Life with a feline is rarely simple. For example: providing food for your dog is a breeze: he’s hungry and you feed him. But with cats, it isn’t always a straightforward process.
Ceramic, metal or porcelain materials are optimal for feeding and watering your cat. Avoid using plastic dishes: regardless of how often you clean them, plastic can trap bacteria, which can be harmful if ingested. It can also cause chin acne (cats often rub their chin on the bowl’s surface when they eat). Wash your cat's food bowls daily to avoid bacterial growth. Here are some tips for feeding your cat healthfully:
- Wet food should not be left out longer than four-to-five hours, after which it begins to go bad.
- Dry food should be replaced after 24 hours (or after seven-to-eight hours if you use a non-preservative brand of cat food).
- Food that exceeds these time constraints can develop harmful bacteria such as Clostridium, which is commonly associated with spoiled food.
- When food gets old its smell changes. By instinct, cats won’t eat old food.
- Auto feeders are optimal for cats on a diet or if you’re going to be away from home for longer periods of time. The feeders should always be cleaned before refilling the canister because it can harbor bacteria if not cleaned thoroughly and regularly.
Water is essential to life but cats -- of course -- are different. Evolved from desert-dwelling ancestors with limited access to water, cats’ kidneys compensate for a lack of water by retaining as much of it as possible, which is why cat urine is typically concentrated and yellow.
While their kidneys have adapted, lack of water intake is a major contributor to early onset kidney disease in domesticated cats. The problem often lies in the fact they rarely drink water at home. The main reason? Persnickety felines often refuse to drink water if they are unhappy with the location and/or taste. Here are some facts about cats and water:
- Cats might not drink stagnant water, whose taste changes due to oxygen loss.
- Most cats don’t like the taste of room temperature water, especially if the water isn’t replaced daily.
- Cats typically don’t drink water that’s next to their food. In the wild, cats instinctively understand that a water source near dead prey may be contaminated.
- Some cats still hold true to this instinct and won’t drink their water if it’s nearby their food bowl.
There are ways to encourage healthy water consumption.
- Make sure you use ceramic or metal bowls, as theses materials help keep water cool.
- Clean the bowl every day or two and replace water daily.
- Consider purchasing a Brita pitcher and use cold, filtered water instead of tap water so water is always fresh and cool.
- Pet water fountains are useful but require maintenance, as filters need frequent replacing. Additionally, fountains should be taken apart and the motor cleaned regularly or harmful bacteria can grow. Fountains are a great solution for cats that seem only to want to drink running water: the constant water flow keeps it oxygenated so it tastes fresh and is cool. Fountains also mimic your cat’s natural instinct, as they drink from streams in the wild.
Cat are hunters by nature, so the prospect of bowls of food and water waiting in plain sight for consumption can sometimes be challenging for an animal that’s genetically programmed to hunt for small prey. Understanding your cat’s nature will help you help them to live a happy, healthy, well-fed (and hydrated) life.