|Popoki, after a tasty snack|
Food, playtime/snuggletime and naps - these are generally the events your kitty looks forward to in his or her day. Some felines are incredibly food oriented while others simply eat to survive, just like people. Some cats do fine with free-feeding while others become grossly overweight. Even cats with regular mealtimes can become overweight if they are being offered too much at each meal and being given lots of treats. Over 50% of American "pet" cats are overweight. This is sad since it's their caregivers who are literally loving their companion animals to death. I believe that two set mealtimes (or three if you are regularly at home for lunch with your cat) are the best way to avoid weight issues. A cuddle, a pinch of catnip, or a short session of DA BIRD toy could take the place of extra portions when your kitty persists at the food cupboard.
It's very different with kittens and elderly kitties, who do benefit from many fresh meals a day; and having different generations of kitties or for instance one cat who eats slowly and one who gobbles his chow creates the need to separate them for 1/2 an hour or longer at mealtimes. Bully cats who steal food from their more timid sibling must also be separated at mealtimes. Cats must never be "disciplined" or yelled at when they attempt to overtake someone else's food; this merely creates stress in the household. It is more complicated to feed cats separately but the routine quickly becomes a habit for everyone. Cats will learn to go into their room and wait by their place mat for mealtimes. (Just make sure they also have a water bowl and a litter box in the room.) This is also ideal when cats may need supplements or medications as they are already used to the routine. This brings us to what to feed your kitty...
Personally I've had fabulous results feeding mainly a raw diet to my kitties for the last 22 years. My cats LOVE Rad Cat! I usually top it off with a tiny bit of canned food for added flavor and aroma. Since incorporating acupuncture into the care regime of all my kitties as they've aged, I've also added in fish "soup" that I make simply by poaching wild caught salmon, snapper or whiting in water, sometimes with a little sweet potato or winter squash. Chinese medicine usually focuses on cooked and warming food rather than raw and cold, especially when the weather is cold and wet. I've also been offering Stella & Chewy's freeze-dried, softened with hot water for 10 minutes before feeding. I use dry food only as a treat, as well as freeze dried chicken and salmon and bonita flakes. Most of my cats enjoy a bowl of organic, while milk plain yogurt too. If someone needs extra calories I open a jar of meat baby food (100 calories a jar). I am not a veterinarian of course but my opinion is that feeding the same food every meal makes for a boring diet, plus it may contribute to food allergies.
Lots of people believe kibble is beneficial to dental health. From the research I've done, poultry necks are actually the best at scrubbing a cats' teeth as he gnaws at it. Obviously you would need to supervise this meal, just as dogs should be supervised when given large "knuckle" bones. Genetics more than likely play the biggest factor in whether your cat will need dental extractions as he gets older. Many of my kitties were trapped as feral kittens and who knows what their poor mother ate while she was gestating. Consequently, dental surgeries are a major expense in our household. However, I can happily report that UTIs, crystals and other chronic urinary issues are a non-occurrence. We also have never had IBD, another pretty frequent ailment amongst house cats. Again, this is my anecdotal experience and lots of veterinarians would probably disagree me. I once sat for a cat who ate nothing but Meow Mix dry food and lived to be over 20!
Remember to add new foods to your cat's diet in small increments if they are used to something different. It's easy to tell if they've enjoyed it but it's up to you to keep track of how well they've digested it. (This is why not having an automatic litter box is best.) Mud Bay offers lots of samples and helpful information on good food that is made in the U.S. You can also consult the guide below (you may be surprised about some brands - I was):
reviews.com/ cat food
Here's to your kitty's good health and happy life!