A diet that is balanced, nutritional and correct in portion sizes is essential for the health of your cat.
Like all animals, your cat needs a diet that's properly balanced and contains all the required nutrients in correct quantities. These nutrients are water, protein, fats and oils, carbohydrate, minerals and vitamins. Any manufactured pet food should provide your cat with this basic nutritional balance. The choice of serving canned or dry, or a mixture of the two, is really a matter of personal preference between you and your cat.
Recent developments in pet nutrition mean there is now a wide range of commercially produced cat foods designed to match more accurately your cat's specific needs. If your cat spends most of his time indoors, for example, he may benefit from a special indoor formula, while less-active cats require less fat, so feeding a 'light' formula could help to avoid weight gain.
You can feed your cat on wet or dry food, or a combination of both. Some cats prefer to be fed wet food in the morning, for example, but have dry food left out during the day to snack on. Unlike many dogs, cats prefer to crunch on their dry food and generally find it less attractive when soaked, so keep it dry.
With dry food, you can expect your cat to chew it more actively and take longer to eat; to drink more water; and to return regularly to the food rather than eating it all at once. Dry food is convenient in that it will stay fresh all day, so it can be left out for your cat to eat whenever it wants. Dry food must, however, be stored in a dry, clean environment.
With wet foods cats tend to eat more in one sitting rather than going back and forth, and will drink less. Serve the food at room temperature to ensure your cat can taste and smell it properly. Warming up an opened can may take up to two hours from being taken out of the fridge, microwaving canned foods for a short time is always an option. Don't keep wet food opened for longer than 24 hours as it will go off and cause upset tummies.
Make sure fresh drinking water is always available for your cat, but don't give cow's milk. Cow's milk isn't suitable for cats, as most cats lose the ability to digest lactose shortly after weaning. Pastuerised yoghurt doesn't contain lactose, however, so this can be an alternative for some cats.
Remember also that cats are confirmed meat eaters and cats will go blind, suffer other debilitating conditions and ultimately die if fed on a vegetarian diet. Meat is the only major source of arachidonic acid, and cats lacking the ability to synthesize niacin from protein. Cats need meat to survive!
It's always a good idea to feed on a surface that is easily cleaned, like a tiled floor or a mat. Place feeding bowls away from the litter tray and, if you have two cats, keep the bowls a reasonable distance apart to avoid confrontations or bullying. Ensure you provide clean, fresh water in a large metal or ceramic bowl. This helps to keep the kidneys healthy and reduce the risk of Urinary infections.
Older cats may benefit from an adjustment to their diet, changing to foods that are more easily diet, changing to foods that are more easily digested.