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Cats create a whole new dynamic when they’re brought into a home. First-time cat owners may have a host of questions about their new furry friends, but foremost on that list likely concerns what to feed their felines.

The ASPCA recommends speaking with a veterinarian prior to designing a diet for your cat. The vet will recommend a diet based on a host of variables, including the cat’s age, its activity level and its overall health. That last component is especially important when adopting a full-grown cat, as some cats may not be coming from good homes. That means some cats may be malnourished or have developed diseases in their previous homes. Such cats still make wonderful additions to a home, but special consideration will likely need to given to their diets to return them to full health and/or promote their long-term health.

In addition to speaking with a veterinarian, the ASPCA recommends new cat owners keep the following tips in mind when designing diets for their furry friends.

• Look for age-specific balanced foods. The ASPCA notes that cats require the essential amino acid taurine, which promotes eye and heart health. Cat foods are designed based on the life stage of the feline, and choosing the right balanced food for your cat’s age will ensure it gets enough taurine in its diet to thrive.

• Provide fresh, clean water at all times. PetMD notes that cats need less water than dogs to stay healthy, but it’s still vital that cats have access to fresh, clean water at all times. Bowls should be cleaned at least once per day and water should be refilled daily.

• Limit treats. The ASPCA says treats should be no more than between 5 and 10 percent of the cat’s diet.

• Be careful with baby food. Some cat owners find that feeding finicky kittens baby foods gets them to eat when they’re refusing their own food. But the ASPCA warns cat owners to read baby food labels carefully before feeding any to a pet. Onion or garlic powder, which can be found in some baby foods, can be poisonous to cats.

• Don’t wait to go to the vet if the cat is exhibiting signs of illness. The ASPCA advises cat owners to take their cats to the vet if the animals exhibit signs of anorexia, diarrhea, vomiting, or lethargy for more than two days.

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