In short, the following table shows the best foods you can feed your cat to meet requirements for protein, fat, and carbohydrates. Many will be found in your local market, but others, particularly some of the protein suggestions, may only be found at farms or pet specialty stores. The convenience of finding food for your cat next to your own is a nice bonus, but after you start preparing meals for your purring companions, you might just find you are tempted to go the extra step and find them specialty meats.
If you feed your cat a variety of the above foods in the proper ratios (protein 55 to 60 percent, fat 25 to 30 percent, and carbohydrates 5 to 10 percent of total calories), you will provide him or her with the basic four needs: protein, fat, carbohydrates, and moisture. Most nutritional needs will be met as well, but you must remain aware that cats have specific vitamin and mineral requirements that you will need to cater to.
Cats, like their human owners, need a variety of nutritional minerals if they are to achieve and maintain good health. Most minerals are naturally present in foods, and by following the protein-fat-carbohydrate ratio mentioned above, you will find an easy way to make sure your cat gets the variety of minerals needed. But it is not enough just to be sure your cat is getting the right kind of minerals in his or her diet. You will also need to be mindful of how much of each she is getting. Too much of a particular mineral, as well as an inadequate supply of it, can lead to disease and other serious health complications. You need to be aware of the potential problems that both an excessive or toxic amount and a deficient amount of certain minerals may cause.
Calcium helps form and maintain the health and strength of bone and teeth. It enables muscles, including the heart, to contract, and it assists in blood clotting and nerve impulse transmission. Too much calcium will stunt a kitten’s growth, make an older cat’s bones too dense, and may decrease appetite. Too little of the mineral will lead to a weakened skeleton, which can easily lead to broken bones or a collapsed spine.
In the wild, cats eat the bones of their prey to get their calcium requirements, but it can be problematic to feed your domestic cat animal bones. Once bones are cooked, they become brittle and easily breakable. If your cat should eat a cooked bone, he or she risks getting a piece of bone puncturing an internal organ, lacerating the esophagus and blocking the intestines, which would require surgery to remove the stuck bone. Therefore, unless you will be feeding your kitty raw meats, where you can grind up the bones into the food, you will need to provide other sources of calcium for your cat.
• Eggshell powder:
An easily found source of calcium is eggshell powder. You can buy it in natural foods and pet food stores, but you can also make it at home yourself with your leftover eggshells. See the Supplement Section of the Recipes in Chapter 9 of this book for directions on creating your own eggshell powder.
• Bone meal:
Along with calcium, the bone meal contains a host of other trace essential minerals. As its name implies, the bone meal consists of crushed and ground bones. Though it is an excellent source of calcium, you must be sure to find a pure, high-quality product because, in the 1980s, many bone meal supplements were found to contain lead and other toxic heavy metals. Then, in the 1990s, the fear of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (more popularly referred to as mad cow disease) became another concern. You can still find a bone meal in health food stores, and some natural pet supply stores carry it as well. If you choose to use it, check the label to determine how it was quality checked for safety.
• Calcium carbonate:
Another supplement you can purchase at a health food market or pet supply store is calcium carbonate. It is actually the calcium found in eggshells. It is also naturally present in many rocks, shellfish, shells, and pearls. However, you can simply purchase it in capsule form as a supplement.
Non-animal sources of calcium include vegetable greens, in particular, Swiss chard, collard greens, dandelion greens, kale, mustard greens, and parsley, which happen to be vegetables that are safe for your cat to consume. However, a serving of these vegetables for your cat will be smaller than a tablespoon, and will not contain enough calcium for his or her daily supply. Therefore, vegetable sources should be considered only as an adjunct to your main source.
Of course, if you know for sure your cat handles dairy without any adverse issues, whole-fat milk products offer another source of calcium. Yogurt and cottage cheese seem to be a favorite among some cats. Others happily lap up ground Parmesan cheese sprinkled over their moist food. Orphaned kittens can often tolerate and benefit by getting the good nutrition offered from goat’s milk yogurt. But remember, feeding your cat dairy products really should be kept to a minimum of a couple of times a week as it will also fulfill a protein portion of your cat’s diet without providing the essential amino acids that meat products do.