Is there a feeding guideline for my cat?
We cat lovers know that no two cats are the same: each is an individual, from their physical form to their attitude to life. Think about the differences between a sofa-surfing hairless Devon Rex in their senior years and a bouncy Siamese kitten who is just moving into their new home. Above and beyond breed, age and lifestyle each cat has its own preferences and personality, and these influence their food needs and feeding. Therefore, cat owners are wondering – Is there a breed-specific feeding guideline I should stick to?
Recent surveys show that ‘whether my pet likes it’ is an owner’s first consideration when it comes to selecting a pet food, closely followed by product quality. Another priority is whether the food is personalised to their needs, albeit the above characteristics of life-stage or age, style of living (eg indoor or outdoor and level of activity), dietary sensitivities or… breed!
While there are differences in mode of eating and health concerns from one cat breed to the next, the studies in cats are less established than research we see in dogs. One reason is that our relationship with dogs is much more long-standing, and their high-levels of domestication makes them a closer partner and easier subject to study. Another reason is that unlike dogs with large variation in breed (clearly Chihuahuas do not eat like Great Danes!), cats have small variation in adult body weights/sizes. While the heavy-set Maine Coon or Norwegian Forest Cat is very different from the slight and small Singapura, these breeds are rare, and the majority of cats in Australia are domestic shorthair or ‘moggies’, meaning they’re not a breed pedigree.
‘There’s less variation in cats and cat breeds than there is in dogs, and for this reason there is less focus on breed-specific feeding in this species.’
That’s not to say that we shouldn’t think at all about individualised feeding for our cats, as we know that no matter what, being responsible for a pet means being responsive to their needs. By this, we mean managing feeding portions according to the energy and nutrients they need to survive on a daily basis and thrive for days-weeks-years to come. The good news is, regardless of what cat breed you have, a commercially prepared complete and balanced diet with respect to your cats’ life stages (i.e kitten, neutered, adult or senior) can provide correct and adequate nutrition for your feline friend. Moreover, prepared pet foods made by member organisations of the Pet Food Industry Association of Australia offer a wide variety of quality foods to deliver all the important aspects of a balanced diet: nutrition, palatability, value, easily digested, safety and convenience.
So, cat breed considerations will be taken into account if you follow two simple, golden rules:
- Start with the feeding guideline. The numbers in the tables on the bag, tin or pouch have been calculated carefully, to ensure you’re feeding the right amount. This means they’re getting all the essentials that a cat needs from their diet, according to their weight, which is as specific as you need to get with regards to breed differences.
- Be ready to adapt. While the guidelines on the packaging give you a specific starting point, know that they can’t be absolutely, totally, 100% correct, every time, and on an ongoing basis. The reality is that cats change: their activity level may increase or drop, their bodies and physiology alter over time. Part of responsible feeding is noticing if their weight and/or body shape has changed. Feel confident in increasing the volume you feed by 10% if they’re losing body condition or, as is more likely, cut back by 10% if they’re getting heavier. A great way to know if your cat needs more or less food is to measure their Body Condition Scores. This is commonly done by a vet, but you can perform BCS at your own home thanks to WSAVA’s picture guide available here
In summary, a portion guide for specific cat breeds centres on the weight of the cat, as does the average feeding guideline. With differences in temperament and character, coat length and athleticism (amongst other factors), best-practice in feeding is about tweaking the guideline recommendations to suit your cat. There can be an element of trial-and-error to get things just right, but trust that the maker of your cat’s food has a lot of experience in these things too. Always feel free to contact the brand or manufacturer directly for some advice, or contact your local vet as getting things right is important for our purring pals.