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You are here: myPetSmart.com > Pet Care Library > Articles > The Right Food For Your Cats Life Stage And Specific Health Needs

The Right Food For Your Cat's Life Stage and Specific Health Needs

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Life stages refer to the various developmental stages of a pet's life. For cats, we classify the stages into kitten, adult and senior. During these stages, some cats may require a lower calorie diet for inactive or overweight cats, a hairball diet for longhaired cats or a diet designed to affect the cat's urinary tract. It's extremely important to ensure that your pet is consuming a product that is appropriate to their life stage and condition. Feeding kitten food to an adult cat can result in excess weight gain. The same outcome may occur by feeding an adult formula to a senior cat.

Life stages refer to the various developmental stages of a pet's life. For cats, we classify the stages into kitten, adult and senior. During these stages, some cats may require a lower calorie diet for inactive or overweight cats, a hairball diet for longhaired cats or a diet designed to affect the cat's urinary tract. It's extremely important to ensure that your pet is consuming a product that is appropriate to their life stage and condition. Feeding kitten food to an adult cat can result in excess weight gain. The same outcome may occur by feeding an adult formula to a senior cat. If you have questions regarding which type of food is best for your pet, ask your veterinarian for assistance.

Cat food life stage definitions
Growth/kitten foods
These foods contain extra protein and fat to aid in proper skeletal and muscular growth during the critical growth phase of kittens (age 1-12 months). Higher levels of protein, fats, vitamins and minerals characterize growth diets--necessary to meet the growing kitten's higher energy and nutrient requirements. Pound-for-pound, kittens need as much as three to four times the nutrients needed by an adult cat.

Because growth diets contain extra nutrients they are also ideal for feeding pregnant and nursing cats.

Adult foods
Adult foods are intended to be fed to moderately active adult cats between the ages of 1-7. They contain moderate amounts of protein, fats, vitamins and minerals. Many adult diets are now formulated to help reduce the risk of urinary tract problems, skin or coat concerns, intestinal problems and even hairball problems (see below for more on these diets).

Adult foods should be fed "free choice," allowing the cat to nibble through out the day. More sedentary adult cats can be fed "light" formulas as needed to control their weight.

Senior foods
These foods have reduced fat and higher fiber levels to help older, more sedentary cats maintain a desirable weight. Older cats suffer a decrease in muscle mass, dental and intestinal problems, and sometimes obesity. Between the ages of eight and ten, switch your cat's food to a brand designed for older cats. Foods specific to older cats will:

  • Have fewer calories to help older cats maintain a healthy weight
  • Will contain high-quality proteins such as poultry, fish, lamb, or beef, beneficial to aging cats
  • A moderate level of fiber in the diet to help prevent constipation and maintain gastrointestinal health

Foods for specific health needs
Within the various life stages, there are food formulations designed with a specific function in mind. A few of the more common are listed below:

Light/less active foods
Products labeled "light" (or "lite") are subject to strict industry rules and therefore must contain no more than 1,477 calories/lb., these foods also tend to be much higher in fiber than regular adult foods. "Reduced calorie," "reduced fat," and "less active" labeled products are not subject to this definition and therefore may contain slightly higher calorie levels. Because they are higher in calories than "light" foods they are better suited for weight maintenance rather than for weight loss diets designed for already overweight cats.

If weight reduction is the objective, higher calorie reductions result in greater weight loss. Cats are particularly finicky eaters and such weight loss programs should be instituted under the guidance of a veterinarian. Cats, especially those who are already overweight, who do not eat for two consecutive days are at a risk to develop liver disease and should be checked immediately by your veterinarian.

Hairball food
Designed for adult cats as well as senior cats (separate formulation depending on the life stage) with hairball problems, these foods employ several methods (most use added vegetable fiber) to assist with the elimination of hair from the cat's digestive system. They are complete and balanced and therefore are designed to be used as the sole source of nutrition for the pet; no other foods need be supplemented. The hairball foods also come in a light form for overweight cats!

FLUTD (Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease) approved foods
These foods have FDA approval to make claims regarding the foods' effectiveness in maintaining proper urine pH, which has been shown to be effective in maintaining urinary tract health. Urinary tract problems occur more frequently in cats between the ages of 1-7 years. Other important considerations for maintaining the urine pH of your cat include dietary magnesium and adequate water intake (i.e. canned vs. dry food). Most high quality cat foods will already be formulated to help prevent problems with your cat's urinary tract.

Sensitive stomach adult cat foods
For adult cats that have sensitive stomachs, there are foods designed to be easy to digest so they are gentle on the pet's stomach. These foods help pets that may have a hard time digesting regular cat food. They are formulated according to the same nutritional guidelines and therefore do not require any supplementation.

Sensitive skin adult cat foods
These foods are designed for adult cats that have dry, itchy skin. The foods help nourish the skin and replenish the skins natural oils by supplementing fatty acids. These foods are designed to be the sole food for the pet and therefore are complete and balanced diets.

Oral care adult cat foods
Oral care foods have kibbles that are designed to help keep your pets teeth free of tarter. These foods are not to be used in place of regular dental care but may help your cat keep their teeth healthy. The foods are complete and balanced and do not need to be supplemented. 

Are you feeding your pet the right food?
Find out the benefits of feeding a premium food the Specialty Food Information Center at PetSmart.com
 

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