Diet: Feeding Your Feline

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Change Your Cat’s Diet Slowly

Most cats will adjust in time.  We suggest feeding your cat the same food that he was eating while at the shelter.  Changing a cat’s diet suddenly can result in loss of appetite, vomiting, or diarrhea.  If you want to change the type of food to something different, change his diet gradually after he has begun to eat regularly.  Begin by mixing in a small amount of your new food with the food your cat was eating at the shelter.  Each day, increase the amount of your new food and decrease the amount of shelter diet per serving.

Use This As a Guide When Switching to New Food

Day 1 to 3 – feed 75% old food to 25% new food.

Day 4 to 6 – feed 50% old food to 50% new food.

Day 7 to 9 – feed 25% old food to 75% to new food.

Day 10 – feed 100% new food.

Dry and Canned Food

There is a wide range of commercially sold dry food made for cats, many of which specialize in life stages or special needs (such as hairball control, calorie control, dental, indoor cat, etc.).

Canned cat food is also available.  It should not be left out for more than a few hours.  Longer than that and bacteria can grow on it and it will spoil.  Consult your veterinarian to decide what type of food is the best for your cat.

Canned food should constitute about half of your cat’s diet.  Wet cat food helps ease the kidneys and is usually fed exclusively to a cat with kidney or bladder issues.

Taurine is an essential nutrient your cat needs.  Your cat will thrive on a balanced diet of canned and dry food with this amino acid in it (no tuna-only diets.)

Refusing to Eat

Sometimes cats can be picky eaters.  If your cat is refusing to eat dry cat food, add some water so the morsels turn a little mushy.  If your cat’s food is old or improperly stored, the fat may have gone rancid.  If your cat refuses food for more than two days, consult your vet, especially if your cat is exhibiting other signs like lethargy, hiding or other unusual behavior.

Premium or Commercial Cat Food

Premium foods typically have higher quality ingredients, less fillers, artificial colors, flavors and preservatives.  They often contain natural preservatives like vitamin E and are considered more nutrient-dense and digestible than non-premium foods.  Though they cost more, your cat may eat less, so the price difference will balance out.

Should I leave Food Out or Feed on a Schedule

That depends on the cat.  If your cat is not an over-eater, dry food can be left out all day.  Cats like to eat several small meals a day.  To start, put the recommended daily amount of food for your cat’s size in his bowl and keep an eye on how long it lasts him.  If your cat is an over-eater, measure out two or three small meals for him a day.

What Kind of Treats are Best

Treats generally come in two types, dry and semi moist.  Dry treats are crunchy and can be a good tooth cleaning tool.  Semi-moist treats are usually the preferred treat by cats.  They contain more water and can be used as a training aid.

Treats should never make up more than 10% of your cats total diet.  Some packages of cat treats don’t have instructions on how many treats to feed a day so remember the 10% rule.  A large amount of treats can cause indigestion and obesity in your pet.


Feline obesity is a very dangerous and common condition.  As in humans, obesity is associated with health risks such as diabetes and liver and heart complications. It is important to monitor your cat’s food intake and weight.  Portion suggestions usually appear on cat food labels; however, be sure to adjust food portions to your cat’s unique metabolism and activity level.  If your cat is moving towards an unhealthy weight, try the following:

  • Adjust food portions
  • Switch to a calorie-controlled food
  • Increase your cat’s exercise
  • Consult your veterinarian to ensure that the weight gain is not related to an underlying health condition

For more useful information, please download our free Cat manual.

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