Every kitten food has protein, but here are some important facts about the different types of protein to help you choose the right food for your kitten. It is important to remember that the source of protein is vitally important to kittens because one of the principle nutritional philosophies is that kittens are best fed as carnivores.
Some pertinent facts when listening to the claims and advertising of various manufacturers:
1. Recommended kitten food protein levels are established by nutrition experts from around the world and published as NRCs (Nutrient Reference Charts). These protein requirement levels are determined by meeting the animal’s need for essential amino acids, the building blocks of protein; and by monitoring/calculating the nitrogen balance (a comparison between the intake of nitrogen in the diet and the losses through urine, feces, and evaporation from the skin and mouth). Nitrogen balance has been the recognized method of determining protein requirements for many decades. Variations in levels from what has been established for many years should be validated by convincing research. If the change in level isn’t backed by supporting evidence of a tangible benefit, then there may be hazards. Studies in several species have found a link between diets with high protein levels (greater than 40% protein), bone loss, and urinary tract stones.
2. Protein from plant sources may elevate the amount of protein, but may not be as beneficial as animal-based sources of protein in kitten food because of lower digestibility, effects on muscle-to-fat body composition ratio, and the range of amino acids they provide.
3. There are only three sources of energy in any kitten food diet–fat, protein, and carbohydrate (starch). If the amount of one element is raised, the amount of one or two of the others must be lowered to maintain a proper energy level in the food for your kitten’s life stage and lifestyle. A balance of nutrients is important to your kitten because each of the nutrient groups supplies something very specific for the kitten’s body. Excess protein above your kitten’s actual needs cannot be stored for future use and will be converted into fat.
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Cats are known for being a bit choosey about what they will and won’t do. And a little pickiness is fine when it comes to picking out toys and napping spots! But if your cat is or becomes extra-selective about what they’ll eat, it’s time to pay attention and perhaps talk to your vet. You and your vet know your cat best, so it’s always worth checking in if you think your cat isn’t eating enough and want their professional advice.
Start by paying close attention to what your cat is eating and how they behave. This information will help you, your household and your vet work together to make sure your cat is living and eating well.
Feeding Tips for the Truly Finicky Cat
Pay Attention to All the Cat Treats
Is your cat begging for table scraps or holding out on eating until you offer treats? Extras like these can be very disruptive to your cat’s appetite and diet. Think about them like snacks or desserts for you — tasty cravings that are easy to fill up on. A small portion may not seem like much, but it can make a big different for a cat-sized digestive system!
Try dialing back how much you treat your cat to tasty extras and see if their interest in the food bowl starts to return. Remember, it’s generally all right for cats to skip a few meals, but if they haven’t eaten for 24-36 hours it’s time to call the vet (even if they’ve continued drinking water).
Review Your Cat’s Food Routine
Humans often crave variety in their meals, but for cats, routine is king. It’s not likely they’d avoid their regular food out of boredom with it, but if you’ve recently changed the kind of food, the number of feedings or the times you feed your cat, they may be avoiding eating as a response.
It's a good idea to change your cat’s diet gradually (unless your vet advises otherwise). Pickiness can often be resolved by helping your cat adjust and get comfortable with their updated diet!
Help Your Cat Relax While Feeding
If your cat starts eating less, you may want to look for factors that could be causing stress. Seemingly unrelated changes to their environment can shift your cat’s stress levels enough to impact their interest in food. Has another animal or person joined or left the household? Has your cat been adapting to new surroundings due to a move or renovation? As the stress of that change begins to subside, your cat will probably go back to a normal diet.
Talk to your vet about good ideas for reducing your cat’s stress levels and share any concerns you have about their diet then too. You’re both on the same team, so work together to help your cat feel better!
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