A good diet is the best starting point for any living creature. Your cats and your dogs are no exception. Find out top tips on how to feed your Cat or Dog in this article.
Our good friend the cat along with the trustful dog are part of the mammal order called Carnivora, which also includes bears, raccoons, and even walruses. Despite this taxonomic coincidence, it doesn’t mean that their eating habits are necessarily identical or that their nutritional requirements are even similar.
Yes, both are carnivorous, but with important differences: felines (cats) in the wild have a completely carnivorous behavior (“obligate” carnivores) while canids (dogs) tend to behave as omnivores (eating almost everything :-)). Some of the dog’s close relatives, for example, the California Coyote, eat insects, regularly gobble up native fruits and nuts and when in urban areas, can even feast on ornamental and non-native fruit.
Dog vs Cat Nutrition
An interesting supporting fact that confirms the meat “preference” cats have is that they do not usually eat the viscera of their prey (yuck). These creatures are normally herbivorous animals and these, therefore, contain a large amount of “green” foods. Wild cats usually don’t pay any attention to this part of their prey and in most cases choose the head as their single dish and leave the rest of the prey untouched.
A cat’s ideal diet consists of mostly proteins and fats obtained from small prey such as birds, rodents, frogs, lizards, and similar creatures. It’s common to see cats munching on grass or similar plants, but experts agree this is used as a digestive aid and not for its nutritional value.
Dogs, as mentioned, are carnivores and therefore have sharp teeth and short gastrointestinal tracts that are designed for better results when eating meat and not vegetables or other foods. Over thousands or years, your doggy pets have evolved to also manage non-meat leftovers from their human companions. Being able to easily digest carbohydrates seems to be the key difference between dogs and wolves.
SOME DOG FOOD TIPS
Our puppies and dogs need a quality diet to keep healthy and energetic. How do you know if your dog’s food is a good quality option? Here are some tips:
Protein is a fundamental nutrient in the diet of any living being and, as you can imagine, a crucial component in your dog food. Proteins become part of your pet’s tissues, enzymes, hormones, and body secretions.
Proteins are made up of smaller components called amino acids, which, when joined by peptide bonds, form proteins. The quality of the proteins we give our pets will depend on the particular amino acid composition. As with humans, some amino acids are not synthesized by the pets so it is essential that they get them in their diet, otherwise, your furry friends will get sick.
Not all proteins have the same nutritional value, so high protein food does not necessarily mean high quality, that’s why experts use what’s called “Biological Value” that considers the availability, the amino acids present and their proportion.
The right amount of vitamins and minerals
Minerals make up 0.7% of the animal’s body weight. The most common macro-minerals are calcium, potassium, sodium, and magnesium. Micro-minerals are iron, zinc, copper, manganese, iodine, and selenium. Each one needs to be provided in the right proportion and overdosing any of them can be harmful to the pet.
Vitamins are used to promote and control a variety of physiological processes. Just as with minerals, the right amount is key and will provide better results, some vitamins can even cause health issues and be toxic in excess, in the best case it’ll be a waste of money to add too much of a given vitamin in a diet.
This macro-mineral deserves its own section, it has multiple functions and is a fundamental influence on many physiological and biochemical activities in your pet’s body. In general, it’s used in the brain, in the muscle and can be used to regulate enzymes. It’s mostly stored in the bones where it is used to keep the body’s shape and function and is not readily available for the rest of the body.
In the past, animals used to have calcium deficiency, but nowadays you can also find it in excess, especially if we mix high-quality diets with calcium supplements. If you feed your dog quality pet food you will not need any type of calcium supplement (unless a veterinarian prescribes it).
Calcium deficiency can also occur in BARF or a meat-only diet and can cause vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration or anorexia along with a number of other health issues. On the other hand, excess calcium will make your pet grow more slowly, and it will have a decrease in thyroid function and edemas may appear.
Fiber in the right amount
Fiber helps food digestion and the transit of waste products. It consists of insoluble carbohydrates such as cellulose, hemicellulose, pectin, and lignin.
Fiber helps keep bowel activity regular, which in turn prevents constipation or diarrhea. It is used in weight loss diets because it makes you feel full and lowers lipid absorption. If your animal is diabetic, fiber will help regulate the kinetics of glucose and insulin.
Dogs that eat a fiber diet also avoid constipation and protects colon tissues and the intestinal tract from waste products are part of the normal digestion process, in the long run these byproducts can produce cancer, so fiber is a good ally when it comes to a healthy and happy dog.
Dry dog food is better
Dogs food that exists in the market can be:
- Canned: 68 to 78% humidity.
- Semi-humid: 23 to 40% humidity.
- Dry: 6 to 10% humidity.
Although the quality of the product will not depend on its texture there are more advantages in dry food because it helps keep your dog’s teeth healthy by reducing plaque (tartar) formation, whereas the semi-humid or canned food will produce it.
The additives do not directly provide nutritional improvement but they help keep the quality of the product during the course of time. They prevent food spoilage after packaging and maintain the aesthetics of the food including the taste. The most used are emulsifiers, dyes, antioxidants, antimicrobials, and aromas.
Quality brands use dog food additives that are not harmful to your pet’s health and are mostly regulated. If you prefer to buy food that a manufacturer calls “natural” and avoid additives you should know that the quality of the product will not depend on whether or not there are additives but on the quality of the ingredients themselves.
Among the additives, you should avoid we can mention artificial ones such as butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA), butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT), tert-butyl hydroquinone (TBHQ), propyl gallate, and ethoxyquin.
Favor those that use natural preservatives, such as tocopherols (vitamin E), citric acid (vitamin C), and rosemary extract.
Foods that are dangerous for your dog
There are quite a few things we humans eat that are toxic or harmful for your canine pets, among these we can mention chocolate solids, onion and garlic, grapes and raisins, milk (lactose-intolerance), nutmeg, macadamia nuts and more. Find the full list here: https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control/people-foods-avoid-feeding-your-pets
Correct dog food must be accepted willingly by your furry friend. We call this palatability and it’s a fact that food not only needs to have the right amount and proportion of nutrients, but should also be something your pet will be willing to eat and enjoy in the long run.
The food taste, smell, temperature, texture, and nutrients influence the palatability. These make it more or less palatable, in dogs, because they have less taste buds than humans, but have more olfactory sensors, smellier foods are more appealing to dogs than those that are tastier. Elements that improve palatability are called palatants and include fat, salt, proteins, yeasts and added flavors. the most commonly used are salt and fat.
Look at the expiration date
Like human products: the date on which food for your pet will deteriorate is very important because it can cause health problems for your dog. Furthermore, as packaged pet food ages the nutritional value decreases, best not to choose products that are more than 3 months past their ‘best by” date. Check for “off” smells and discoloration so you can avoid feeding your pet with damaged food.
Most pet food companies post a “Best By” date on the packaging that states how long the company can guarantee the quality of their pet food, but it’s by no means a scientific way to determine whether the dog food is still edible, use your senses to determine if everything is OK.
Dosage: size and level of activity
We have to take into account the amount of exercise our pet does and its weight when choosing the right amount of daily food. It is always a good idea to follow our vet’s recommendations and to also follow the instructions given by the manufacturer on the pet food packaging.
When you and your veterinarian determine the exact amount your dog will need you can use a standard measurement so you don’t have to weigh the amount each time. If there are changes in the weight, health or lifestyle of your dog, you will need to talk it over with your veterinarian and adjust accordingly.
SOME CAT FOOD TIPS
The ancestors of our domestic cats were strict carnivores and all they ate was the result of hours and hours of searching and hunting. Today, our pussycats don’t have to spend half a day (or more) hunting to feed themselves, they just walk over to their plate and enjoy a tasty meal. Although a modern pet’s lifestyle differs greatly from that of wild cats, cats still retain their predominantly carnivorous nature and also keep their hunting instincts, much to the chagrin of bird lovers. Due to their carnivorous condition, industrial cat food contains high amounts of proteins that come mostly from land and sea creatures.
The history and evolution of house cats also helps explain why most of them do not drink much water. They were first domesticated in the Near East some 12 thousand years ago. Originally from these arid regions, cats did not enjoy a large amount of water. To survive, ancestral cats had to adapt to their surrounding environment and it is a trait that has been kept over time. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t provide them with ready access to water, but don’t worry if you don’t see them drinking away all the time. You should pay attention during the hot months so they always have a water source at hand.
Ask your Vet for advice
We recommend you ask your veterinarian for tips on the best diet for your pussycat based on age and habits. It is not the same to feed a kitten, a senior cat or a pregnant or nursing cat. A veterinarian will also recommend giving them dry, wet food or both. It is important not to be stingy and spend a little more money on quality food, because, as with people, health begins with what we eat. Poor quality food will inevitably lead to long-term health issues and we are sure you don’t want to offer your pet a life of sickness and a shorter lifespan.
Here are some basic notions about feline food:
Cats drink little water
By nature, cats do not usually drink much water. However, your kitty cat should never lack water and you must take extra care during the hottest months of the year.
Dry food has much less moisture than canned food, so if your pussycat eats it, they should have more water at hand (paw). Dry food has a higher nutrient density by weight compared to wet food.
Cat food must be high in protein
The ancestors of the domestic cat were strict carnivores and hunted for their food. The digestive system of your cat can process this type of food and as you have surely noticed they also retain their hunting instincts.
Cat food manufacturers obviously know this and the carnivorous habits of cats, they make sure the main source of protein in their products are of animal origin, in the form of meat or fish.
When should I change from kitten to adult cat food?
Kittens need more calories, protein, and fat than an adult cat, their foods include DHA, optimum calcium and phosphorous ratios plus vitamins and minerals. As a general rule cats go from kitten to adult around 10 or 12 months, except in larger breed cats where the moment can be between 18 and 2 years of age. Make sure to talk to your vet about this.
Do not give them cow milk
Contrary to the popular myth, cats should not drink cow milk as many do not digest it correctly because they do not possess the enzyme that processes lactose, a little lactose-free milk is fine though.
When to move to senior cat food?
When a cat reaches its 12th birthday, this is the equivalent of 64 human years.
Cat aging is also associated with specific diseases, if your cat is healthy, is in good body condition, eating a balanced and healthy diet there should be no reason to change his dietary habits. Now, if your cat has an age-related diseases, such as kidney or heart disease, diabetes, cancer, arthritis or others, then changes in the food will help alleviate the symptoms and maybe even slow the progression of these diseases.
Experts never tire of repeating that we should not give our pets leftovers. They are not prizes but foods that can unbalance their diets and even cause stomach issues.
How do I change my cat’s diet
As with dogs, the change of food in cats should be done little by little. As a general rule, you should introduce the new food gradually over 7 or 10 days. You need to offer the new food along with the old one and to reduce the amount of old food little by little.
Cats eat when they feel like it
Cats know how to dose their food well and are not like dogs, that eat it all at once. Unless the veterinarian recommends otherwise, free access to food is fine for all felines.
Cats tend to become overweight because they don’t exercise enough. In these cases, we recommend you follow the dietary guidelines provided by your veterinarian after studying your pet’s case.
Raw food is not recommended
Raw meat, poultry or fish may have parasites or bacteria such as Salmonella, Listeria or E. coli., if cats ingest them, they can get sick. If you still want to feed raw food to your pet, we recommend you consult with your trusted veterinarian.
Preserve wet food at room temperature. If you are going to give your cat some leftover food that you stored in the refrigerator, take it out in advance so that it is at room temperature. Do not leave wet food in their bowl for more than an hour as it can build up bacteria and cause digestive problems for your cat.
It is important to emphasize that what we talk about in this article is a basic, informative document. We always recommend consulting with our veterinarian team about the specific details for your pet nutrition plan. Do not hesitate contacting us at
California Coyote and its eating habits. http://www.urbancarnivores.com/coyotes
Protein in cat food. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/veggie-cat-food/
Cat Food in general. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cat_food
Protein quality in pet food. https://www.dogfoodadvisor.com/choosing-dog-food/judging-protein-quality/
Dog food in general. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dog_food
Calcium in the vertebrates. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calcium_in_biology#Vertebrates
Fiber in the dog diet. https://therapypet.org/blog/best-high-fiber-dog-food/
Plaque in dogs. https://uk.pedigree.com/caring/my-dogs-dental-care/how-to-remove-dog-teeth-tartar-and-plaque
Food additives. https://www.whole-dog-journal.com/food/problems-with-artificial-preservatives-in-dog-food/
Dog food palatabilty. https://bncpet.com/blogs/news/79247239-how-supplements-can-add-palatability-and-nutrition
Pet food expiration dates. https://www.thesprucepets.com/expired-dog-cat-food-dates-2661772
Cats and birds. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/animalia/wp/2016/09/02/cats-are-bird-killers-these-animal-experts-let-theirs-outside-anyway
Cat history. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/a-brief-history-of-house-cats-158390681/
Wet or dry cat food. https://www.petfinder.com/cats/cat-nutrition/wet-or-dry-cat-food/
Kitten to Adult cat food. https://petcentral.chewy.com/switch-kitten-food/
Adult to Senior cat food. https://vetnutrition.tufts.edu/2016/03/when-should-i-switch-my-pet-to-a-senior-diet/ & https://pets.webmd.com/cats/guide/feeding-your-senior-cat
Cow milk and cats. https://pets.webmd.com/cats/guide/cats-and-dairy-get-the-facts#1