Fairy tales and folklore tell us cats love to dine on milk and fish, and that any cat worth her whiskers needs at least one catnip mouse to chase when the live ones are not around. Although these century-old stories always stir up warm images of contented cats, many of these “truths” about feeding and nutrition are myths. And, some are downright harmful to your Ragdoll companion.
Myth: Cats Crave Fish
Fish is a good source of protein and other nutrients, but too much fish in a cat’s diet can be harmful. Tuna is high in polyunsaturated fatty acids and requires substantial amounts of vitamin E to preserve the fat. Cats fed a diet containing excessive amounts of tuna can develop steatitis, also known as yellow fat disease.
Myth: Cats Need Milk
It is a heart-warming image: It’s cold outside, a warm fire is blazing in the fireplace and your cat is lapping up cream from a saucer. But milk products may cause digestive problems a few hours later. Milk is a good source of water and energy-producing carbohydrates, but it does not contain all the other nutrients a cat needs to stay healthy. Many cats are lactose-intolerant – they don’t have the enzyme that digests lactose, a milk-sugar component of milk.
Drinking milk can cause loose stools and diarrhea, which strips liquids and nutrients from you cat’s system. Milk does not have a place in a cat’s diet and should be avoided.
Myth: Dogs & Cats Can Eat the Same Foods
It’s a common feeding situation – dogs and cats sharing the same household and eating out of each other’s dishes. However, dog foods are developed for the nutritional needs of dogs – not cats.
Cats are strict carnivores and they require a higher percentage of protein, B-complex vitamins, preformed vitamin A, taurine, and arachidonic acids. A cat can become seriously ill if its diet is deficient in these nutrients. Dog foods and cat foods are not made equally, and therefore, should not be shared.
Myth: Diets in Low Ash Can Prevent Lower Urinary Tract Disease
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Straining at the litterbox, urinating in inappropriate places, blood in the urine and loss of appetite often are symptoms of a urinary tract infection. There are many stories circulating among cat owners that feeding cats a low-ash diet can prevent most of these diseases. But the reality is that it’s not the low-ash diet that’s preventing these diseases. A diet that contains lower levels of magnesium and maintains the normal, slightly acidic urinary pH is the key to preventing this common problem.
“Ash” is an umbrella term that covers a number of minerals – including magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, copper, and zinc – that every cat needs to maintain good health. The misconception is that decreasing the amount of ash is what helps prevent urinary tract diseases . . . but what is really known, is that only the reduction of magnesium may be effective.
Myth: Cats Need Catnip
The smell of catnip leaves – an herb that grows throughout North America and Europe – can arouse intense interest in about half of all cats. Catnip is not essential to your cat’s diet or well-being, though.
Catnip is actually a hallucinogen that can induce short-term behavioral changes like sniffing, chewing, rubbing, rolling, meowing and near delirium in those cats that like its smell. Some cats chase phantom mice in the air or just sit around and stare into space. Catnip is not addictive, and is not really harmful to your cat; but, it’s not needed to keep your cat healthy and happy.