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.

Nutritional Supplements for Your Pet

pet supplementsA recent study showed that nearly half of adults in the U.S. take one or more nutritional supplements regularly in an effort to improve their overall health and well-being. Supplements do just as the name suggests – they supplement our diet with the vitamins and minerals that may otherwise be lacking. Ideally, we would get all that we need from the food we eat, but with today’s society of fast, processed and pre-packaged food, that just isn’t the case. So, if people benefit by adding supplements to their daily diet, wouldn’t it make sense that your precious pet would benefit as well?

Your pet’s nutrition is important for living a long, happy and healthy life. As with the food we eat, many of the pet foods on the market today are overly processed and contain fillers to provide non-nutritional bulk. While premium foods are ideal and often provide a well-balanced diet, a bit of supplementation based on your pets needs can be quite beneficial.

Choosing the Right Supplements

The most common supplements for pets are used to aid joint health, condition and protect the skin and coat, improve digestion, and increase overall well-being. While there are several marketed supplements, it’s likely you have what your pet needs right at home in your kitchen pantry or medicine cabinet.

Coconut Oil. We’ve all heard of coconut oil’s many benefits for humans, but did you know it is also safe and effective for your pet? Coconut oil contains lauric acid, a “healthy” saturated fat that boasts antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties. Fed regularly to your furry friend, coconut oil can clear up skin conditions, prevent yeast and fungal infections, soften and deodorize coats, improve digestion and nutrient absorption, increase energy, reduce kitty’s hairballs, aid in ligament and arthritis issues… just to name a few.

Pumpkin. It’s not just for Thanksgiving anymore! Fiber-filled pumpkin is safe for your pet and can aid in constipation relief; promotes a sense of fullness for pudgy pooches, possibly aiding in weight loss; helps with hydration (pumpkin is composed of 90% water); and is a natural source of vitamins and minerals that benefit day-to-day cellular function. Be sure to use all-natural, canned pumpkin – not pumpkin pie filling!

Vitamin E. Key for healthy skin and eyes, as well as strong immunity in people, those Vitamin E softgels in your medicine cabinet can also be beneficial to your pet. Great for dry skin, softgels can be popped and the liquid inside massaged directly into your four-legged friend’s skin, added to bath water, or dribbled onto your pet’s meal. Vitamin E, when ingested, also benefits pets who experience mild arthritic discomfort.

Yogurt. Plain yogurt is a delicious treat for your cuddly companion. Just as with humans, the live cultures in yogurt keeps the good bacteria in Fluffy and Fido’s gut balanced. If you have a puppy or a dog on antibiotics – both of which are prone to yeast infections – a little yogurt as a snack can help keep the infections at bay. Keep in mind, adult cats are lactose intolerant, so don’t overdo it!

Turmeric. This pungent, bitter flavored spice is used as a supplement for preventing cancer and to reduce inflammation from arthritis. Simply sprinkle on your pet’s food, beginning with just a quarter teaspoon per day, and gradually increase to up to one teaspoon. Introduce the spice slowly to avoid shock to the digestive system, and discontinue if side effects appear.

While the above supplements are safe for most pets, always consult with your veterinarian before using, to determine the proper serving size, and to avoid any possible adverse reactions, particularly in pets taking medication.