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Common feeding mistakes and foods to avoid for cats

When a cat is being fed a balanced diet, there is generally no need for vitamin or mineral supplements, unless they are being administered as part of a course of veterinary treatment. Supplements may actually cause health problems, particularly in kittens. Feeding meat or fish exclusively can cause serious health problems.

Although some cats are fussy eaters, many do not have an “off” button and will continue eating long after they need to, given half a chance. Obesity is regarded as a serious and unfortunately common problem in cats.

Foods to avoid

Some human foods can be poisonous and should never be offered. Chiefly these are raisins, grapes, chocolate and onions.

Problem foods

Onions, garlic, chocolate, coffee or caffeine products, bread dough, avocado, grapes, raisins, sultanas, currants, nuts including macadamia nuts, fruit stones (pits) e.g. mango seeds, apricot stones; fruit seeds, corncobs; tomatoes, mushrooms; fish constantly, cooked bones; small pieces of raw bone or fatty trimmings.

Problem house plants

Various plants can be toxic to cats and some may even lead to death. Lilies are highly toxic and can cause kidney failure (and death) and oleanders may cause kidney failure and heart problems respectively and should be kept away from cats.

Food temperature

Cats prefer food that they can smell properly, and one reason your cat may walk away from food is that it may be too cold if it has just come out of the refrigerator; try warming it up.

What types of treats are best for my cat?

When your cat is eating a nutritionally complete diet, treats are just what their name implies, extras to be given occasionally. They may smell extremely scrummy to your cat, but too many treats can lead to a chubby pet.

Use treats for a specific purpose

Moderation is the key, keeping treats for training rewards and particularly good behaviour that you want to reinforce. For example:

Commercial or home made

A wide range of commercial treats are available, or you can offer the occasional cooked prawn (remove shells) or piece of human-grade cooked chicken meat (no cooked bones) – you may see your cat’s eyes open wide with delight at the prospect. Check any commercial products comply with the Australian Standard: Manufacturing and Marketing of Pet Food AS5812:2011.

Some people who have the time make their own cat treats. A quick web search will bring up numerous ideas and recipes, including such delights as Sardine Surprise and Tuna Balls. Make sure anything offered is safe, check with your vet first.

Catnip

You could choose to use catnip or “cat grass”, both of which are typically available in pet stores, although do bear in mind that some cats may just regurgitate it, which may seem counter-productive. Be aware that large amounts of certain types of ‘cat grass’ can cause hypervitaminosis D.

Finally, remember that treats are not a substitute for attention. When the pressure is on and you have too much to do, it can be easy to fob your cat off with a treat or two – but how would you feel if your loved one handed you a treat and then ignored you? Would you feel loved?