All cats and kittens must have access to clean water and a well-balanced, nutritious diet. Freedom from hunger and thirst provides a cat’s most basic needs by allowing that cat to remain in good health and full of energy.
Did you know that there is a special law protecting animals?
This law is called the Animal Welfare Act. The Animal Welfare Act says that your animal has five groups of welfare needs. These are five groups of things that animals need to be healthy and happy. These five welfare needs are called the Five Freedoms.
Under the Animal Welfare Act all animal guardians (owners) need to provide these five groups of things for their animals. One of these Freedoms is: Freedom from Hunger and Thirst. In this section you will learn about this freedom and how you can make sure your cat or kitten has what he or she needs to be free from hunger and thirst.
Just like you and I, cats need the right food in the right amounts in order to be healthy and happy. It’s also a legal requirement for cat owners to make sure their cat has a suitable diet.
The food that a cat needs depends on their age and lifestyle. For every cat, a nutritionally balanced diet throughout their life is key to promoting good health. Don't forget that some of your own favourite human foods might be a 'sometimes food' or even poisonous to your cat. If in doubt, contact your vet for advice.
Feeding your cat a complete commercial pet food is the most convenient and best way of ensuring they get all the nutrients they need.
Do you eat the same amount as a one year old? Or how about your Dad or Uncle – do they eat more than you? ‘Life-stage feeding’ means feeding your cat different food at different ages or stages of their life, according to their needs. For example, kittens need food containing more calories because they are so energetic. Many commercially made pet foods are available for different life stages; for example, kitten, junior, adult and senior.
Life-stage feeding is good because it matches a cat’s food to what is needed at different ages. It is really important though to remember to always introduce new food gradually by mixing new food in with the old food (the food you have been feeding your cat). Slowly add more of the new food and less of the old food each time to avoid giving your cat or kitten a very sore stomach.
Unfortunately, vets are seeing more and more companion animals that are overweight. This is called obesity. When a cat is really overweight, he/she has reduced quality of life, such as not wanting to play or having difficulty breathing. It also causes serious health problems such as diabetes or joint problems. Preventing obesity depends on having the right food in the right amounts.
The importance of feeding your cat the right amount is just as important as choosing the right food for your cat’s age and lifestyle. Most commercially made pet foods will have daily feeding guides printed on their packaging. Follow these guidelines on the packet to ensure you are feeding the correct amount.
It’s usually best to feed adult cats twice a day. Kittens need feeding more often, with smaller amounts. Remember, different cats have different needs, so always check with your cat’s vet if you are ever unsure of what, how much or how often to feed your cat.
Just like people, most of a cat’s body is made up of water – as much as 65% of it in fact! Water is absolutely essential for every function of their body. A cat needs water because without water, a cat is not going to survive for very long.
Give fresh water daily and properly clean the water bowl regularly. Your cat should have access to a water bowl at all times of the day and night – inside, outside and even in the car if you are travelling.
A very common mistake that some people make is thinking cats, especially kittens, should be given milk. We even see pictures throughout storybooks and scenes in movies of cats and kittens drinking milk, when in fact they shouldn’t ever be given milk that humans drink!
Most cats are lactose intolerant. Lactose is a sugar found in milk. Being ‘intolerant’ to this sugar, means your body cannot digest it properly, which causes a very upset tummy, cramps and even severe diarrhoea (squirty poo!).
All mammal babies, like kittens, start their lives by drinking milk from their mother. However, for the digestive system to handle this milk - or particularly to process milk’s special form of sugar called lactose – their body needs to produce a special enzyme called lactase. Lactase is produced by the body as long as there is milk to be consumed. Usually once a kitten moves on to solid foods, their mother will stop feeding them milk and the kitten's body will stop making lactase. Once the body stops producing lactase, it never re-starts. Without lactase, the cat will not be able to digest or process milk and therefore they will feel yucky and sick if they drink it.
So remember – your cat or kitten may really like the taste of the fat in milk, but your cat or kitten doesn't know what "lactose intolerance" is! They won’t understand that drinking it will make them sick. If you give it to them, they will probably lap it up and then end up feeling quite unwell.
Fresh, clean water is all cats need to drink. If you do really want to give your cats’ milk as a treat, then you can buy lactose-free pet milk from your pet food store, vet or supermarket - but it is definitely not an essential part of a balanced diet.