While humans and dogs are omnivores, felines are carnivores meaning they will require higher levels of protein in their diets and that their metabolism is very different. Indeed, cats will specifically eat vegetation, nonetheless, they are carnivores. The ingestion of vegetation is often utilized by pets for its emetic function i.e., vomiting.
Cats also depend on various essential nutrients that are not all available in plant matter such as calcium, niacin, vitamin A, or fatty acids that instead are found in animal or fish tissue. They require essential amino acids, like taurine, that plant matter will not offer in sufficient quantities. So, animal protein should be the foundation of your kitty’s diet.
How Often Should Cats Eat?
Most cats, when left to decide, will eat a higher number of very small meals throughout the day such as 9 to 20 in a single 24-hour period. This is particularly true with kibble left out all day by owners that allow free feeding. On the contrary, wet foods may be consumed completely when offered. Cats are generally picky eaters and will be heavily influenced by the odor, texture, and taste of the food proffered.
What Should I Consider When Feeding?
While many cat parents feed their kitties primarily dry kibble, there are several very good reasons to consider wet food or a combination of the two. In any case, what works for one cat may not be optimal for all cats.
Depending on if your feline has underlying health problems, canned wet food, dry kibble, or water fountains can be important factors in making sure that your cat gets essential nutrition in the form that is best for overall health. Ask your vet for a recommendation.
Commercial cat foods are formulated to contain all essential nutrients for felines, so quality cat food, fed in the correct amount with the proper number of calories, should meet all of your feline’s needs.
It is important that your cat not consume too many calories which can, in turn, lead to weight management problems and the diseases connected to obesity such as diabetes. To avoid your pet packing on the pounds, consider free-feeding carefully before deciding.
Don’t Forget Life Stage
Depending on your cat’s age, dietary needs and preferences may change. Indoor cats and spayed or neutered adult cats may be less active, needing fewer calories. Kittens will require more because they are in the development stage.
Senior cats may be dealing with dental issues or kidney function difficulties and have specific dietary requirements. In these cases, veterinary prescription diets may be more appropriate to aid in reducing symptoms or slowing disease progression.
Dry vs. Wet Cat Food and the Importance of Moisture
Felines that live in the wild will not search excessively for bodies of water to drink from. This is because they receive a good part of the moisture they need, from the prey they kill and consume. Innately, they do not possess an overactive thirst reflex.
So, when placing a cat on a completely dry diet, they may be prone to dehydration, especially with low moisture content, and urine will be highly concentrated. Felines may risk urinary tract issues such as the formation of crystals or stones.
Moisture content in feline diets needs to be prioritized, even more so for senior cats that might have reduced kidney function through food type and water availability.
Tartar buildup is dangerous as it leads to dental disease and research indicates that 90% of adult cats suffer from some kind of dental issue. For this reason, dry kibble is thought to be a better tartar control food, unless your cat is swallowing kibble whole and not chewing it.
Carbohydrates: Yes, or No?
The cat food market is rife with grain-free options, but cats are capable of digesting small amounts of carbohydrates. Ancestral wild cats and modern-day wild felines hunt and eat their prey. More often than not, the prey will have grains and plants present in their digestive tracts that felines regularly eat and digest.
A common field mouse will contain just under approximately 60% protein, while the rest is formed with carbohydrates, fats, minerals, and vitamins. Grain content does not make food bad unless your cat has a specific and confirmed allergy to a specific grain.
Nonetheless, diets high in carbohydrates are not species-appropriate unless a cat has liver or kidney issues, and your veterinarian has so directed.
Nutrition and Obesity
An increasing health problem of domestic cats is obesity. Whereas dogs will feel full when they consume a sufficient number of calories, cats will feel full when they have consumed sufficient protein. If the cat food is lower in protein content and higher in carbohydrates, cats may tend to overeat. Cats will have more success in losing the extra pounds on a diet that is high in protein and low in carbs.
Not All Cat Foods are Created Equally
While the pet food industry offers a myriad of products, some better than others, it can be daunting when trying to select the best food for your cat’s needs. Timberwolf Organics recommends reading the ingredient label for the recipe and what it contains and consider the percentage of protein, fats, carbs, and fiber. Still in doubt? Consult your veterinarian to find the best cat food to meet all of your feline BFF’s nutrition needs.
Article by Lisa Smith
Cover Photo by Piotr Musioł on Unsplash