Foods for Different Ages and Different Stages
The dizzying array of choice when it comes to what to feed your cat can be overwhelming on its own. Factor in the changing needs of a growing cat, and it can quickly become information overload. We’re here to help you figure it all out.
Kittens have greater energy requirements compared to adult cats. Specifically, young kittens between the ages of 2 to 4 months of age will have large energy needs to support an intense period of growth. After the first few months, their growth rate starts to slow until they reach mature size at around 1 year of age. Foods designed for kittens will be energy dense (more calories per cup or per can compared to adult food), will be high in protein and other essential nutrients and will be highly digestible. You can check the labels of your kitten’s food and ensure that the formulation is intended for kittens. To be 100% sure, look for the AAFCO Nutritional Adequacy Statement saying it is formulated for “Growth” or “For all life stages.”
As your kitten approaches one year of age their growth rate will slow, but they stay rambunctious — playing, running, jumping and generally being a happy kitten. This means they’ll still need an energy dense diet, spread across multiple smaller meals a day. Also note that spaying/neutering will result in lower caloric needs for your cat, so you should pay attention to this to prevent weight gain.
After about 12 months of age, your kitten is considered an adult, meaning it’s time to transition them to a new food. Those high calorie, energy rich kitten foods are no longer appropriate, and could lead to unwanted weight gain. Keep in mind that it’s always harder for a cat to shed weight than to prevent weight gain in the first place. Obesity in any cat can lead to a wide variety of health issues, including increased risk of diabetes, arthritis and urinary disorders. Taking a proactive approach and preventing obesity in your young cat will improve the long-term health of your furry friend.
Nutrition for adult cats can differ based on specific dietary needs and more, but in general, cats should be fed a food that is formulated for adult maintenance. Remember that foods formulated “For all life stages” are really kitten foods, meaning they likely contain more calories than your cat needs. Your veterinarian may also recommend therapeutic foods for specific health conditions. Whatever the case, your best bet is to discuss an adult food with your veterinarian at your cat’s regularly scheduled appointments.
Your cat is considered “senior” at the age of about 11. When your cat reaches this age, it is important to have a discussion about nutrition with your cat’s veterinarian. Her or she can do a nutritional assessment to determine if your cat would benefit from a dietary change to a food that better supports its nutritional needs as a senior. Some considerations may include the facts that their digestive system no longer works as well as it used to, dental issues can arise, and joints age. On top of that, their sense of smell declines, meaning foods may need to be more palatable to entice them to eat. Senior foods should support digestion, be nutritionally complete and balanced, help maintain a cat’s wellbeing, and slow the processes associated with aging.
Transitioning your cat’s food isn’t hard, but it should be done with care to ensure their digestive system tolerates the new food, and that your cat adjusts to the new flavours, textures and scents. Ideally, you want to ease your cat onto the new food over a period of seven to ten days, at the rates below:
Days 1 – Day 3: 25% new food, 75% old food
Days 4 – Day 6: 50% new food, 50% old food
Days 7 – Day 9: 75% new food, 25% old food
Day 10 onward 100% new food
Keep in mind that this timing can be stretched out if your cat has a history of sensitivity to food changes or is an extremely picky eater.
Taking your cat’s life stage, therapeutic requirements and more into consideration can be a complicated process. Your veterinarian will be happy and prepared to walk you through the process of choosing the right food. Plus, they’ll offer support when the time does come to make changes to your cat’s diet. It also takes the guesswork out of making the right choice yourself. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to speak with your veterinarian about finding the right food.