Food’s a touchy issue with cats. We’re not just talking about finicky eaters. Diet can be the underlying cause of many feline matters, like itchy skin, litter box messes and obesity. Here’s a look at how diet can contribute to your cat’s ills and what you can do to help them.
Feline food allergies
Excess grooming, hair loss and shedding, along with the scratching and biting that often accompany these symptoms, are all signs that something is getting under your cat’s skin. You may think it’s time for another flea bath, or that they’re sensitive to materials in their new cat condo. While flea bites and inhaled substances are the top two causes of cat allergies, there’s a third cause we may overlook, and that’s food.
Feline dermatitis and the cycle of itching
When a cat has an allergy or sensitivity to an ingredient in their food, it can cause dermatitis, which is an itchy inflammation of the skin. Or that ingredient can create a general feeling of itchiness, kicking off a vicious cycle of scratching and biting at the skin, which leads to inflammation and even more itchiness.
The last thing you want is for your cat to live in a constant state of discomfort. But without intervention, mild dermatitis symptoms can escalate into something worse, such as an abscess, which is a bacterial infection.
Keep in mind food allergies aren’t limited to skin conditions. In 10-15% of cats that suffer from food allergies, the allergy will show up in gastrointestinal disorders, like vomiting and diarrhea.
Which foods cause allergies in cats?
When it comes to food allergies, the cause will either be a protein source or a carbohydrate. An excellent way to narrow it down is to switch to a limited ingredient diet, which is a pet food diet that uses a single source of protein and a simpler formula.
If your cat’s diet is heavy on chicken, then for the next few weeks, you’ll want to eliminate that, and put the focus on, say, fish, and see how they respond. Or, if corn, wheat and barley show up in the ingredients, do a test run on a diet that features less allergenic ingredients, like brown rice, peas and lentils.
Once you notice their symptoms starting to fade, you’ll know you’re on the right track having identified the culprit. However, if your cat has been on the new diet for three weeks, and their symptoms are as strong as ever, feel free to try another protein/carbohydrate source.
Is your cat fat? Why overfeeding causes harm
When a cat is overweight or obese — i.e., you can’t see their hips or can’t easily feel their ribs — you’re putting your cat in harm’s way. That’s especially true when you consider the dire health problems cited by Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine:
- Overweight cats are 4.5 times more likely to develop diabetes compared to cats that are not.
- They’re 7 times more likely to need vet care for joint diseases and muscle injuries, and three times more likely to suffer lameness.
- They’re 3 times more likely to need vet care for skin conditions, possibly because the added bulk makes self-grooming more difficult.
- Overweight and obese cats are twice as likely to die in middle age (ages 6 to 12 years old).
To get your cat’s weight back on track, the first thing you want to do is cut back immediately on portions. It can be all too easy to overfill your cat’s bowl, especially when they’re meowing with hunger in between meals. Check the label of your pet’s food, and see how their actual daily serving measures up to the recommendation. Invest in a food scale, if you need it. For more tips and information, this guide will help your cat achieve a healthy weight.
Why diet can be a culprit in your cat’s urinary tract infections
Cat owners are no strangers to urinary tract infections. But if UTIs and vet visits are becoming a common occurrence with your cat, their diet of dry food may not be doing them any favors. Dry food has no more than 10% water. Canned, on the other hand, has 78% water, which helps them get better calibrated.
What makes cats so susceptible to urinary tract infections? Cats are used to getting all the moisture they need from their prey. When we switch to a kibble-based diet, they may need a little extra help with getting their hydration needs met.
Switching to wet food is one way to help your cat meet their needs for moisture and eliminate urinary tract infections. Adding a 1/4 cup of water to their kibble can also fix the problem. To encourage cats to drink more, place additional water bowls around the house.
Your cat’s diet may be causing runny stools and gassiness
Other than allergies, food can also be contributing to your cat’s runny stools. That’s especially true if you’re feeding your cat a grocery store brand of food because these are mostly made from grains and inferior sources of protein. When these common sources of food allergies and sensitivities are present in your cat’s diet, that can cause stress to your cat’s gastrointestinal system.
Finding relief can be as simple as switching to a high-quality diet that lists meat and meat meal first on the ingredients list. Also, less allergenic ingredients like peas, lentils and brown rice can be gentler on kitty’s system. You can also try switching to a limited ingredient diet, such as Pure Vita. These diets are less complicated, and pet parents often find they’re much gentler on their cat’s digestive system.
Another contributor to your cat’s diarrhea and gassiness can be a bacterial imbalance in your cat’s gut. When choosing a better diet for your cat, look for one featuring probiotics and prebiotics to remove pathogenic bacteria and bring the gut back into balance.
A healthy cat starts with a high-quality diet
All NutriSource cat diets come with Good 4 Life, a unique blend of supplements that offers your cat all the minerals and nutrients they need to build a healthy body from the inside out. Here’s how Good 4 Life nourishes your cat.
- Probiotics build a healthy gut microbiome, creating the ideal environment that lets your cat absorb nutrients and pass hairballs without vomiting. Prebiotics are the essential companion to probiotics, providing a food source for the “good bacteria.”
- Nucleo-Sacc contains our proprietary blend of glutamic acids, nucleotides and inositol.
- Glutamic acid is an amino acid that increases palatability, builds muscles and promotes brain function.
- Nucleotides are the building blocks needed for making new DNA and RNA and are essential for creating and replacing cells.
- Inositol is a micronutrient that protects cells from oxidation, helps nerve cells function, and is essential to maintaining a cat’s skin and coat.
- Organic proteinated trace minerals that are highly digestible, like zinc, copper, manganese, cobalt and iron.
- Yucca extract is shown to reduce fecal odors in cats by 30-50%, leaving fewer unpleasant odors at the litter box.