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Cat Treats: The Pros and Cons
There's a dizzying array of options for the feline diet nowadays, and nowhere is that more evident than in the cat treat aisle.
But, with as many as 40 to 50 percent of cats suffering from obesity, cat treats should be rationed judiciously. No more than 10 percent of your cat's caloric intake should be derived from treats; the rest should come from healthy pet food.
Selecting a treat is no longer as simple as grabbing a bag of Temptations from your grocer's shelf. You now have options for soft or crunchy, "natural," tartar control, hairball formulas, joint health, freeze-dried protein treats, and many more.
How Do You Choose?
The answer is complex, taking into account your cat's special health requirements, her weight and her age. Many cat treats do a good job of supplementing your cat's diet, providing additional nutrition and benefits that they can't get from their regular food.
Treats provide the opportunity for important one-on-one time with your cat and can go a long way toward strengthening your bond. Giving Fluffy treats before you leave for work and when you return at night can provide a predictable routine that many cats find comforting.
If you understand a treat's ingredients panel and what your cat's needs are, you can provide healthy cat treats for you cat that won't contribute to obesity, diabetes, FLUTDs, or other health problems.
Cat Treat Ingredients
The bad news is that many of the most popular cat treats that you find on supermarket shelves contain ingredients that aren't particularly healthy for your cat.
Corn, soy, wheat flour, gluten meal and cornmeal are common filler ingredients in top-selling cat treats, but they have marginal nutritional value, and grains are common allergens in cats. Many have a high fat content as well.
If your cat is on a dry food diet, she likely gets more than enough of these ingredients in her dry food, and you should consider giving her low-fat, high-protein treats instead. These include fish flakes and freeze dried meat or fish treats. Look for animal protein sources at the top of the list of ingredients.
Here are the most common types of cat treats:
These are good for keeping plaque at bay between dental cleanings. If your cat is on a wet food diet, dental treats may provide a means of reducing gingivitis.
If you're looking for a treat that freshens breath, select one that contains chlorophyll. If your cat has persistent halitosis, a trip to the vet is in order. It could indicate rotten teeth, digestive problems, or an underlying condition that requires veterinary intervention. Remember, dental treats do not replace your regular dental cleaning regimen.
Bonita Tuna Flakes
Often referred to as "Kitty Crack," freeze-dried bonita tuna flakes may have the greatest mass appeal of any treat on this list. They are a high protein, low fat, no-carb treat that cats find addictive.
However, the heavy metals found in tuna are detrimental t...
The Wet Food Versus Dry Food Debate
Get together a group of cat owners, and everyone will have a different opinion when it comes to the wet vs. dry food. To understand the issues, you need to understand the cat's physiology.
While dogs are omnivorous and able to break down and digest both vegetable and animal protein, cats are obligate carnivores, which means that they need muscle-based meats in their diets.
Although theoretically, they might get enough protein from plant material to exist, they need the amino acid taurine in order to thrive. Taurine is found primarily in the muscle meat of animals.
Carnivores have short digestive systems because they are not required to break down the tough cellulose found in plants. Introducing cellulose into their diets invites digestive problems.
On the whole, wet food, with the primary ingredient being meat or fish, provides a meal that's better suited to a cat's dietary needs.
That doesn't necessary mean that canned cat food is always a better choice than kibble. The best dry cat food is better for your cat than the worst canned food. If you feed your cat premium cat food, she is likely to thrive whether the food is in wet or dry form.
Here's what you should consider before providing your cat with a kibble diet.
The Dry Food Debate
Many cat owners leave dry food out all the time for their cats. Some supplement it with wet food, some don't. Is it the equivalent of feeding your kids a steady diet of fast food for the sake of convenience?
If your cat only eats dry food, she is likely to be getting less nutrition than a cat eating wet food. Many dry foods contain a lot of carbohydrate fillers and grains. In the wild, carbohydrates are only about five percent of a cat's diet - what she gets from ingesting the stomach contents of her prey.
Some carbohydrate fillers are necessary for the extrusion process that shapes the dry food nuggets during manufacturing. But they're also included as a cost-savings, since they're a cheaper ingredient than meat.
Corn, wheat and soy are common feline allergens. Diarrhea and other allergy-related conditions are often caused by corn or wheat fillers in dry cat food.
Check the ingredients panel. Your cat's food should not derive more than ten percent of its calories from carbohydrates, and ideally, it should be grain-free.
Prey consumed by wild cats is about 70 percent water. Canned food averages 78 percent, and dry food averages 10 percent. Cats on dry food diets usually don't get enough water. They can become chronically dehydrated which contributes to health problems like Chronic Renal Failure (CRF) and urinary crystals.
According to Purina, if you feed your cat dry food, she should drink approximately one cup of water for every ten pounds of body weight in a 24-hour period. In warm weather, she'll need even more. Cats on canned food diets only need to consume one-third to one-half that amount of water.
If you feed your cat kibble, it's essential to...