If you haven’t yet heard, Wednesdays are our Guest Blogger Series day! It’s a day where Matt and I get a bit of a mid-week break while getting to share with you some of our favorite online bloggers. And for their hard work, they get the benefit of your readership – we encourage you to please show all of them your support by visiting their blog and social media links at the end of this post!
Every since we started changing our cat’s diet, people have been asking us about the proper feeding of cats, away from the grains and filler that comprise most cat foods. Since we didn’t feel comfortable giving advice on the topic, we found the perfect expert for you to help you start the journey towards healthier, happier cats! Meet Pam Merritt of WayOfCats.com.
If we have gone Paleo, our cats should, too. Because it’s possible they suffer the most from industrial eating. They are obligate carnivores.
This means they don’t just “prefer” meat. Their hunter’s metabolism uses protein and fat as their only macronutrients. Since they are not evolved to handle much food input in the form of carbohydrates, it doesn’t take much to overtax their pancreas. Then it winds up as body fat which encourages diabetes.
How can we move our cats closer to their ancestral diet? As always with cats, we do best with big changes when we can make them gradually. We should also try some marketing tricks which will help our cats look positively on these changes.
Step One: Upgrade their dry food. The very things that make kibble so appealing to human and cat — long shelf life, able to be left out in the bowl, cheap price — are the things that make it Not Really Food.
Choose grain-free, with some form of meat (not meat meal or meat byproducts) as the top ingredient. It’s not just the carb content of grains which are problematical. Cats utterly lack the enzymes to unpack grain content. Then these particular proteins escape their intestines and damage their organs. If the only step we can manage is feeding our cat grain-free, that is still the most important step.
Always introduce a new food as some kind of “treat” instead of just “something new that showed up in my bowl.” All new foods require an introduction, so we have a chance to show our own enthusiasm about this change. This reassures our cat that we are not clueless about their food.
Sneaking in a new food and pretending nothing has changed rightly makes the cat feel we are trying to pull something. I try out a new dry food as a surprise in treat balls or puzzle boxes. My cats are used to getting a variety of treats that way, and it helps smooth their mental path.
We can also add the new food to their existing blend, exclaiming that their old favorite now has “bits of amazing goodness!” We are making these changes out of love, and putting happy enthusiasm in our voice is a great way to let the cat know how we feel.
Even the best dry food is not as good as the lowliest canned food.
Step Two: Increase their canned food. People often fall into the habit of thinking of the dry food as a good staple, and canned food is the cat’s treat. The opposite is true.
Some cats do get dental benefits from crunchy food, but we are far better off meeting such needs with treats than making dry foods their main diet. Most cats are already enthused about their canned food, so offering it more often is one of the easiest food upgrade tasks.
Some of the cheapest options are also the best. I’ve had cats who adore the sardines in jelly most groceries carry. Even the jelly has important bone components for their good health. While those fancy little cans are not always as high quality as they look; manufacturers love to surround that expensive meat with “gravy,” but that’s made of wheat gluten, which is bad for cats and has no nutritional content. Avoid such variations and go for the solid types.
Always compare ingredient lists. “Turkey” is better than “poultry byproducts.’ “Meal” is the lowest form of protein, and can often hide vegetable sources like soy, which lack the proper micronutrients. By law, taurine must be higher in canned foods; this vital organic acid supports their retinas and heart. Animal sources are the only ones which have taurine. Cats are emphatically not vegetarians, nor can they become so!
The fewer, more recognizable ingredients, the better quality we are offering our cat.
Step Three: More and better water. Canned foods are usually far lower in carbohydrates, but also much higher in water content. We might feel we don’t want to pay for something we can put down in a bowl from our own tap, but we also have to consider how much of that water actually gets into our cat.
Cats are fussy about their water sources because their instincts urge them towards running sources, not stagnant pools. This is why they love faucets and tubs. A water fountain is far more appealing than the bowl with crumbs floating in it.
So don’t put the water bowl next to the food bowl. I’ve found those big coffeehouse mugs with the wide opening are appealing, perhaps because they look like something we would drink from. If we drink from the filtering pitcher, our cat should, too.
Fill it with a happy voice and place it in our cat’s Water Place, off the floor and away from traffic. This daily, or more, ritual shows the cat we love them, and safeguards their kidneys; another organ which dry food can damage simply by not providing enough moisture.
We might wind up paying more, but what we are getting back is actual food; and lower vet bills. These simple changes will make an incredible difference to our cats.
Pamela Merritt shares love and understanding on The Way of Cats. She combines years of cat rescue experience with the current antics of her four cats to help people keep their cats happy.