Frequently Asked Questions by Cat Owners: Part 1

Cat Sleeps with Toy Mouse
Cat Sleeps with Toy Mouse

Table of Contents:

  1. What Is the Best Food to Feed My Cat?
  2. Does My Indoor-Only Cat Need Monthly Flea/Tick/Heartworm Preventatives?
  3. Should My Indoor Cat Go Outside?

One of the key services a veterinarian provides is the ability to answer questions and help guide pet parents. Since many pet owners share the same questions about their cats, we figured we’d share our answers with you.

Here are some frequently asked questions (or FAQs) from cat owners to their veterinarians:

What Is the Best Food to Feed My Cat?

This is a simple question that might require a complex answer depending on the pet, but here’s a general guideline to follow:

How Old Is Your Cat?

Choose a food that fits the age of your cat (either kitten, adult, or senior). Diets are formulated based on the nutritional demands of their age. According to the American Animal Hospital Association, there are six identifiable life stages for felines.

These stages are:

  • Newborn Kittens (newborn to 4 months old). These diets are formulated to be the next step after weaning. Each is designed to provide high-quality nutrition during a period of growth and when activity is on the rise.
  • Junior Cats (7 months to 2 years). Diets designed for this life stage are made to match the high energy and activity level that young cats exude.
  • Prime Cats (3-6 years). Diets designed for this life stage meet maintenance calorie requirements for the adult cat.
  • Mature Cats (7-10 years). For this life stage, diets often switch from calorie rich to more conservative, and often focus on weight loss to help maintain a healthy body weight.
  • Senior Cats (11-14 years). This life stage can be where disease processes start to occur and diets may be designed to prevent weight gain and support the aging process.
  • Geriatric Cats (>15 years). Cats can become finicky as they age, so geriatric diets are formulated to help encourage eating. They can be lower in calories due to reduced activity and may have lower sodium concentrations.

Do You Want to Feed Wet Food, Dry Food, or Both?

Decide if you’re going to feed wet food only, dry food only, or a combination of the two. Wet food should be at least a component in all cats’ diets. Cats that specifically benefit from wet food include young, indoor male cats and elderly/geriatric cats. Young male cats are prone to developing urinary tract diseases, including urethral obstructions, that cause them to be unable to pass urine. Wet diets have a higher moisture content than dry food and have been shown to decrease the incidence of this disease in young male cats. Kidney disease is prevalent in elderly/geriatric cats and wet food helps increase their water intake which helps combat this ailment. Wet food tends to be more calorically dense when compared to dry food, so maintaining an ideal body weight should be monitored closely.

What Is Your Budget?

Select a diet that is within your price range for the long term. Choosing a diet that is expensive and unable to be maintained is not ideal. There are high-quality diets in all price ranges. Choose a diet that fits within your budget that you can buy for the rest of your cat’s life. Continuously switching from one diet to the next could cause unnecessary gastrointestinal issues.

Here’s How to Choose a Brand

There are thousands of cat food brands on the market. Follow the first recommendations listed above: determine life stage, formulation, and budget. After you have those details determined, research brands that are appealing or that you’ve used in the past that fit the above categories.

Be sure to avoid fad diets in cat food. Fad or novel diets can be gimmicks and may be found to cause underlying health issues in cats years later. For the last and final step in this big decision, discuss the top choices with your veterinarian to narrow them down to the best option.

Keep Indoor Cats Indoors Outdoor Dangers for Indoor Cats

Does My Indoor-Only Cat Need Monthly Flea/Tick/Heartworm Preventatives?

Yes. Indoor cats are at risk of fleas and ticks, since they can be carried into the home by humans, dogs, and rodents. The most common type of flea and tick medication is topical (applied to the skin). Dog products should NEVER be applied to cats, since they can be toxic. The other option besides topical medications would be a flea/tick collar. The collar needs to be worn continuously to be protective and can’t be taken on and off frequently and still be effective. Topical treatments are more convenient as once they are applied, they work consistently for a determined length of time (varies based on product).

Heartworm is spread by infected mosquito bites, and, unfortunately, mosquitos can enter the home and bite indoor-only cats. Heartworm preventatives in cats mainly consist of monthly oral pills.

Your veterinarian can make product recommendations for both flea/tick and heartworm preventatives. Be cautious with preventatives that are purchased over the counter. These medications are often made for dogs and can be very toxic for cats. It is in your cat’s best interest to purchase these medications through or with the approval of your veterinarian.

While indoor cats are at a lower risk of these infections, there is still the potential for danger and the safest decision is year-round preventatives for all pets.

Should My Indoor Cat Go Outside?

Ideally, an indoor cat should not go outside unless on a harness and supervised. In the outdoors, a cat is susceptible to many dangers.

The most common dangers that exist outside for cats include:

  • Vehicles. The number one cause of injury to cats outdoors is being hit by a car. Indoor cats can be startled by vehicles and be struck by them if outside. Vehicular injuries can cause very significant harm to cats, and may be life threatening.
  • Larger animals. Unfortunately, cats can be perceived as prey by larger animals, and a cat may be attacked if outside unsupervised or off a harness.
  • Toxin exposure. There are toxins and poisons outdoors that cats could ingest. One of the major toxins that cats could find outside is rodenticide. Rodenticide is made to be palatable and cats and dogs will eat it if given the opportunity.
  • Infections. Cats outside can be exposed to other pets or wild animals. Feral cats can carry transmittable viruses such as Feline Leukemia, which is transmitted by bites. Feral cats, dogs, and other wild animals can also be vectors for rabies and, through bites, could expose your cat to this deadly virus.
  • Fleas/Tick/Parasites. Cats that go outdoors are at higher risk for flea or tick infestation. They can also be exposed to mosquitoes that carry heartworm disease or pick up internal parasites from rodent hunting.

There are many dangers outside of the home that indoor cats are unaware of, which could lead to injury. Indoor cats get easily startled and may run away or get lost. To prevent your pet from potential harm, cats should always be harnessed and supervised while outside.

For more answers to common cat questions, check out Part 2 of our FAQ.