Know the basics of feline nutrition
Species appropriate nutrition is one of my favorite subjects! 😸 It has a lot to do with the fact that Lilli is a seriously picky eater, but she will eat raw meat. That’s what got me started learning about feline nutrition when she moved in 4 and a half years ago. 💜
Someone in the Scottish Fold Info Community – the partner Facebook group to this blog – asked if cats are supposed to eat dry food at all. So, I took it as an opportunity to start a thread about why everything I’ve read has shown me that dry food is not a species-appropriate way to feed our kitties. Here’s what I posted:
Please keep in mind that cats are HUNTERS and obligate CARNIVORES, so species-appropriate cat food actually looks like this: 🐭🐦🦗🐇🐸🦜🐹🐥🐰 The further we get away from their prey, the less likely they are eating what nature intended them to. Or, in detail:
- Dry food is a convenience product, comparable to fast food: It’s cheap, it’s easy to store and it’s less messy than canned. However, feeding only dry is like only giving your kids fast food, 3 meals a day. 🍔🍟🍕 🙀
- The ingredients are a big issue, depending on the brand, since a lot of dry cat foods contain grain and carbohydrates, which cats as carnivores are not even equipped to digest: They don’t have the enzymes.
- An inappropriate diet can lead to medical problems such as diabetes and obesity. 👩⚕️💉😿👨⚕️💊 Cats need to eat meat, bones (for calcium), organ meats and fat – and nothing else.
But the biggest problem is already in the name: DRY. All domesticated cats are descended from desert animals (Felis sylvestris libyca) and have a low thirst drive. 🏜 Their water intake has to come from their food in order to get enough. This is the major reason why so many cats suffer from kidney problems – they aren’t getting enough water to really flush out their kidneys every day. 💦
- The teeth cleaning properties of kibble are an urban legend. 🦷 Most cats just crack and swallow, but even if they really chewed it, it would be like trying to brush your teeth with crackers. The best thing would be for them to really sink their teeth into a piece of meat.
- But even if this isn’t possible, you can still brush your cat’s teeth or take them to a veterinary dentist for periodic cleanings. This isn’t an option for their kidneys.
The best diet for cats would be a raw diet 🐭, but it is fairly involved, unless you can find a pet store which offers pre-mixed.
❗️ Please don’t confuse a raw diet with raw meat alone. Cats eat whole animals and need the vitamins and minerals from their bones and organs, too (such as taurine found in hearts). Only feeding your cat chunks of meat is NOT a balanced diet and will lead to deficiencies!❗️
Canned cat food – ANY canned cat food – is preferable to dry. But once they are willing to eat canned, there are differences in quality: ones that contain min. 70% meat without any fillers (e.g. corn, rice, potatoes, peas, etc.…) and ones which don’t have any sugar or other harmful additives. Cats don’t even have taste receptors for sweet, so it’s a mystery why some brands add sugar to cat food. 🤷♀️
Here are some recommended links for anyone who would like to read more about cat nutrition:
- The very informative website about feline nutrition catinfo.org
- The very enjoyable blog about ALL aspects of cat behavior “The Way of Cats“
- The single issue website Teddy the Diabetic Cat
And remember: Cats are creatures of habit. So if you need to change their diet:
- Do it slowly
- Add a little bit of the new food to the old food and gradually change the proportion. You can freeze small portions of the new food in ice cube trays, so you don’t have to throw out whole cans.
- If your cat refuses to eat something, don’t starve them. This could lead to hepatic lipidosis (“fatty liver” disease). They need at least half of their normal calories every day – even if this means giving them the old food again.
- If you get frustrated, take a break. A positive attitude is necessary to sell it. Don’t forget, you’re not doing it to punish them, you want them to be healthy and live longer.
- Don’t give up: You’ll be surprised, but when you offer the new food every week, there is often a turning point where it seems familiar and your cat might even try it!
Good luck!!! 🍀🍀🍀 And for your kitty: bon appetit! 🍽