Cat Feeding Advice?
August 29, 2012 2:47 PM   Subscribe

I have a few questions about feeding our four month old indoor cat, Captain Tightpants, a grain free diet.

Presently we're going with Wellness Core kitten food (is there a better brand around the same price point?). He doesn't seem totally jazzed about the kibble, but will eat it if it's mixed with the wet food (which he loves). He gets about 1.5 ounces of wet food (a 1/4 of a can) and 1/4 cup of kibble twice a day and then another 1/4 cup of dry kibble just left out for grazing (which he very rarely grazes on). Is this enough? Too much? Is it bad to mix the kibble and the wet food? Should I not leave food out for grazing? I'm wary of going to just wet food because he'll eat that until his belly swells and he gives himself the hiccups, but I'd listen to arguments in favor.

What about treats? I see that Wellness has some treats and so do comparable brands. I know treats can be good for training dogs, and I know cats like them, but should we instead just be sticking to his feeding schedule? What about the occasional bite of non-spiced meat or cheese?

Finally - do you have a fountain type water dish you recommend? He's a pretty big fan of fresh water and will drink puddles fresh out of the tap every time. He doesn't seem totally jazzed with his water refiller (sort of like this one).

I've looked through the archives and read some of the previous questions, but they are either a few years old or dealing with old or overweight cats, or feeding multiple cats.
posted by radiopaste to Pets & Animals (16 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I don't know the science around it, so take this with a grain (no pun intended) or two of salt. We have been feeding our cat a combination of Orijen dry food and Weruva and Tiki Cat canned food since he was a tiny kitten. He's now about two, and we give him 1 5/8 oz of dry food every night before bed, and an entire small can (I think they're around 3oz) of canned food (rotating brands and flavors -- there are about 20 varieties he likes) when we get home from work. We actually just top off the dry food to 1 5/8oz every night, we don't give an additional 1 5/8 if he didn't finish from the night before. He has maintained what our vet calls close to an ideal weight for some time on this regimen. He almost never completely cleans out the dry food (and he doesn't beg for food, though he does enjoy meal time), so I think for him this is just about the right amount of food. A lot of people will say that doing all canned food is healthier, but for us it's just not practical, and we believe this is a good compromise. No idea on price point comparison with Wellness.

We use two of these ceramic fountains and they work well. We used to use the plastic PetMate ones that are easily available at PetSmart, etc., but we found them harder to keep clean.
posted by primethyme at 2:56 PM on August 29, 2012

I feed Blue Buffalo Wilderness (grain free) and leave it for my kitty to graze. You can get it at PetSmart. He is not a very food motivated cat, so I am lucky there. You may want to test over a wknd when you are around to see if he gobbles up the bowl in a sitting or is more of a grazer. I also feed Weruva wet- just a big spoonful in the AM and PM . It is also grain free, and my cat seems to prefer the fishy types....I have to buy Weruva at the fancy-pants pet boutique, but you can buy it online. It is nice because it is shreds of meat/fish, not a pate that gets gross after being in the fridge. In terms of treats, Evo has good grain free treats as Trader Joes, the only cat treat that Trader Joes has on their shelves (at least in my local store).

I bought the Drinkwell Platinum fountain for my cat, but he saw is as a splash and play was quite a mess, so I gave it away. It worked well, but did have a hum to it that was slightly annoying, but I would get used to it after sitting near it.
posted by psususe at 3:00 PM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

The wet food is better for them than the dry, but I say that as someone who has not eliminated the dry, because one of the three cats would probably starve without it.

We have Orijen for dry as well (great stuff). For wet, we have a combination of Weruva and Wellness Core.

They need a *lot* of food as kittens. They will slow down later. I personally think it's better to free feed for the first year, but at least for the first six months, when they are growing so ridiculously fast, they need what they can get.

We still free feed. There is dry food out all the time. It's preferred by one of the three. The other two mostly ignore it, and wait for wet food, which I put out twice a day. They eat as much of it as they want, rarely all of it at once, and then come back and finish it off later. They are not overweight tubs, and I'm very happy with their looks and health.
posted by instead of three wishes at 3:25 PM on August 29, 2012

I should have mentioned, we also free-fed our cat (with the Orijen) for probably the first 6-9 months. When he started gaining more weight than the vet thought he should, we dialed back the dry food until his weight reached equilibrium around the target. And we re-weigh him pretty often to make sure we're still on target. Though honestly it seems like he self-regulates pretty well anyway, since he tends to almost but not quite finish his food each day.
posted by primethyme at 3:35 PM on August 29, 2012

We use the Drinkwell 360 for our cats because they love to drink from the faucet. It is slightly fussy to disassemble and clean. I like it because I feel like the steel stays cleaner than the plastic ones with the resevoir. It's pretty easy to rinse out between full scrubs.
posted by oneear at 3:52 PM on August 29, 2012

How about raw feeding?

Personally I try to read all the nutrition labels and prefer to avoid treats and overly processed foods (worst stuff is the supermarket pet food - full of sugar, grains, veggies and other crap and merely a few % of meat- EW!).
I feed raw, canned wet food and occasionally dry food (for long days out/vacations etc.). Keep in mind that dry food has about 7 times the caloric value of wet food.

In my experience cats like some variety in their food and not the same ol' stuff every day. I use regular things as treats like tuna, cheese, cream or egg - in small quantities and not too often.
Cats are carnivores and don't need much else but would eat the stomach contents of a mouse/bird for example. An adult cat would need about 5 oz wet a day. But for kittens and young wild cats I would opt for free feeding as long as they don't overeat and throw up every time.

In the end each pet owner has to find a way that works for them and their pets but I strongly encourage every pet owner to familiarize themselves with the nutritional needs of their pet.
Here is some more info.

Cute cat your captain btw!
posted by travelwithcats at 4:07 PM on August 29, 2012

We exclusively feed wet food and have since Shoggoth was a kitten. (We used to give her cat milk then as well, but weaned her off it after about six months).

At first she used to gulp and give herself the hiccups, but that settled down after a couple of weeks. In fact, she is not very interested in food at all nowadays (1 year old) and eats a few mouthfuls, bounds off, comes back for another few, and so on, until she's eaten her scoop of food slowly over the course of two or three hours. (It seems to stay okay out that long even in mid-summer, but it's fairly cool inside our house.) She also gets raw chicken necks, liver or heart a couple of nights a week, and cubes of cheese as rewards for training.

The only time we had feeding problems was when my husband decided she would get bored eating the same food all the time and started experimenting with rotating different flavours. Then she decided she LOOOOOOVED some flavours, and would eat them until we thought she'd explode, and then go two days on hunger strike when she got one she didn't like. Eventually we went back to giving her only the one option, and she went back to only eating when she was hungry.
posted by lollusc at 6:02 PM on August 29, 2012

(Oh, and Shoggoth also supplements her diet with rats and mice a couple of times a week, so that might also explain why she doesn't overeat the food in her bowl.)
posted by lollusc at 6:06 PM on August 29, 2012

No comment on the grain diet, but seconding either a ceramic or stainless drinking fountain. It should last the life of your cat, making it a cheap investment in the long run. If you have hard water, every three months or so circulate white vinegar in it to clean out the deposits. Rinse well.

Kitteh's name Captain Tightpants made me LOL! What do you call him for shorts?
posted by BlueHorse at 6:34 PM on August 29, 2012

Amazing page. We love Orijen.
posted by arnicae at 9:05 PM on August 29, 2012

Cats should eat 95% plus of their diet as canned, and if you can avoid dry altogether, that is likely the better choice. Your basic rule for cat food according to feline specialist vets is that the first 5 ingredients should be meats or fish, and it is fine to feed kitten food throughout the cat's life (especially since it's often the case that the kitten versions of foods are more appropriate in terms of meeting these ingredient suggestions). A cat's perfect diet is a mouse, a mouse is mostly water and some meat, you should try to replicate this as best you can with your food choices. I might just not bother with the dry at all. You can just feed the canned in smaller meals if you think he is eating too quickly, or hide the food in a stuffable toy like a Kong for a dog to make him work for it a bit and take his time that way.

I use the Drinkwell fountain for my dogs. I've had it for over two years now and it still works perfectly.
posted by biscotti at 9:32 PM on August 29, 2012

I'm going cite my sources on the canned vs dry debate. My veterinarian says that a high quality dry food is fine, as long as the cat drinks water on a regular basis and is otherwise healthy. Some cats are super picky and won't touch your pool of filtered water, of course, so wet food is the only way to go. BUT... for most cats, wet food isn't inherently better. I personally feed Blue, the grain-free variety, which can be softened with water if you think kitty isn't drinking enough.


Boils down to: The bottom line? “More research is needed to determine whether wet food is better,” Bough says. But the high moisture content in wet food can be beneficial to cats with urinary tract problems, diabetes, or kidney disease.

WebMD again

Boils down to: She says that a high-quality brand of cat food -- either wet or dry -- can be nutritionally complete. However, Larsen also tells WebMD, “Some cats benefit from the higher moisture content of wet food, which makes their urine more dilute. But most cats do fine on dry. It’s an issue of personal preference.”


Boils down to: Both wet and dry products can be nutritionally complete, Meredith, if they are high-quality pet foods appropriate for your pet's life stage and nutritional requirements.


Boils down to: (note: this needs citation, but it basically says the same thing as other experts on the topic) A good quality either wet or dry can be more than satisfactory for a cat's nutritional requirements.[citation needed] Wet food has more moisture than dry food, making water intake especially important for cats who eat primarily dry food.


For treats, I use 100% freeze-dried chicken or turkey bought from PetSmart. It's cheaper to buy the large pack meant for dogs. As long as it's 100% meat, and you're okay with breaking off small pieces for Kitty, it doesn't matter what animal the product is marketed toward. The occasional treat, especially if you're training the cat, won't ruin his appetite for dinner.

Lastly, I don't have a water fountain. My cat plays in his water dish and wet bathtubs enough as-is. I use a flat-bottom bowl to (somewhat) prevent him from flipping it over.
posted by plaintiff6r at 11:29 PM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

My cats adore the Hagen Fresh and Clear Drinking Fountain. Here are some photos from their first day or two with it.
posted by jeri at 12:08 AM on August 30, 2012

thank you for all of the advice! i think for now we're going to keep giving him the wet food twice a day and then free feeding with the dry stuff. i'll be switching brands on the dry to find something he likes a little better.

so many fountain options! i'll have to go through those and figure out which are the most up his alley. i can agree with the logic of doing metal or ceramic over plastic. i actually hadn't considered it, so thanks!

as far as his name - around the house we call him mal (or malcolm when he's acting up). :)
posted by radiopaste at 10:34 AM on August 30, 2012

I really like the Pioneer Pet stainless steel fountain. Haven't had any problems with it, and one of our cats loves it (the other doesn't go for it, but she likely wouldn't like any fountain). If the fountain is underfilled, the motor makes a little noise--easily corrected by adding more water. The fountain does get some mineral deposits on it from our water, but I discovered that CLR clears those up easily.
posted by msbubbaclees at 2:51 PM on August 30, 2012

I am going to get around to building one of jamaro's DIY bucket-fountains someday.

warning: the AskMe itself is sad and describes severe veterinary issues, but the fountain sidetrack is helpful.
posted by catlet at 8:15 PM on August 31, 2012

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