Understanding Your Cat’s Diet: A Crucial Guide


The Essential Guide to Cat Food diets: What you need to know

It’s difficult to comprehend that our cats, who are curled up cozily at the end of the bed in peaceful sleep, are actually lean, mean killing machines when it comes to their eating habits. These beautiful, elegant creatures have grown over the years into affectionate companions and confidants.

Most cat owners would prefer to ignore the fact that they are actually harboring a skilled assassin. The impressive characteristics of a natural born predator, however, are difficult to ignore; they include powerful, agile bodies with lightning reflexes, stealthy, silent gaits, razor-sharp claws, long canines, excellent night vision, acute hearing, and a superior sense of smell.

Understanding all facets of these special creatures’ healthcare requires acknowledging the glaringly obvious truth about them. Why, then, is it that the most important of subjects – the nutrition of cat food – is frequently overlooked?

What food do you give your cat?

Jenny Philip, BVMS, MRCVS, the clinical director of Vet’s Klinic and a veterinarian, is aware of the value of providing your cat with a science-based, naturally balanced diet that provides all the nutrients it needs to thrive. She has also seen firsthand how nutritionally lacking some commercial cat food brands can be.

Currently, 30% of cat owners in the UK give their cats table scraps, raw meat-based diets, or let them consume live prey. Of these 30%, 50% give their cats a combination of wet and dry cat food.

Diets for cats that include live and raw prey animals may be very biologically appropriate. However, home-prepared diets can be time-consuming and inconvenient for most people, and they are infamously difficult to balance correctly. Unsettlingly, a recent study in the US discovered that 84% of these home-prepared diets lack several nutrients.

Even so, some diet recipes for commercially prepared cat food are just as inadequate; they may appear to balance better on paper, but a quick glance at the back of a packet of some of these commercial cat foods highlights their shortcomings.

For example, take the two best market leading dry cat food brands; the analytical constituents (this is the ingredients in the cat food) read 30-32% protein, 10% fat and 7.5-8.5% ash. The carbohydrate content, however, is not something the manufacturer must disclose. In order to create the kibble structure, the majority of these dry diets contain over 40% carbohydrates. Why then should a cat’s diet contain a low amount of carbohydrates?

Are cats omnivores or carnivores?

Cats do not need a high carbohydrate diet, in fact it goes against their biological makeup

Cats are considered to be obligate carnivores and are biologically distinct from humans. If you are a “carnivore,” you consume only or primarily animal tissue in your diet to get your energy and nutrients. An “Obligate Carnivore” is someone who only consumes animal tissue, as opposed to a “Facultative Carnivore,” who can choose to meet their nutritional needs from sources other than meat in the absence of meat. Dogs are a contentious subject and can be categorized as either omnivores or facultative carnivores, in contrast to humans who are classified as omnivores and get their energy from a variety of food sources.

Small mammals and rodents make up the domestic cat’s natural diet. On average a prey item is 62% animal derived protein, 10% fat with 14% ash, which is mainly mineral content from bone (see the table below).

Prey Species – Crude Protein% – Fat% – Ash%

  • Mouse – 62 – 11 – 13
  • Rat – 63 – 9 – 14
  • Small Bird – 62 – 9 – 15

Obligate carnivores have evolved with entirely different biochemical pathways for processing food and metabolizing nutrients when compared to other species we are familiar with, such as dogs or ourselves, as a result of their protein-rich diet.

Cats don’t need carbohydrates for energy; they need protein!

Glucose is the common energy source for every cell in every living thing. When the carbohydrates in our diets are broken down, both humans and dogs can easily access glucose. Carnivores must, however, acquire glucose in a different way due to their diet of fat and protein. Since amino acids are the building blocks of protein, cats have evolved pathways to turn them into a source of glucose. These pathways are present in both humans and dogs, but they are a part of a network of energy-producing pathways that can change depending on the type of food consumed. In the case of cats, even when they haven’t consumed any protein, their body cells still need a source of amino acids for energy, so in the absence of dietary protein, they must start using the body’s already-existing protein, i.e. muscle mass, to maintain normal cell function.

Cats would naturally eat a lot of protein in the wild—up to 62% of their diet if they eat a mouse. It doesn’t take a master nutritionist to recognize a significant discrepancy within their diet when comparing this to the commercial diet at 30%!

Aren’t there proteins in all commercial cat foods?

Although technically speaking, products made for cat food preparation do contain protein, not all proteins are created equal. Where the protein comes from is another crucial issue that must be taken into account. In addition to being present in many fruits, vegetables, and grains, protein can also be found in animal tissue. Analysis of the composition (ingredients) list on the back of the packet is the only way to identify the source of protein. To meet a cat’s biological needs, a source of meat-based protein should be first on the list because it is arranged by weight in descending order. The first three ingredients for the two diets in our example are cereals, animal and meat derivatives (10%), and vegetable protein extracts. As a result, a large portion of the protein listed in these diets comes from sources other than animals. Why does this matter, besides the obvious fact that we’ve never seen a cat want to stalk vegetables?

For nutritional and health reasons, cats require animal protein.

It matters because some of the specific vitamins and amino acids that cats need in their diets to maintain normal cellular function can only be obtained naturally from animal tissue. The amino acids arginine, taurine, cysteine, and methionine are crucial for many vital mammalian processes, but cats must obtain them through diet, making them a dietary requirement. Dogs and humans, however, can synthesize these molecules from other molecules, unlike cats. For cats, this process is inefficient and because of their higher daily needs, they consume them more quickly than they can be produced. Serious disease can be brought on by deficiencies; for instance, a taurine deficiency can result in heart disease and blindness. Commercial diets must adhere to strict standards to guarantee that these molecules are present in sufficient amounts, and in cases where levels are insufficient, the cat will need to take an artificial supplement to ensure they receive the proper level of the three essential vitamins and minerals. Feeding the cat what it naturally needs—meat-based protein—must be the more sensible and natural course of action!

How many of us have come across a black cat with a reddish brown sheen?

This is a classic illustration of the consequences of a diet low in meat, something that many of us may have noticed casually without realizing it. Cats are unable to synthesize the amino acid tyrosine, which is only present in animal tissue. But because it is not essential for bodily function, it is not a prescribed need to be supplemented in commercial diets. A black cat turns brown if it lacks tyrosine, which is an essential part of the pathway that produces melanin, the black pigments that give them their coat color.

What sources of protein does your cat consume?

Even when animal protein is consumed, the majority comes from sources that have been rendered. Meat that has been rendered, also known as “meal,” is made from animal tissue that has been heated for a long time under intense pressure and heat to remove the fat. Meat that has been rendered is usually only 75% digestible. Accordingly, the body can only utilize 7.5g of every 10g of rendered meat consumed. This protein source unquestionably appears to be a more advantageous ingredient when compared to some of the new technologies that use fresh meat as an ingredient and have a 96% digestibility rate. Additionally, the digestibility of commercially prepared cat food diets is influenced by the amount of carbohydrates; the more carbohydrates present, the less easily assimilated the protein is. There are a number of factors that contribute to this, but primarily, carbohydrates speed up gut transit and decrease the amount of time available for the digestion of dietary protein.

More importantly, cats have evolved with a reduced capacity to process and utilize carbohydrates because their natural diet does not contain significant amounts of them, as shown by the figures above.

Cat obesity may result from eating commercial cat food with too many carbohydrates.

Food breakdown is carried out by particular molecules known as enzymes. Different types of food are broken down by different enzymes. The enzyme amylase, which is present in saliva and is then also secreted by the pancreas gland in both humans and dogs, is in charge of breaking down carbohydrates. Cats have a reduced ability to process this type of food because they lack salivary amylase and have very low levels of pancreatic amylase.

Cats have some limited capacity to store carbohydrates for later use, but once they have been broken down, they can use simple sugars very effectively. Dogs and humans store excess sugar in the liver as glycogen, a large chain of sugars that can be easily broken down if the animal suddenly needs a source of energy. Because a cat’s biochemical pathways are inefficient at storing sugars in this way, any extra sugars are instead stored by being converted directly to fat, which makes cats more likely to gain weight. As a result of the slower process, there may be prolonged periods of hyperglycemia after eating. Significant risk factors for the emergence of cat diabetes include both obesity and persistent hyperglycemia. It is now believed that 30% of domestic cats are obese, making it one of the biggest and most prevalent health problems we face with domestic cats. To start, diet awareness is the first step in our shared responsibility to lessen this growing health concern.

While giving cats a diet high in carbohydrates and vegetables won’t harm them immediately, it won’t likely improve their health and may even put them at risk for problems in the long run. However, commercially prepared dry cat food diets do offer a practical method of feeding our cats and advantageously reduce tartar formation and the ensuing onset of periodontal disease. Another significant health issue affecting cats is dental disease, and feeding commercial wet food is one of the biggest risk factors for developing issues. Dry diets should therefore keep being used to feed our feline friends.

Choosing your cat’s ideal diet.

When we are well-informed about the particular biochemistry of cats, we can choose diets that are better suited to their physiological requirements. Your cat’s long-term health and wellbeing will benefit from you choosing a food based on its nutritional breakdown rather than the most attractive cat in the pack. Take the packet off the shelf and compare the backs of packs the next time you’re in the aisle of a grocery store or pet store trying to decide what to buy. Look for diets which have the first ingredient listed as a good animal based protein, ideally from a natural cat food that provides a fresh meat source, and compare the amount of protein, fat and ash.

For the sake of comparison, we have only used dry diets as an example here. Large amounts of moisture are present in wet diets, which makes comparison more difficult because it varies between brands. However, the key takeaways remain the same: pay attention to the quality of the ingredients and the protein sources.

There are some excellent wheat-free cat food products on the market and online that offer a great source of protein and guarantee your cat has the necessary nutrients for long-term health.

Our brand-new line of all-natural cat food products is currently being introduced. We’re giving the first 50 people who sign up for our pre-launch list a free sample of this new line to commemorate the occasion. to register to take part in the new revolution in natural cat food.

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