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A More Purr-fect Diet

Jan 31, 2011 ● By Megy Karydes

The proper diet is especially important to a cat’s health. What most of us may not know, however, is that what we always have considered good food for cats may be doing more harm than good.

Dr. John J. Hanover, a veterinarian with The Animal Hospital of Gurnee, in Wadsworth, reminds cat owners that cats are true carnivores and therefore rely on a primarily meat and seafood diet, not a grain diet. “Most dry cat food is high in carbohydrates and sugar, and such a cat diet often leads to diabetes or overweight cats,” says Hanover. “A species-appropriate diet, which is high in protein and low in carbohydrates and sugars, is a better option and closer to what cats would experience eating if they were in the wild.”

Veterinarian Share Siwek, who has been practicing for 24 years, agrees. “We see lots of digestive issues, especially in cats that have a long history of eating low-quality dry foods with fillers in them,” says Siwek, of Kindred Spirits Healing Arts, a holistic veterinary practice in Evanston. “It is not normal for cats to vomit daily or even several times per week.”

Moist foods, such as wet or raw, are better choices because they contain water, something most cats do not get enough of in their diets, according to Hanover. To avoid dehydration, he also recommends drinking fountains with a slow drip so cats can rehydrate when they are thirsty.

He also does not follow the old adage of sticking with one type or brand of food. It’s better that cat owners rotate the food type, and even brands, for optimal nutrition, he says.

Both Hanover and Ashley Thomas, manager at Thomas’ Tails, a natural pet products shop in Crystal Lake, agree that if you’re considering transitioning a healthy cat from a dry-food diet to a wet- or balanced raw-food diet, you need to introduce the new diet slowly.

Ensuring that your cat is on the right diet, and changing over slowly, is important, Hanover says, because if a cat rejects the new food and does not eat or drink for 24 hours, it can become life-threatening.

A balanced raw-based diet usually consists of meat, fish, vegetables and fruits that are processed but not cooked. Some are freeze-dried or frozen, and can be found in the freezers of pet stores. Dehydrated raw, canned foods and grain-free dry foods also can be options, Thomas explains, depending on the cat’s reaction to the new foods.

“It is important to transition the cat over a period of about seven to 10 days, because you don’t want it to reject the food completely and not eat,” Thomas notes. She suggests making the switch by offering 25 percent of the new food and 75 percent of the old food for the first four days, then 50 percent of each over the next few days, and then 75 percent of the new and 25 percent of the old for the remaining days. “This will allow the cat enough time to taste and get used to the new food, while allowing it the option to eat the old food, too.”

While raw or wet food might be a little more expensive than mainstream dry food, the quality doesn’t compare. Plus, the better health of your pet will mean fewer visits to the veterinarian.


The Animal Hospital of Gurnee, 38028 N. Dilleys Rd., Wadsworth 60083. 847-360-1630.

Kindred Spirits Healing Arts, 1607 Simpson St., Evanston 60201. 847-869-8845.

Thomas’ Tails, 31 E. Crystal Lake Ave., Crystal Lake 60014. 815-477-1002.