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Is Your Cat's Diet Making Them Sick?
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Is Your Cat's Diet Making Them Sick?

Critter Culture Staff
Updated Aug 15, 2022

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Cats have complex nutritional needs, and as the human of the house, it's up to you to find foods that work for them. Feeding your kitty the wrong food, or feeding too much or too little, can cause lots of health problems and even make your cat seriously sick. These problems are especially common for domestic felines, and most of them are tied directly to the cats' diet. Fortunately, there are ways to feed your cat to keep them healthy.

1

Obesity

Funny Fat Cat Sitting in the Kitchen

Obesity is the number-one food-related issue domestic cats face from improper feeding. Indoor cats are especially prone to this since they don't often get the exercise they need. Carefully monitor your cats' food intake, and don't overfeed them. Skip between-meal snacks, except for small amounts on special occasions, and encourage them to stay active. Consider putting a cat run in your home somewhere if you have strictly indoor cats.

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2

Diabetes

A veterinarian giving a tabby cat an insulin injection pyotr021 / Getty Images

Cats can get diabetes; it's one of the leading causes of avoidable early death for domestic breeds. As with humans, this is usually linked to nutrition and inactivity. Unlike humans, cats don't have a sweet tooth, so there's really nothing good that comes from feeding them sugary or syrupy treats. Watch out for excessive corn in cats' food since this is a common bulk ingredient that adds little to their overall nutrition.

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3

Unbalanced nutrition

A tabby gray Maine Coon kitten sits in front of a food bowl and looks at its owner. Maria Moroz / Getty Images

Cats have different dietary needs than humans, and you need to provide food that meets all of kitty's requirements to help them stay healthy. Felines are obligate carnivores, which means the vast majority of what they eat is meat, which their bodies can generally turn into most of the nutrients they need. However, ask your vet about cat vitamins since a few essential nutrients may not be available in a typical meat-based diet.

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4

Lethargy and exhaustion

British Short Hair cat lying on a grey sofa while stretching and looking away in a house in Edinburgh City, Scotland, UK, looking cosy and comfortable Carlos G. Lopez / Getty Images

It can be hard to tell if your kitty has lethargy since a healthy cat will still sleep 16 hours daily. This is still a common side effect of poor nutrition that you have to watch out for. During the hours when kitty is active, do they show signs of being sleepy or feeling ill? Watch for sluggish movements and an apparent unwillingness to play or prowl around the house.

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5

Urinary crystals and stones

Kitten in the litterbox Jordan Lye / Getty Images

Domestic felines have an unfortunate tendency to get urinary crystals and stones on an improper diet. These are painful at any size and can lead to serious complications if they get big. Avoid over-mineralized foods and watch for signs of distress when kitty uses the litter box. If you suspect crystals or stones, consult with the vet as soon as you can.

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6

Allergies

Dilute-calico Scottish-Fold causing sneezing Akimasa Harada / Getty Images

Like humans, some cats have food allergies. It can be hard to track down what, specifically, your cat is allergic to since it can be almost any ingredient in their food. Work with your vet to isolate the problem if you notice skin irritation, excessive licking, scratching, or other signs of skin irritation. You may have to switch to foods formulated for cats with allergies.

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7

GI tract irritation

Tired old gray tabby cat with green eyes resting on soft bed and looking at camera at home Aleksandr Zotov / Getty Images

Humans who eat the wrong food can get upset stomachs and lower-GI irritation. Cats are no different. If your furry little buddy shows physical distress after eating, has diarrhea lasting more than a day, or seems to be constipated, check with the vet and look into foods that won't irritate their digestive system so much.

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8

Suppressed immune system

sleeping cat zlyka2008 / Getty Images

Certain foods can have a negative effect on the immune system, which can be a problem if your cat likes to roam and get into messes outdoors. Cats with a suppressed immune system may not be able to fight off even very minor infections, which creates a wide range of other health problems that may become serious.

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9

When to see the vet

veterinarian trying to open cat's mouth Vasyl Dolmatov / Getty Images

As a rule, you should check in with the vet annually as part of your normal pet care routine. Call for advice if your cat shows abnormal behavior or symptoms of mild distress. Go to the vet without delay if your cat seems to be in pain, has trouble moving, or develops a serious-looking problem like lost fur, cloudy eyes, drooping tail, and the like. When in doubt, it's better to be safe than sorry.

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10

How to avoid issues with cat food

Young Persian kitten with blue eyes eating from blue bowl on floor. Benjamin Torode / Getty Images

Depending on your cat, you may have to experiment a little to find the right nutritional balance to keep them healthy. While you still have a kitten, work through the various food brands and formulas, and keep track of the results. Foods that seem to cause problems should be scrapped, while better foods are kept in rotation. Periodically experiment with new foods to see how kitty takes it, and stay in touch with the vet.

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