A medium-sized burger on a paper plate is certainly not going to win any kitchen awards for taste or presentation. But if you top this burger with melted Gouda cheese, lettuce, fresh avocado and tomato slices with a toasted buttered bun, your taste buds will thank you.
Well, your cat might feel the same way about its food. Eating the same dry food every day can cause some cats to lose their diet. Some may walk away from their bowls. Others might be trying to steal your gourmet burger.
Fortunately, pet parents have a yummy tactic for increasing appetite, masking the taste of gross medicine, and adding the nutrients they need to their cats’ daily food: meal toppers.
Diversity is the spice of life
Meal toppers can be as simple as draining the drained water from canned tuna placed in bowls of croquettes. Or, as in my household, it can be those coveted pieces of white fried chicken that have been rinsed off all the seasoning before putting them on my cats’ food bowl. It can also be the wet version of your brand of cat food mixed into the dry food version.
“A little is enough to keep your cat nutritious,” says Dr. Jean Hofve, a holistic veterinarian in Boulder, Colorado. “For example, you can chop up a sardine and pour three meals over it. Or add a dollop of ground turkey. “
Too tired to do anything? Commercially prepared meal toppers are popping up on store shelves and online. The versions vary and offer broths, sauces, shredded or flaky fish or freeze-dried chicken crumble.
For example, Blue Wilderness offers foil bags with wild cuts, nibbles in sauce. Vital Essentials has developed a range of freeze-dried litter-shaped meal toppers that contain chicken, rabbit, salmon, duck and more protein. Caru Daily Dish delivers human-quality broth in squeezable bottles as a topper.
Whether homemade or commercially prepared, all meal toppers serve as a supplement to the cat’s main food. The overall goal of meal toppers is to encourage cats to stay healthy by eating healthy foods.
If you are looking for a way to spice up your cat’s food, the first thing to do is to team up with your veterinarian to determine your cat’s nutritional needs and general health.
“Before focusing on changing a cat’s diet, ‘picky’ cats should be screened by their vets to make sure there are no underlying health problems that could affect their food intake,” says Dr. Tabitha Hookey, Veterinarian and Scientific Support Specialist for Royal Canin.
Also, pay attention to the location of your cat’s water and food bowls and litter boxes.
“Separation of food and water and litter boxes is ideal for a cat, and it is also important that your cat feels safe in the area where it is eating and drinking,” adds Dr. Hookey added.
Pay attention to the amount of meal attachments you give. Any calories from treats or meal toppers should not exceed 10% of your cat’s total daily caloric intake. Excess calories can put a strain on your cat’s pounds, putting them at risk for obesity and other health problems.
Meal toppers can be just the right delicious recipe for a cat on medication for an illness.
“Some prescription drugs don’t taste good, but are badly needed for cat health,” said Rachel Geller, EdD, a certified cat behaviorist based in Newton, Massachusetts. “Always consult your veterinarian before adding anything new to your cat’s diet, but I definitely think meal toppers can help with a variety of problems your cat has, including the need to take medication.”
Dr. Hofve says a meal topper can be the first choice for cats that need to change their diet.
“A small topper on the cat’s dry food can be an effective bridge to switching the cat from a dry to a wet food diet,” says Dr. Hofve, adding that meal toppers can motivate older cats at risk of dehydration to adopt wet food.
When introducing a meal topper, do so gradually so as not to cause stomach discomfort. And be ready to take action if your cat decides that she just loves the meal topper and doesn’t eat the main meal in her bowl, advises Dr. Hofve.
“In some cases, you may need to mix the feeder with the kibble to encourage the cat to eat the entire meal,” she adds. “It is important that your cat gets a complete and balanced diet every day.”
Tricks for these goodies
Meal toppers can also help motivate the capital M when it comes to teaching your cat a new trick. My young orange tabby Rusty earned the nickname Rusty the Purrformer because he loves learning new tricks. And he’s very nutrition-motivated.
During our mini workouts, I grab small, freeze-dried chicken pieces from a meal topper bag. He comes running when he hears the bag and probably smells the contents. So far he has mastered whistling, sitting nicely, walking in harness on a leash, driving in a stroller and jumping on a table on cue. He may think he’s getting an extra meal, but I keep him at a healthy weight by handing out these low-calorie treats.
“Cats tend not to be social food eaters like dogs, so chasing them with a food puzzle or hiding parts of their meal for their food or treats can be useful to enrich them and support their mental and general wellbeing “, Dr. Hookey says.
Looking for a cooked meal topper? Here are just a few.
Tiki cat supplements $ 11.92 / 8 pack; tikipets.com
Wellness CORE Simply shreds $ 15.84 (case of 12); wellnesspetfood.com
Vital Essentials Freeze Dried Toppers $ 12.99; vitalessentialsraw.com