It’s Not Always “In the Bag” When it Comes to Your Cat’s Food!

cat foodDoes the food you provide your cat fulfill his nutritional needs? Not sure how to answer that very important question? Then, chances are, the answer is “no.” You see, cats require several different nutrients in their diet in order to maintain a healthy life. These nutrients include amino acids from protein, fatty acids, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and water. A better understanding of how your cat uses these nutrients and how much he needs is a good starting place for determining which food is best.

Cats are carnivores, which means they obtain most of their protein from meat, fish and other animal products. Consider this ~ in the wild, cats hunt and kill, thus meeting their needs for protein and water. But as a domesticated pet, unless he goes out on the prowl regularly trolling for mice, he relies on you to fulfill his nutritional demands. And a diet based solely on dry kibble simply won’t do the trick.

 Dietary protein contains 10 essential amino acids that your cat cannot produce on his own. They are the building blocks for a healthy diet, and also assist in glucose production to provide him with energy. Amino acid deficiencies can result in serious health issues. For example, insufficient amounts of the amino acid Taurine in your kitty’s diet can cause retinal degeneration and blindness, deafness, heart disease and heart failure, a poor immune system, reproductive failure and birth defects in offspring. While it is found in abundance in animal-based proteins, Taurine is either entirely absent or present in only trace amounts in plants.

Dietary fats provide the most concentrated source of energy, containing twice as much energy as protein and carbohydrates per gram. These fats supply your cat with fatty acids that play a very important role in cell structure and function, and keep your feline’s skin and coat healthy. The fact that they also make your cat’s food even more tasty and appealing is just the icing on the cake!

Of course, cats need energy to sustain their daily activities. While protein and fat contribute greatly, so do carbohydrates. Just like a runner who splurges on a pre-race carbo-loaded meal, your cat’s energy soars when he has carbohydrates in his diet. Major sources of carbohydrates in commercial feline fare include legumes and cereals. However, while beneficial, there is a thin line between too little and too much. It is best to select a food that has less than 10% carbohydrate calories. Diets high in carbs negatively impact the blood sugar levels of cats.

Vitamins and minerals take part in a large range of metabolic activity, and deficiencies can cause a myriad of health problems. The following are vitamins and minerals that should be present in your cat’s meals:

  • Vitamins A, B1, B6, B12, D, E and K
  • Folic Acid
  • Niacin
  • Pantothenic Acid
  • Riboflavin
  • Calcium
  • Chlorine
  • Cooper
  • Iodine
  • Iron
  • Magnesium
  • Manganese
  • Phosphorus
  • Potassium
  • Selenium
  • Sodium
  • Zinc

So what should you feed your favorite feline? The answer is simple ~ wet food. Dry kibble may be cheaper and easier, but most commercial brands lack what your cat needs, mainly because: A) they are water-depleted, which inhibits urinary tract health, increasing your cat’s risk for urethral obstructions; B) they are high in carbohydrates, which negatively impact your cat’s blood sugar levels and can result in a serious hypoglycemic state; C) the bulk of protein included is from plants, whereas your cat needs animal protein; and D) they are highly processed, resulting in the destruction of nutrients. On the other hand, most wet foods provide a high water content, low carbohydrates, animal-based protein and are more easily digested and utilized by your cat’s body. Besides these health benefits, the variety wet foods provide keep your cat from getting bored by eating the same dry kibble meal after meal.

Need help determining which wet food is best for your furry friend? Read the label on the can ~ the first ingredient should be meat. Don’t be concerned if there are no grain ingredients, and steer clear of foods with fillers like corn and rice. Remember, if cats were in charge of the commercial pet food industry, they would package meals with instructions reading “remove mouse or rabbit from freezer, thaw and serve.” Give Fluffy what he wants and needs ~ a diet of yummy, nutritious wet food.