Taste, texture, and moisture content of food is more important to cats than it is to dogs. Cats will choose foods on the basis of these features, which is why it is so important for cat owners to ensure their feline friends are getting all the nutritional requirements they need. There are several good quality commercial cat foods on the market that provide a complete and balanced meal and will serve the needs of the average feline.
The body fat test
A cat in good body condition is well proportioned, with an observable waist behind the ribcage and ribs that can be felt with a slight amount of fat covering them. Cats have a tendency to become obese quickly, so you should also feel for a fatty flab between their back legs. This is not loose skin - it is an indication that your cat is becoming too heavy and you will need to start watching your pets diet, or consider switching to a lite formula. Check with your veterinarian if you have any concerns.
If you live in a multi-cat household with one fat cat, here are some pointers to help your obese feline lose weight:
Every cat is an individual
Factors that influence the amount of food required by a typical adult cat includes activity level, temperature and body metabolism.
Two cats of similar size, age, and activity may need different amounts of food simply because they have different metabolic rates. A cats appetite and total food consumption will vary from day to day. Loss of appetite or reluctance to eat, are only serious when they persist for more than two days or if your cat shows symptoms of illness. If this happens, take your feline to your veterinarian.
Generally, cats eat the amount of food required to satisfy their individual energy requirements. However most cats are nibblers or occasional eaters, preferring to eat smaller meals more frequently, so it is best to ensure that a pre-measured quantity of food is available to them for several hours during the day. If given free access to a specific amount of food, cats will eat between 12 and 20 meals a day, evenly spread out over a 24-hour period. If you simply fill up your cats bowl when it is empty, the chances of it becoming obese are far greater. Overweight cats have a three times higher risk of developing diabetes.
Also ensure that they have access to a constant source of fresh clean water throughout the day, as water is important for all bodily functions such as digestion, absorption, circulation, transporting nutrients and waste, building tissue and regulating body temperature.
Odour, temperature and texture influence perception of flavour
Exposure to certain flavours and textures of food early in life can shape strong preferences later on, as can meal temperature, odour, texture and taste. When switching to a new food, it is important to gradually mix the familiar food with the new food before switching completely.
A cats sense of smell is far more sensitive than that of humans. If the food smells good, cats are more likely to eat it. When food is left to stand in a dish the odour released decreases during the day making the food less appealing. If you have a problem eater, tempt her with small, regular quantities of a warm, palatable food.
Most cats prefer food at temperatures around 35C - it smells better and this temperature is similar to that of freshly killed prey.
The texture of a food also affects palatability. Cats are unable to chew effectively; instead they tear and then swallow food. The moisture content of the food influences the meal size and speed at which food is eaten. Moist or wet canned food is eaten rapidly while the more calorie dense dry foods are consumed at a slower, more constant rate.
Variety is the spice of life
Generally, cats enjoy variety in their diet and will often choose a new diet in preference to a familiar one, as long as the difference is not too great, or the palatability too low. Increasing the amount of flavours (by feeding different varieties) and textures (dry and canned) in the diet may also tempt finicky eaters. However changing your cats diet can be a balancing act - if you constantly change its diet, you may encourage finickiness; if you have a fussy cat, variety can be the best way of tempting your feline to eat more. It is best to follow this rule of thumb: do not change your cats diet if he or she is happy on it.
However, a cat under stress will always prefer familiar food, so if you board your feline when you travel, remember to pack some of her favourite food to help her settle more quickly.
Other factors that impact on a cats appetite
Other factors such as lighting and noise levels, affect feeding patterns, so your feeding spot is as important as the type of food you give.
Physiological factors, such as age, health and sexual activity can also affect appetite, as well as introducing or losing a human or animal in the cats environment.