Saturday, January 3, 2009

Tip for Food Allergies: Novel Protein Source New Zealand Brushtail

Due to their unfortunate popularity these days, we do quite frequently talk about allergies on this blog. Food allergies to be more specific, i.e. about pets with sensitivities to certain proteins or pet food ingredients. Just the other day I addressed one way of helping to overcome these allergies, which was the feeding of novel proteins.
We recently added to our on-line store assortment the Australian pet food brand Addiction. This company offers quite a few of such novel feeds falling into this category. They include New Zealand venison, unagi, kangaroo and a protein meat source most of us have not heard of before: The New Zealand Brushtail. With this article it is not my goal to advertise yet another healthy pet food but to introduce and create awareness of a truly novel protein source to pet owners confronted with the problem of food allergies. I call it a “truly” novel protein source since it is almost guaranteed that neither you nor your pet have heard of it.
The Brushtail is a native of Australia where it is protected in all states except Tasmania. It was introduced into New Zealand in the 1860's to establish the fur industry.
Unfortunately, New Zealand has no predatory animals and the number of brushtails grew out of control. Early last century, the brushtail was declared an agricultural pest in New Zealand. The estimated 60 to 70 million brushtails in New Zealand consumed an estimated 21 to 25 tons of native forest per night. Brushtails in New Zealand kill native birds and eat birds' eggs and so are a targeted species for control.
In 1999, Addiction's Founder, who is a Holistic Veterinarian and Clinical Nutritionist discovered that the New Zealand Brushtail was an ideal high quality protein rich in Omega 3 & 6 fatty acids. He believed that the brushtail could be used as the main protein source for an ultra-premium quality pet food formula especially suited for pets with allergies to common protein sources like chicken, beef and lamb. After extensive testing and research, he developed the world's first New Zealand Brushtail pet food formula. The formulas are available in various formulations either as dehydrated raw food or as canned food. Abroad in New Zealand and Australia, this one of a kind pet food has since amassed a cult following amongst discerning pet owners who recognize the following benefits of the Brushtail:
New Zealand Brushtail and the American Opossum: Despite the likeness in their Latin names and physical appearance, the New Zealand Brushtail should not be confused with the North American Opossum, which belongs to a different marsupial family, from a very different part of the world.
Saving New Zealand's Native Flora and Fauna: Activities to harvest the Brushtail are fully supported by the New Zealand Ministry of Agriculture and Forests. Addiction Pet Food Company’s operation is conservation based and approved by the New Zealand Government. By feeding New Zealand Brushtail pet owners are helping to conserve New Zealand's plant and animal life by reducing the destruction of native habitat and giving native plant and animal life a greater chance of survival.
New Zealand Brushtail is an unmatched source of Omega-3 and Omega-6 Fatty Acids. Brushtails eat only the finest food, including a variety of leaves, fresh shoots, berries and grasses. Brushtail meat contains higher levels of Omega 3 & 6 fatty acids than other red meats. Omega 3 & 6 have important anti-inflammatory effects and are extremely beneficial in the management of allergies and inflammatory skin conditions.
Hypoallergenic character is assured due to the fact that the brushtail is almost unknown in the US and at this point is just being introduced into the American pet food market. Due to the difficulties of marketing a foreign product in the States, pet owners can be assured that the manufacturer is taking every possible care in formulating and producing this to the American market new food to ensure minimum instance of allergic reactions.
With it’s naturally irresistible taste, brushtail on its own is highly palatable and unlike most pet foods which use artificial flavorings to enhance the taste of their foods. It is an all natural and delicious solution with an irresistible taste that appeals to even the fussiest eater.
As I mentioned, we just added this to our store offerings and our experiences are kind of limited due to the time restrictions. However, the product has been well received by the many customers who gave it a try already. Both, cat and dog owners are reporting positive developments and equally important that their companion animals seem to like and enjoy this new and novel food formulated to comply with the AAFCO Nutrient Profiles for Maintenance.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Nutrition for Puppies & Kittens: Common dietary requirements

I always say and you have to admit, puppies and kittens are just like human babies in many ways. They can get cold very easily, they can get sick easily, and they require frequent meals. They rely on their mother for care and food in the initial weeks after they are born. In most cases, puppies or kittens go home with someone new between 6 and 8 weeks of age. This is where we come in as new puppy or kitten owners. It can be very difficult to choose the right puppy food or kitten food, but with some knowledge of the importance of diet to your new puppy or kitten’s health, you can easily make the right decision. When feeding dry or canned food, a good quality growth formula is very important for your rapidly growing puppy. New advances in pet nutrition allow you to provide your puppy with optimal nutrition for optimal health. Small and medium breed puppies should be fed differently than large or giant breed puppies. The primary difference is the fat and calorie content of the foods that are appropriate for the different sized breeds. Small and medium breed puppies benefit from higher fat levels or formulas with greater energy density. Because these tiny puppies do not eat a large volume of food, they should be fed a diet that contains at least 15% fat to achieve optimal growth and development. Large and giant breed puppies should be fed diets that are lower in fat and calories to help them grow more slowly so that they are less likely to develop bone and joint abnormalities. While genetics is the most important factor affecting the health of the bones and joints of these puppies, diet can play a role by promoting too rapid of a growth rate. Keeping puppies in lean body condition is something that will help keep them healthier throughout their lives. For more information regarding developmental abnormalities of the skeletal system, please read our companion articles: Developmental Orthopedic Disease or Hypertrophic Osteodystrophy and Panosteitis. Kittens benefit from kitten foods that are high in protein and high in fat. This type of formula is lower in carbohydrates than diets that are lower in protein or fat. Cats are carnivores, designed to consume high protein diets with very little, if any, carbohydrate content. Dry pet foods must contain carbohydrates, this is just a requirement of the manufacturing process. However, feeding your kitten a kitten food that is greater than 30% protein and greater than 18% fat will help provide your kitten with optimal nutrition for growth, development, and health. Antioxidants are important additions to any puppy food or kitten food. Vitamin E and selenium are recognized as two of the most critically important antioxidants for the health of your pet. Look on the Guaranteed Analysis for nutrient guarantees of these two important antioxidants. As food is digested and metabolized, one of the by-products of this process is a particle called a free radical. The formation of free radicals is just part of everyday living. Because young animals take in such a large number of calories, their bodies produce free radicals at a higher rate. Young animals have more natural mechanisms to rid themselves of these pesky particles, but benefit from a diet that includes some additional help in neutralizing these charged oxygen molecules. Free radicals damage healthy cells by injuring the membrane, or covering, around the cell. Neutralizing the free radicals with antioxidants will help minimize this effect. Your puppy’s health and your kitten’s health can be positively influenced with fatty acids. Fatty acids are components of fat sources within the puppy food or kitten food that you select for you new pet. There are two primary groups of fatty acids that we are interested in: Omega-6 fatty acids and omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-6 fatty acids are required nutrients and are present in all puppy foods and kitten foods. Omega-6 fatty acids keep the skin hydrated so that it does not become dry and flaky. However, if omega-6 fatty acids are not balanced with omega-3 fatty acids, they may promote inflammation within the body. There are cells that respond to different insults or attacks within the body. These cells are inflammatory cells. Sometimes though, these cells respond to a non existent threat and cause irritation or damage in otherwise healthy parts of the body. Omega-3 fatty acids help prevent this indiscriminate inflammation. Omega-3 fatty acids are not always added to puppy foods or kitten foods. Ingredients such as flaxseed, fish meal, and fish oil include omega-3 fatty acids. Look on the guaranteed analysis for omega-3 fatty acids. They should be present in a 5:1 to 10:1 ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids for optimal health effects. Let’s talk just briefly about ingredients. Ingredients are only as important as the nutrients that they provide to the formula. Fresh meats are appealing to your puppy or kitten because they improve the flavor of the food. However, these fresh meats should be followed with a protein meal that is animal sourced, such as chicken meal, chicken by-product meal, or lamb meal, to name a few. Fresh meats are great, but they are very high in water. So, when the food is cooked, the water is removed and much less of the fresh meat is left behind. This is why dry protein meals are critical to providing adequate protein levels for your rapidly growing puppy or your carnivorous kitten. Natural preservatives include among others mixed tocopherols (vitamin E), ascorbic acid (vitamin C), and rosemary extract. The technology behind natural preservation has come a long way. We now can safely and effectively preserve pet foods for many months using only natural ingredients. Many puppy foods and kitten foods now include whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. These ingredients may help promote a healthier metabolism and also provide natural sources of vitamins and minerals. Your puppy’s health or your kitten’s health does not rely solely on ingredients such as these and some pets do better on diets that are simpler, more basic and do not contain so many varied ingredients, especially when these foods contain the nutrients that were mentioned above. Feeding your puppy or kitten for his optimal health is not difficult with so many choices of high quality puppy foods and kitten foods. All puppies and all kittens cannot eat the same food with the same results and some trial and error may be necessary to find just the right food, but with the right choice, your puppy or kitten will grow and thrive and become a happy and healthy adult.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

How pet food is made. Our imagination and expectations from start to finish and the dangerous middle in between. Part 2 and conclusion

In part 1 on this topic we talked about the process of making dry pet food. Let me briefly summarize, so that you don’t have to go back to the original comment:
Most dry food is made with a machine called an expander or extruder. First, raw materials are blended, sometimes by hand, other times by computer, in accordance with a recipe developed by animal nutritionists. This mixture is fed into an expander and steam or hot water is added. The mixture is subjected to steam, pressure, and high heat as it is extruded through dies that determine the shape of the final product and puffed like popcorn. The food is allowed to dry, and then is usually sprayed with fat, digests, or other compounds to make it more palatable. Although the cooking process may kill bacteria in pet food, the final product can lose its sterility during the subsequent drying, fat coating, and packaging process. A few foods are baked at high temperatures rather than extruded. This produces a dense, crunchy kibble that is palatable without the addition of sprayed on palatability enhancers. Animals can be fed about 25% less of a baked food, by volume (but not by weight), than an extruded food.
Most semi moist foods are manufactured in a manner similar to dry foods, with a few differences. The product is formulated, mixed, and passed through an extruder just like dry food. The extruders are configured at a lower temperature and pressure than dry foods. After leaving the extruder semi moist food instead of drying goes through low agitation coating drums where water, chemicals that help to maintain moisture (humectants), and acids are added. After that the food goes into a refrigerated cooler to set the structure so it will maintain a higher moisture content and spongy texture. Semi moist foods with 25% to 35% are higher in moisture than dry foods with typically around 10%. This also means that they are therefore more exposed to spoilage from mold and bacteria. Additionally, the high moisture content also makes this type of food susceptible to loss of moisture and texture deterioration. To address these issues, semi moist foods are formulated with mold and bacterial inhibitors and packaged in special moisture proof bags.
The French army developed the processing of canning food back in the good old days of 1809. Since then, the process has made many improvements to improve quality. However, the basic principles still to this day are the same. Sealing a food product in a can and then heat sterilizing it continues to be one of the most common and affordable ways of preserving food products.
Most canned foods contain a high level of meat products as their base. Fresh and frozen meat and meat by-products are delivered in frozen or refrigerated truck loads. The meat product is ground into small pieces and then carefully weighed and added to a batch mix that may include grains and definitely includes minerals and vitamins as required by their nutrient profiles. After combining the ingredients they go into the mixer where they are thoroughly blended. During this process the temperature is increased and the starch in the food begins to gelatinize. At the same time the protein begins to denature, which improves texture and flavor. Foods that contain carbohydrates generally require a higher temperature to fully cook the starch. Once the product has been properly cooked, it then moves on to the canning process. While the cooked mixture is still hot, the product moves into the filler and seamer machine. This machine fills, places the lids on, and seams from 300 to 600 cans a minute. Steam is blown over the top of the filled can as the lid is applied to maintain the heat, so that when the can cools, it will be vacuum sealed to help prevent spoilage. Once the cans are filled and sealed, they move into the sterilizer where they are heated to temperatures of 121° Celsius for at least three minutes to ensure that any dangerous bacteria are killed. Finally, once the cans have been sterilized, they are cooled, and labeled.
Understanding the manufacturing process of commercial pet foods can help you to choose the best type of food for your cat or dog. Once you choose the type of food you wish to feed, you can pick a quality manufacturer and then closely examine the product line and the individual ingredients to determine the most nutritious and palatable food for your pet.
Ingredients are similar for wet, dry, and semi moist foods, although the ratios of protein, fat, and fiber may change. A typical can of ordinary cat food reportedly contains about 45 to 50% meat or poultry by-products. The main difference between the types of food is the water content. It is impossible to directly compare labels from different kinds of food without a mathematical conversion to dry matter basis.
While the manufacture of pet food can seem complex, it is actually very similar to the way human food is manufactured. Reputable manufacturers go to great lengths to provide a consistent, nutritious product that meets all of a pet's nutritional needs.
The problem with these impressive processes of pet food manufacturing is the processing of the ingredients. One of my favorite experts, Dr. Wysong, D.V.M. calls it “food torturing”. Because it’s done behind the scenes, you don’t see it and it is kind of not so pretty. In his “The Truth about Pet Foods” book he concludes: “What happens between the farmer’s field and the commercial package significantly vitiates healthful nutrition. Unfortunately this dangerous middle is by and large ignored. Once foods are milled, fractioned, blended, extruded, pelleted, dried, retorted, baked, dyed, breaded, fried, sauced, gravied, pulped, strained, embalmed, sterilized, sanitized, petrified to permit endless shelf life, and finally prettified, they become something entirely different from the wholesome starting materials. The vast majority of modern foods are inert and anonymous processing concoctions of a few base ingredients… the resulting myriad products are nothing more but nutritional shells of the real thing.”

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Pet itching for relief? Leading cause Allergies Part 3 Treating Food allergies with single or novel protein sources

When food allergies are suspected, a dog or cat is often put on a diet consisting of either a single protein or a novel protein and carbohydrate. Single protein means for example either turkey or chicken only, not chicken & turkey. A novel protein is simply a brand new one that your dog or cat has never been exposed to. Lamb and rice foods were originally formulated to meet this need. The idea became so popular, however, and so many manufactures jumped on the lamb and rice bandwagon that most dogs and many cats have eaten lamb at some point in their life. The result is that lamb is no longer such a novel protein. Pet food manufacturers seeing the growing market for such novel and unique foods continue to produce allergy formulas or hypoallergenic foods with ever more exotic sources of protein. Venison, rabbit and duck are more common these day. But how about kangaroo, elk, bison, buffalo (aren’t bison and buffalo the same?) brushtail, quail, pheasant, llama or gator and more? You have to give them credit, the industry is quite creative when it comes to creating formulations available for our food sensitive companion animals. This makes providing variety in the diet a little easier, but be careful not to feed every protein available or you may run out of options should the need ever arise to put your companion on a restricted, novel protein diet.When searching for a novel protein food for your companion, read labels carefully. Many manufacturers name their canned foods and kibble suggesting a single or novel protein. However, a closer look at the label may reveal that secondary protein sources are being included as well. Manufacturers offering hypoallergenic food are plenty out there. Some specialize in dry or canned formulas designed specifically for the sensitive pet. Others offer hypoallergenic formulas by providing novel protein sources. These include venison, rabbit, duck, beaver, New Zealand brushtail, kangaroo, quail, tuna, buffalo to name a few. Without listing every name individually, visit our on-line store for plenty of more ideas and choices. Besides kibble or canned formulas, try food mixes from for example Sojos, Honest Kitchen, Dr. Harvey or Addiction. These are pre-mixed formulas combining all essential ingredients except in some cases a meat source. You simply add your own novel meat source according to your needs. And finally, the best route you can go is feeding raw. Even here are plenty of novel choices available to include venison, quail, pheasant, kangaroo, ostrich, even gator and llama are available. Again, visit our store for more info, enter the protein source of your choice into the search field for the easiest way to find out what’s available. Keep in mind, the same what I said for canned and dry food, applies to food mixes and raw, make sure to read the ingredient listing to avoid multiple protein sources and ingredients your pet may have a problem with.
To truly determine if the restricted diet is helping you may need to keep your dog or cat on this single protein diet for up to 12 weeks, however, progress is sometimes seen way earlier within 4 to 8 weeks. Once a food tolerance is established, however, find at least one and preferably two other protein sources that can also be tolerated for rotational feeding. A dog or cat that has developed an allergy to one protein is more susceptible to developing additional sensitivities, so rotation in their diet is important.When feeding a restricted diet to a food sensitive pet, don’t forget to read the labels on treats and supplements as well. As it is true for the food, just because your pet has a food sensitivity does not mean there are only a very limited number of options available. There are just as many options on treats as there are on food. And the same guidelines when making a selection apply.Some dogs and many cats may have grain allergies rather than, or in addition to protein allergies. The increase in the availability of grain free food makes feeding much less problematic than it was a few years ago. There is basically no more manufacturer left not offering some kind of a grain free formula. The downside to the influx of grain free foods seems to be the trend to include combinations of more uncommon or exotic meats in these formulas including buffalo, venison, duck and salmon in combinations with each other or with more common meats such as chicken, turkey beef or lamb. Should an animal on these diets become sensitive or allergic, the search for a novel protein becomes much more difficult.
A couple more things you want to keep in mind: Obviously apply all the pet food selection rules as you use the for “ordinary” food, i.e. make sure you read the labels, understand the ingredients, select the right ingredients, make sure you get a complete formula covering all nutrients required and so on.
Use common sense and take everything what’s being said and recommended to you with a grain of salt. Here I have a real life example. It happened a couple days ago that this owner of a Dachshund with food allergies called me looking for a food with a novel protein source. She was told by a friend that we would be the place to go to. To me, at first this was nothing new. After all, novel protein source pet food must be the most sought for answer I am being asked for every day. But this woman took me by surprise. For our conversation she had readily prepared a list of protein sources her dog is allergic to. Coming with compliments from her vet. When listening to the animals listed I got the feeling that her vet must have read the most horrific stories about his risk of being sued for making a wrong recommendation. It almost sounded as if he copied the index of an animal encyclopedia to make sure he got his grounds covered. And to be honest, all my options mentioned in my comment above went right out the window. I was speechless and did not know what to say. Except, that poor Dachshund is going to starve to death because according to his vet he cannot eat anything. However, I did come up with one option: New Zealand brushtail. That animal must not have been listed in the vet’s encyclopedia, it is relatively unknown in this country and he probably never heard of it. However I am sure by now it has made its way onto his list.
Now, I am not a vet, but as far as I have learned, food allergies develop over time. The reason for an animal to become allergic to a specific protein source is that the animal was fed the same food over a long period of time and it’s body started rejecting the specific source. That’s when you introduce a new or novel protein source. There may be certain relationships within certain protein sources, for example a pet may be sensitive to not just chicken, but poultry in general to include possibly for example turkey. But throughout my years in this rewarding business of successfully helping pet owners day in and day out I have never come across a case where a truly novel protein source would not take care of the problem. So therefore, in my opinion an animal which never has been fed kangaroo simply cannot be allergic to it. Is kangaroo for you too exotic of an example? Well, someone has yet to show me a dog allergic to a home grown American duck, I just never met one (unless of course he developed over years a sensitivity to duck because that was what he was fed all his life). You see what I am saying? There is no logic behind such recommendations as the one made by my customer’s vet. Obviously my customer now is devastated. Whom can she believe? And her dog is wondering: What am I going to eat now? There is no food for me in this world.
Finally, be patient. Results don’t show over night and it may require quite a while before improvements can be seen. Sometimes this can take up to 3 months.
Pet itching for relief? Leading cause Allergies Part 1 Introduction, Flea, atopic (inhalant) and contact allergies
Pet itching for relief? Leading cause Allergies Part 2 Food allergies, allergy testing and treatment

P.S. It just did bother me too much: Wikipedia says: “In American Western culture, the bison is commonly referred to as "buffalo"; however, this is a misnomer: though both bison and buffalo belong to the Bovidae family, the term "buffalo" properly applies only to the Asian water buffalo and African buffalo. The gaur, a large, thick-coated ox found in Asia, is also known as the "Indian bison", although it is in the genus Bos and thus not a true bison.”

Monday, December 29, 2008

Don’t let feeding your pet turn into a science: Vet setting base nutrient intake values for cat impossible to meet by pet owner

A couple days ago one of my customers gave me a brain workout. Quite some homework he gave me there. I have been calculating for hours out trying to find what he is looking for in my assortment. His vet wants his cat to get every day 27g of protein but at the same time restrict the caloric intake to 210 kcal/day. Here is how far I got to this point and my response:
“The bottom line is simple: I do not know where your vet got his numbers from, but finding a food matching those markers is quite a challenge. In general either we are ok in protein values but then can’t match the calories or vice versa.
I looked at my raw foods (all figures based on 10 lbs body weight of the cat, which is what the 210 kcal requirement set by your vet translates to in my calorie tables):
The AFS Chicken/Beef formula (the freeze dried version) is perfect in calories (220), though high in protein, 40g.
Primal makes a Turkey/Veggie Mix (80% meat, 20% organic produce), calories are 196, but with 19g/feeding there is not enough protein.
They also make a, what they call “Frozen Raw Formula”. The Chicken/Salmon Formula (85% chicken, 5% salmon, 10% produce) has 252 calories (high) providing 25 g protein. A Pheasant Formula (95% meat, 5% produce) provides the same value in protein, 25 g but has a lower caloric content of 236. This would be the closest one I can get with my products.
Aside from frozen raw, I was checking into other options as well. And this is where my problem starts: Are we sure we have the right numbers from your vet? Basically when using the protein and calorie figures I come up with the fact that nothing would match your requirements. That just seems awkward. Our foods have proven themselves to be helpful for hundreds of pets, regardless what their conditions may have been. Over weights lost weight, under weights gained, diseases and allergies have been helped, pets become more lively and simply over all healthier. Just last night I got a call from a customer. Her cat was underweight and has a kidney problem. We put her on a strict Wysong diet with Archetype and Geriatrx, the cat now is gaining weight (after 3 years of losses and 2 months of feeding my food), after being totally inactive, she now plays with the kittens, talks a lot and it is just amazing and easy to see that the food took care of a lot of problems. My diet plan, which is a varied feeding of a Wysong dry formula like Geriatrx, any Archetype TNT processed variety (TNT processing is a proprietary method of preserving raw food, it is similar to freeze drying just does not utilize heat, which destroys important food elements) and any Wysong canned Meat Au Jus flavors combined with various supplements and fresh food like fresh, whole meat, veggies and fruit, is simply a working solution. Yet, if I run the numbers and compare them to what you told me you need for your cat, they are way off. This in turn would mean it is not a working solution in general, but we know that the opposite is the case. One of the problems we are running into with my plan is that it is going to be extremely difficult to figure out the numbers since so many different components are involved.
I understand that every animal is different from the next one. But I want to help you out here and I am sure that ultimately we will come up with the right plan for your cat. It is as simple as that. Let’s just make sure, before putting in all this work, we start out with the correct numbers. Also, please let me know as much as you know about your cat, like age, breed, any specific health conditions, what does she prefer to eat (i.e. fish, poultry, lamb, beef, etc.), etc.
Like I said, you can rest assured together we are going to figure this out. That is what we are good at and what ultimately will become our trademark.”
What I really want to know and asked the customer to find out is if the vet has any food recommendation. It doesn’t look like it, otherwise my customer wouldn’t ask for help. Pet food by the book and straight down to the most particular detail? An interesting approach. Especially since much of today’s commercially mass produced pet food is quite the opposite of what we should have learned from the books. Sounds to me like this is taking it from one extreme to another one. I am anxiously looking forward to the continuation of this story coming soon.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

How Often Should You Feed Your Cat?

It is not always concerns about the correct diet I am being asked about by my customers. Very often it is very simple issues pet owners are worried about and want to make sure they do the best they can do for their pets. One of these questions is “How often should I feed my cat?”
While I have my very own opinion on this issue, to make sure I am providing proper advice I did as usual consult the Internet with its hundreds of related websites addressing feline dietary issues. This time I ended up at the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. Based on an article I found there written by Karen Commings for the Feline Health Center I came up with the following:
Obviously the amount fed and frequency of meals depends on your cat's age, health and preference.
Karen says “Check the pet food aisle at your local supermarket, and you'll find a dozens of varieties of food to entice your cat.” I am not too happy with this statement, especially not since it is coming from the College of Veterinary Medicine. These guys should know better than recommending the food as quoted. At least they should have added “outlets where you can find high quality and healthy food”. Anyway, this is a different subject and Karen continues:
“Feed your cat too little or the wrong kind of food, and he won't maintain good health. Feed him too much, and he'll get fat. But you can help get your cat off on the right paw by establishing regular feeding routines. Although the food you feed your cat should be complete and balanced, the simple answer to how often you should feed him is that there isn't a simple answer.”
The cat’s life stage should be the first consideration. “Kittens require more food per pound of body weight to support their growth than do adult cats, and therefore should be fed more often throughout the day. "Growing kittens up to six months of age may require three meals a day," says Francis Kallfelz, DVM, PHD, board certified by the American College of Veterinary Nutrition and James Law professor of nutrition at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. "From age six months to maturity, most cats will do well when fed two times a day."
Once the cat becomes an adult, at about one year, feeding once or twice a day is appropriate in most cases. Senior cats, age seven and above, should maintain the same feeding regimen. "Once cats reach adulthood, once a day feeding is fine as long as they are healthy and have no disease problems suggesting a reason to feed differently," says Dr. Kallfelz.”
Then, obviously the health of your cat matters. If your cat suffers from a health problem such as diabetes, you may need to feed him based on whenever he is administered insulin, depending on the type. "Talk to your veterinarian," says Dr. Kallfelz. If your cat has hyperthyroidism, he may want to eat all the time. "Treat the disease," says Dr. Kallfelz. "If it is a treatable problem, treat it and then feed your cat normally." With age, the cat’s teeth may go bad, or gum disease may develop making it difficult to chew dry food. "If they get to that point, then offer them canned food or dry in a finer nugget size," says Dr. Kallfelz. You can also mash up the dry and mix it with water to make it easier to chew.
Going the extra mile for your cat: Should pets be put on special diets? "If they are obese, then weight reduction diets may be often required to get the weight off. Historically, higher fiber and low fat containing diets have been used," says Dr. Bartges. I would like to add that most of the times simple portion control will do the job just fine. It is a fact that many pets are simply being overfed. But continue reading as this still is going to be addressed.What is the best type of food: Many cat owners feed only dry food to their felines. "Dry food is fine as long as it is complete and balanced," says Dr. Kallfelz. Dry food may be less expensive than canned cat food and may stay fresher longer. Cats that eat only dry food need to be provided with lots of fresh water, especially if they are prone to developing urinary tract blockages. For all cats, constant availability of fresh, clean water is important.
Canned cat food is typically about 70 to 80 percent water, and can be fed in addition to or instead of dry. Some cats may find canned food more palatable. These cats may consume too much if they are allowed free access to food. Of course, this may occur with dry food as well. "Food with average palatability may be preferable," says Dr. Kallfelz. If it is extremely palatable, the cat may be more likely to overeat. If it is not quite so palatable, he may be less likely to overeat.
Super sizing food portions is not just a problem for people. Since the feeding instructions on pet food labels are based on the needs of the average cat, you may be feeding more than necessary if your cat's needs are lower than average. Also keep in mind that feeding instructions typically are recommendations based on ideal and not actual body weight. So if your cat is overweight to begin with and you use that value for figuring out how much to feed you are guaranteed to over feed. If you feed your cat dry food, you may provide it to him at specific mealtimes in measured quantities. Dry food can also be supplemented with a small amount of canned food to make meals more appealing.
According to Dr. Kallfelz there iss no problem mixing the two types of food as long as you make sure the calories are what your cat needs and and don’t exceed those needs.
Free feeding dry food is acceptable for cats exercising self control. However, some cats like to snack. For them, free feeding can add up to extra pounds. "If a cat can maintain his weight, free choice feeding is okay," says Dr. Kallfelz. Even dry food left out for your cat to free feed needs to be fresh, so be sure to provide new food each day. If free feeding doesn't work, you need to control how much they eat. "Several small meals may make them feel less hungry," says Dr. Kallfelz. "But one (meal) is okay nutritionally."
Here is another useful hint especially for cats who tend to be way more finicky than dogs, at least I am being told so daily by my cat owning customers: If you have a finicky cat, switching foods occasionally may help keep from the cat becoming hooked on only one diet.
And finally: How often you feed your cat depends on your schedule as well. Whether you feed in the morning or in the evening, make sure the cat gets used to your schedule and not the other way around. Most important, find a schedule that works for you and your cat and then keep it consistent.
In a multi cat household, not all cats automatically come when called for dinner, potentially making it difficult for some to get food unless it is left out all the time. That in turn comes along with the risk that other cats may eat too much when food is always available. It's up to you to be creative and come up with a plan. Hints: Feed them separately or in different parts of the house.