The importance of nutrition

After doing a lot of talking to potential adopters the past week, I realised that there was something about our views on nutrition that I’ve never put online.

We are very concerned about the food that cats are being fed. That’s why we always talk about it. However, that does not mean that we’re touting the food that we do feed our cats as the only option. You can choose to feed your cat some other commercial cat food, homecooked or raw foods, but you must be aware of the insufficiencies and be prepared to compensate for the shortcomings of your choice.

I always use this story to illustrate my point. It is about a 21 year old male cat called Didi Boy.

In March last year, we got to know Didi Boy’s mother, TA. Didi’s a healthy boy for his age. And he’s still a formidable-sized cat.

All his life, Didi’s main diet is raw meat, with in-between snacks of dry/wet food – which is a by-product brand.

Though he’s quite healthy for a 20 year old cat, Didi is showing his age. He is very slow and appears spaced out, most time. He still likes to sit and sleep on chairs and beds. But he can only get up and down with assistance so he will sit by his target and meow for help.

So we shared with TA the concerns with food, and she decided to replace his dry and wet food with Natural Balance.

The results were amazing.

Just 2 days after the change, Didi’s coat condition improved by leaps and bounds. Where he used to have coarse-feeling fur, it now feels smooth. It also has acquired a healthy glow and sheen to it. Two weeks later, TA was vey excited to report that Didi was actually jumping up and down chairs and beds by himself, without help! He loves NB and actually will turn up his nose at the raw meat at times and demand for NB now. And his appetite has improved – he eats more NB dry food than his mum ever thought he would ever stomach.

What does this say? I think there are a few points:

  • Didi’s raw meat diet is natural, and it probably helped him avoid a lot of problems that a commercial-food based diet could have caused, especially considering the lack of availablity of quality commercial food back in Didi’s day. However, Didi needed to be dewormed regularly because of his raw food diet and the hygiene involved in handling his food must be top-notch.
  • While his mainly raw-meat diet was beneficial for his long-term health (vis-a-vis the kibbles options then), it was not providing him with all the nutrients he needs. Put it this way, a cat who catches his prey would eat stuff beside meat – brains, innards etc. Didi missed out on whatever nutrition these things provided. Just like cats on most commerical food dietwhich is filler and by-product filled are missing out on the nutritional value of meat.
  • Despite the issues with commercial pet food in general, there are still quality brands around. A good quality brand of commercial pet food can help supplement the nutritional requirements for a cat’s health, in lieu of one’s ability to provide nutritionally balanced alternatives like home-cooked food or a well balanced raw-food diet (ref BARF).

Like I tell potential adopters, I am not touting or promoting NB per se. I use it as an example to illustrate the importance of food and nutrition to a cat’s health, because it is what we use and it is what we have very positive anedoctal evidence for. Having said that, NB is not for every cat either – I know of at least 1 cat who sheds a lot fur who did not benefit from a change to NB… though I do wonder if this cat may be having a medical problem that a diet change alone can’t resolve.

And that brings me to my next point, in case people start forming the wrong ideas: A good quality brand of cat food is not an elixir, and it cannot resolve all the problems your cat may be having or prevent the issues your cat may be inclined to have (due to heritage or prior history) – that is what you need to work with your vet on.

However, good nutrition is important to keep your cat in good health – as important as good nutrition is key to keeping YOU in good health, the logic is really simple.

NB too is not the be-all and end all of the great commercial cat food search, despite the impressive track record we’ve seen and heard. Frankly, I do not envision feeding NB forever. IF standards drop or the manufacturer starts doing monkey business like adding fillers or conducting animal testing ala IAMS, I will not hesitate to change. But so far so good!

EDIT: Reference Hey, are you making my dinner? (added 20061208)

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