Nutrition

Cats Are Carnivores, So They Should Eat Like One


As the old saying goes, you are what you eat!

Diet can have a big impact on health. Just like humans, cats have special dietary needs to help them stay healthy.

However, feline diets are a lot different than human diets. Cats are obligate carnivores, meaning they require meat in their diet and need little carbohydrates. 

In the wild, cats usually prey on small animals, such as mice and birds. But as a pet, a cat might only be preying on a can of cat food. Because pet cats often don’t get the opportunity to hunt for their own food, it’s important for cat owners to mimic the high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet their cat would naturally eat in the wild.

Dr. Deb Zoran, a professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, said the best way to mimic a cat’s natural diet is to feed them canned food that has a protein content of 40 percent or higher and a carbohydrate content of 10 percent or lower.

Eating canned food will also help your kitty meet their daily water needs.

“Cats are used to getting a large percentage of their daily water needs from their diet,” Zoran said, adding that if a cat is primarily eating dry food, it may have a harder time staying hydrated. “All dry foods are low moisture, so cats that eat only dry foods consume less water and are more prone to dehydration.”

Dry food diets can also present other health challenges because they are typically high in fat, carbohydrates, and calories. In fact, a high-carb diet can lead to obesity and diabetes, Zoran said.

In addition, a dry food diet may also upset your cat’s stomach, since cats are not “built” for carbohydrate digestion and absorption. 

So what should you feed your cat? Zoran said it is best to choose a canned-food diet that says on the label “complete and balanced.” If you want to feed a homemade diet or other type of whole-food diet, Zoran said that’s OK, too. Just make sure to consult a nutritional expert to ensure the diet meets all of your cat’s needs. 

Additionally, it’s OK if you want to give your cat a treat every now and then. Zoran recommended plain, cooked meats that are not seasoned and do not contain onions and garlic, which can be toxic. 

Other foods that can be poisonous for pets include fruits such as grapes and raisins. In fact, Zoran said to avoid giving your cat fruits and vegetables unless your vet has given you permission.    

There are also many plants that are toxic to cats, such as Easter lilies.

“They are extremely deadly to cats,” Zoran said. “Chewing on a single leaf can cause kidney failure. It is best to know what plants you have before you put them in the house.”

As a cat owner, it is your responsibility to keep your pet safe from potentially harmful foods and to take your cat’s dietary needs seriously. As the old saying goes, you are what you eat!

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3 Comments

  • […] interesting fact is that cats also get most of their hydration needs through meat. Again, in the wild, cats of all species get their water intake through their prey. Blood has a […]

  • Mark Olson

    I believe cats have a common problem of dried skin that can often be resolved with a very cheap, and effective method. Now every situation is different and some cats may need to be seen by a veterinarian.

    However, rather than expensive treatments this simple home method should be considered especially if the cat is on a diet of dried food.

    Consider adding fish oil in the cat’s diet. Do this by adding 3 drops of fish oil to the cat’s food and stir it up a bit to spread the oil. There is a good chance the cat will accept such a small quantity and yet this is sufficient to help and see a noticeable difference after about 30 days. Do not start with more than 3 drops per day. You can start with 1 or 2 drops if the cat vomits and increase up to a maximum of 5 drops after the stomach gets used to the change. I myself have seen that this can work but it does take dedication to wait for the results. After 6 months the cat should be back to normal if this is going to help. I believe that normal cat food, especially dry does not contain the normal oils that cats would
    normally get in nature. Do not “oil” more than a days worth of food or the oil could go bad.

    There are numerous reasons that cats can have sensitive or dry skin.

    If your cat gets worse or has other health issues, the cat should be taken to a veterinarian.

  • Ruth Littlefield

    My cat will not eat any kind of meat. She is a 7 yr old spayed Tuxedo and will only eat x-large cooked shrimp. She hates steak, chicken, roast beef and cooked salmon. She also eats some dry food and Temptations. Is she getting enough nutrients?

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