food with moist – it should be possible to encourage the most fussy of eaters to the bowl.
As a general rule of thumb an older cat is probably better off being fed small amounts of food two or three times a day.
Good nutrition is vital to keeping your cat’s immune system functioning properly and remember, when you are in the supermarket or in the pet store, low price brands may reflect lower quality ingredients or less rigorous manufacturing standards.
Look for foods produced by companies that demonstrate research, controlled feeding trials, and good manufacturing procedures and quality control.
What should you feed a cat?
Cats need Vitamin A from animal sources such as liver or fresh eggs, and for taurine, an amino acid found in the fluid portion of raw meat. Cats also have a need for high levels of calcium and vitamin E. That means all-meat or all-fish diets that many cats crave will not support a good level of health.
Cats do not need a lot of grain in their diet, although they do need a source of carbohydrates and fibre in the form of crushed or partially cooked green vegetables. The idea behind these recommendations is to provide a diet that bears some relation to the food cats have eaten throughout their time on earth. And that means a cat’s natural diet includes both meat and vegetable matter.
Stop and think about it for a minute. A cat that kills will eat the entire carcass and cats will also graze on herbs and wild plants, seeking out specific types of plants.
Many cats also thrive on a combination of raw meats and grains. It is important to realise that there is no one diet that meets the needs of every cat. Healthy adult cats (over one year old) are best fed twice a day. Your cat should have access to the food for 20-30 minutes after which time any remaining food should be discarded. Nothing further should be given, except water, until the next feeding. These breaks between meals give the digestive tract time to fully process the food, to rest and regenerate, to optimise enzyme formation, and to cleanse before being asked to work again. This schedule should be tailored to the individual situation based on the cat’s age, health, special needs, and family schedule. The only two hard and fast rules to this diet are variety and moderation.
What you shouldn’t feed your cat On the down side remember it is easy to be tempted by those pleading eyes, to weaken and feed your cat scraps from your own plate, but don’t. Human food can be very dangerous, and in some instances fatal. Table scraps can upset the nutritional balance of your cat and some of the foods that are bad for your cat may surprise you. Cats eat little glutamate or benzoic acid that are commonly found in vegetables. They also need niacin and amino acids, such as arginine. They also cannot get rid of ammonia in their systems and will not live if their diet does not contain foods with arginine.
To put it simply; what we eat is often too rich for your cat and he or she may develop intestinal problems and bad breath.
And while many humans are chocoholics – your cat isn’t. Chocolate contains theobromine, which is extremely toxic to animals. Just half an ounce of some chocolates can kill your cat. The symptoms are drooling, muscle tremors, rapidly beating heart and diarrhoea.
Onions cause anemia in your cat – because they destroy red blood cells. As a result, the oxygen in the animal’s body does not circulate correctly and the body cannot properly function.
Garlic can also cause problems, but is generally less toxic to the cat than onions.
Most surprising however is the news that uncooked meat and poultry can be unhealthy for pets. These meats can contain bacteria and parasites that can cause serious health problems although the cat’s natural resistance is much higher than a humans. That said, Clostridium and Salmonella bacteria are the two most common bacteria in meats. Symptoms of Clostridium poisoning include stomach pain, vomiting and shock. Salmonella poisoning symptoms include fever, lethargy and dehydration.
Raw fish also poses a health threat because the flesh can contain tapeworms that once ingested by the cat, will interfere with the cat’s digestive functions. Tapeworms live off of the wall of the animal’s intestine. The meat also embodies a thiaminase that obliterates thiamin in the animal’s body. This causes heart disease and can lead to paralysis. Symptoms of thiamin deficiency include wobbly rear quarters, loss of appetite and vomiting.
Milk is another danger food making something of a mockery of the “cat that got the cream” proverb. Some cats like it all right but they do not have the enzymes to break down the lactose in milk.
If you must give your pet milk, it is best to buy lactose-free milk products.
Never give a cat bones that are raw. They can easily splinter and cause choking in the animal. Cooked bones that are tender can be a great treat for the cat. They contain calcium and phosphorous, and are a good way to help clean the animal’s teeth.
Finally, cats by nature, usually know what is good for them and what isn’t. If your cat is underweight or overweight, it is likely a sign that something is missing from its diet.
Don’t put your cat on a weight control diet, or make any other significant changes to your cat’s diet without consulting your vet. Significant dietary changes can be harmful if not done properly.
Make sure you give your cat plenty of water, especially if you are feeding mainly dry food. Cats will often opt to drink from a puddle or other place besides his dish. This can be due to chlorine in the drinking water. As long as your cat is finding some sort of water source all is well. And a properly fed cat is a happy cat.
FIFTY years ago most dogs would have been fed with the scraps from the table, 25 years ago, cereal companies cornered the pet food market in supermarkets and today, pet owners are spoiled with choice following the arrival of the pet superstore selling a vast range of commercially-prepared dog foods made from a fixed formula of ingredients and preparation methods. But owning a happy dog is as much about the love and attention you give it as the food you serve. And for puppies, the right food and the right diet help with the animal’s development.
Growing puppies should only be fed a high quality growth-type diet. But the amount of food the puppy eats is also important. They should not be allowed to eat at will and for most breeds, offer food twice a day for 20 minutes. If your puppy does not eat in that 20 minutes you set aside for feeding time, remove the food and wait until the second meal time before serving up again.
Your puppy will quickly learn that food is not always available and he will eat when it is offered.
Once you have settled on a good quality puppy food, continue feeding this diet until your dog reaches 80 to 90 percent of his anticipated adult weight. For most dogs, this occurs around nine months. Once your puppy has reached the age for a diet change, gradually begin by feeding a quarter adult food and three quarters puppy food for a few days then gradually work the ratio towards all adult food.
Good nutrition and a balanced diet are essential elements for health in a dog and that means watching your canine’s calorie intake.
All dogs need plenty of fresh water.
Proteins, fats and carbohydrates are necessary for energy. Dietary requirements for dogs can vary according to activity and stress levels and medical history. Dogs expend energy in many different ways. For example, outdoor dogs are likely to experience increased levels of exercise and thus require a higher percentage of protein and fat for energy production than the dog that stays indoors. Working dogs need more calories.
Tinned dog foods are good for everyday use providing the label states that it is 100 percent nutritionally complete and balanced. Canned dog foods are very palatable and enjoyable for your pet. Always be sure to have fresh water available whether you are feeding your dog canned or dry food. Premium dog foods and supermarket own-brand foods contain protein, carbohydrate, fat, vitamins, and minerals, five of the six basic nutrients necessary for your pet’s good health. You provide the water. With few exceptions, these foods do not need supplementation.
But remember dietary requirements for dogs can vary according to activity and stress levels and medical history. Proteins, fats, and carbohydrates are necessary for energy. Dogs expend energy in many different ways. For example, lactating bitches, heavy exercise, and regulating body temperature during cold weather, can cause dogs to expend a lot of energy.
Outdoor, sporting and hunting dogs are likely to experience increased levels of exercise and thus require a higher percentage of protein and fat for energy production than a dog who stays indoors most of the time.
Select a premium meat or fish based dog food with 22-26 percent protein and 12-15 percent fat for both pups and adults for growth and optimal nutrition. Extremely active dogs may even need a percentage or two higher. Select the lower percentage for an older dog who is healthy, but not very active. Do not add supplements, especially calcium, unless recommended for a particular purpose.
Consider Your Dog’s Age For puppies (from less than eight to nine months and less than 30lbs): Feed your puppy a consistent canned, semi-moist or dry dog food designed specifically for them. If your dog weighs more than 30lbs, dry food is preferred for greater caloric density.
Puppies do eat more than older dogs. All young animals, of any species, have higher caloric needs and therefore should be fed foods higher in fat than older animals. For this reason it is improbable, though not impossible, to see an obese puppy.
For adult dogs (from eight to nine months to six years): Feed your dog a consistent canned, semi-moist or dry dog food designed for an “adult” dog. For senior dogs (over seven years): Feed your dog a consistent canned, semi-moist, or dry dog food designed for a "senior" dog.
Watching the weight of your dog is important. If your dog is underweight feed your dog one and a half times the usual amount of food and make an appointment to see your vet. Consider switching to a food with higher protein and fat content.
Chubby dogs. If your dog is a bit overweight, try increasing the daily exercise routine. Gradually increase exercise over two weeks unless limited by a medical condition. If these measures fail, cut out all treats and reduce daily intake of food by up to 25 percent.
Fat or obese dogs. Stop all treats except vegetables. Increase exercise gradually over two to three weeks, if not limited by a medical condition. If these measures fail, reduce the total daily food amount by 25 to 40 percent, switch to a low fat/high fibre diet, and call your vet to discuss your plans.
General advice of feeding dogs
Dogs should be fed to a regular timetable in a bowl that is easy to keep clean, in a place with no distractions. Once puppies are weaned, they should be fed separately so you know how much each is eating and so the dominant pup doesn’t get most of the food.
Feed adult dogs separately as well, to avoid squabbles at the trough. Puppies should be fed more often than adult dogs, perhaps as often as four times each day. Many nutritionists and breeders today say that puppies do not need the high protein content of commercial puppy foods, and they recommend adult foods for the little ones past three or four months of age. There is also considerable evidence that puppies are often pushed too fast – that owners are so fond of saying “he weighed 40lbs at five months” as if it were some kind of personal accomplishment to have a puppy that grew so fast. With proper nutrition, a puppy will achieve his genetic potential for growth sooner or later. A puppy that reaches his full growth later may be healthier for the delay.
Feed adult dogs twice a day to prevent gorging at a single meal and to lessen the chance that deep-chested dogs will develop bloat or stomach torsion.
Set a relaxed feeding schedule so that your dog knows a meal is coming but does not become a pest as the clock strikes 5 pm. If feeding time is between 5-6 pm. Your dog won’t panic when you’re a bit late. Discipline. Teach your dog to sit before the food bowl is placed on the floor. If the dog is sitting, he won’t be jumping at the bowl, spilling food.
Allow 15-20 minutes for the dog to finish. Don’t feed between meal times if you are housetraining. Dogs that have constant access to food have constant activity in their digestive systems.
Keep children away at feeding time. Your dog should never feel he has to defend his food against crawling babies or toddlers. Never make a game of taking the dog’s dish away in an attempt to teach the dog that humans control his food source. Better to teach manners and to make sure you can put your fingers in his mouth whenever necessary. Keep the food dish clean.
And as much as good food makes for a happy healthy dog, so does exercise. Your dog will appreciate a long daily walk with you by his side whether or not he has a big garden to run in and explore.
That said, be careful not to over-exercise puppies and young dogs, especially dogs of large breeds. Their bones are soft and spongy and do not completely ossify until around 18 months of age.
Young dogs should not be allowed to do the long jumps, high jumps, and broad jumps of formal agility training. At this age it is recommended that they are lifted in and out of cars. Gradually increase the length of your walks or jogs. Start out with a trip around the block and then increase the level and length of exercise as you and your dog improve on your stamina. Puppies know when they are tired. They will lay down, rest or sleep.
This controlled exercise helps keep young puppies and dogs fit while gentle play will strengthen muscles, ligaments and tendons.
Other Animals Nutrition
Rabbits and friends: Guinea pigs, hamsters, gerbils, rabbits, rats and mice need conscientious and continuous care if they are to remain healthy and active.
Provide rabbits and small rodents with fresh, clean water from a sipper tube water bottle or a gravity-fed watering system.
Animals should be fed a fresh, wholesome, pelleted or seed combination feed specifically recommended for the species of pet involved. The right feed is important for rabbits and guinea pigs. Guinea pigs must have vitamin C in their diet, or they will die of scurvy within a few months. Although guinea pig feeds contain vitamin C, kale and cabbage have large quantities of this vitamin – lettuce and carrots are not good sources. Feeds for small rodents should contain no less than 16 percent crude protein. Many pet feeds sold in pet shops are unacceptable because of low protein content.
Dietary supplementation with salt, fruit, table scraps or field crops is not recommended as a routine practice. Purchase a quality, pelleted feed and do not vary the diet. The feed should be supplied from hopper feeders attached to the side of the cage. The use of dishes or bowls as feeders or water troughs promotes the spread of disease. Most rodents will survive on a diet based on cereals (oats, barley, maize), plus dried vegetables and biscuit meal, with the addition of fresh fruits and vegetables for their vitamin/mineral content. Where available, commercially developed diets or feed pellets should be used, as they represent balanced rations.
Dried hamster/rabbit mixes begin to lose their vitamin content within eight weeks of manufacture and this should be borne in mind when considering the need for supplementation, particularly if fresh foods are not offered. Two weeks of Vitamin C deprivation causes skeletal scurvy in Guinea Pigs. High fat foods, such as peanuts and sunflower seeds should be kept to a minimum to reduce the risk of obesity, particularly in caged pets. Hard items, such as fruit tree bark for gnawing, should be provided to help keep the incisors worn down and many small rodents appreciate whole nuts in shells, giving exercise for the teeth and relieving boredom.. Water should be provided in gravity drinking bottles where possible to keep it free from contamination and prevent small rodents from drowning in open dishes. This water should be changed daily
Fish: Most common fish sold in aquarium shops, especially those recommended for beginners, can live on processed (flake, stick or pellet) food. Some can even thrive on it… although for fish, just as for other animals, some variety in the diet is usually desirable. Fish food is somewhat delicate. Exposing it to sunlight, leaving the lid off so that damp can come in, or buying a very large container that takes eight months to use, can sabotage the nutritional value of your fish’s food. Generally speaking, there are five classes of fish food: Various processed foods (processed ground stuff remade into flakes, sticks or pellets; often divided into categories for omnivorous, vegetarian, and carnivorous fish).
Freeze dried foods (whole food such as blood worms, daphnia etc). Frozen foods, Live foods, Other fresh foods.
To many fish keepers, flake food is like rice. It will do for most every meal, but a little something else now and again is important. Many of the fish you’ll buy to put in your tank are juveniles: how they develop into adult fish will be determined by your care of them. Just as high nitrates can stunt a fish’s growth, shorten its life, and prevent it from ever breeding successfully, fish that are overfed can end up with deformed bodies and other problems.
Feeding a good variety of foods ensures that your fish will get not only the rich foods, but also fibre.
Snakes: Unlike most other pets, snakes eat whole prey items including mice, rats, gerbils, and hamsters. Larger snakes will also eat whole rabbits. Since snakes eat entire prey items, this simplifies things for snake owners, and most certainly prevents many dietary-related diseases so commonly seen in other reptiles.
But, it does present a problem. Namely, you must provide some type of prey to the snake. If you’re squeamish about killing rodents for your snake and then watching it eat them, a snake is probably not the pet for you. Ideally, your snake should be provided with either thawed, previously frozen kill or freshly killed prey. It is not recommended to feed live prey to snakes for several reasons. First, the prey obviously knows it is prey and unless killed and eaten immediately, it certainly suffers. Second, and surprising for most snake owners, is the fact that even a small mouse can severely injure and even kill a snake if the snake isn’t hungry.
For humane reasons feed dead prey. The only exception would be if you know that your snake will immediately kill and eat the prey and you will watch. Even with this care, there is still a slight possibility of injury to the snake. Unweaned, infant prey (pinkie mice), are safe to feed alive to smaller, younger snakes.
Smaller snakes usually eat twice a week, and larger snakes eat once every week to once every few weeks. Follow your vet’s guidelines. Your pet snake will also tell you how often he needs to eat by his response to your feeding schedule.
Fresh water in a pot that won’t easily tip over should be available at all times. Snakes will not only drink from the water bowl but will often bathe in it as well, although it is perfectly acceptable to mist the snake with water a few times a week