Nutritional Wellness for Cats

Nov 28, 2018   Tracey Aston   Diet and Nutrition

Cats are synonymous with being finicky; it's part of their charm. While our pets are busy being picky, it's our responsibility as pet parents to be well educated on nutritional wellness, so we can make the right decisions for their health. 

While a raw, species appropriate diet is still the best nutritional value for our pets, wet cat food scores much higher than kibble. Cats are carnivores; look at the anatomy of cats and their teeth, which are used to tear apart meat.  According to the article The Cat That Ate The Kibble  by Dr. Jean Dodds  ”Domesticated cats are descended from the African Wildcat. Observations have demonstrated that the African Wildcat only derives 10% of his moisture needs from freshwater sources and 90% from prey. Even though cats started the domestication process over 10,000 years ago, their primary purpose was to curb rodent populations so they continued to receive moisture through prey. During the early 20th Century, humans started imposing 6-10% moisture kibble diets on domesticated cats. Unfortunately, cats have not naturally replaced the moisture with drinking water but are still driven by their instincts to avoid vulnerable, head down positions. Due to this, domesticated indoor cats whose primary diets are kibble based have experienced life-threatening urinary and kidney conditions, which can cost pet caregivers thousands of dollars in emergency care.”

When considering cat's urinary tract health, ‘moisture content' is the most important ingredient to consider. Cats eating water-rich canned food take in double the amount of water compared to cats only being fed dry food. Double the water equals double the urine flowing through the bladder, helping to sustain urinary tract health and help the body cleanse and expel toxins. 

Feeding a diet of only dry kibble food actually contributes to urinary tract diseases. Cats with kidney aliments are often put on a prescription diet, which in actuality, has less water than regular cat food. This makes the kidneys work even harder, resulting in a quicker deterioration of health. For more information on prescription diets, see our previous blog article The Truth About Veterinarian Prescription Diets. 

As carnivores, adult cats need 2-3 times more protein than adult dogs, however, cat foods contain only about 1/3 more protein than dry dog foods.  Canned cat foods contain about 45-50% protein and 8-10% carbohydrate, which is much closer to your pet's preferred diet of 52% protein. In addition, the protein in canned food is more likely to be higher in animal-based protein versus plant-based protein substitutes.  The ingredient list of dry kibble may lead some pet parents to believe high protein meat is the main ingredient and assume they are doing right by their pet. However, the process of making kibble uses such high heat that any proteins in the food will be damaged or destroyed. Imagine cooking a chicken in the oven for 2 days, how much meat would actually be left? Kibble is also high in carbohydrate, which breaks down into starches and sugars, and could lead to obesity, kidney issues, diabetes and can feed cancer cells.  Many overweight cats should be fed low-carbohydrate, high protein diets, which are more common with wet foods. Dr. Jean Hofve, DVM, and author of What Cats Should Eat says, “many diabetic cats can decrease or even eliminate their need for insulin, simply by changing to a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet. Ultimately, canned food may be even more beneficial as a preventative for this devastating disease.”  The old school thinking, and some vets still believe that kibble helps to clean the teeth, this is unfortunately not true. 

For proper health, water consummation is critical for a cat's diet, and fresh made or canned food varieties offer that, along with higher protein content. Canned cat food has a moisture content of at least 75 percent, making it a good dietary source of water.

Some cats can be particular about their food and not eat wet. If you're going to feed your cat kibble, the biggest mistake most cat owners make is free feeding. Whether you are feeding wet food or especially kibble, the cat needs to be on a routine, not be free fed, and be fed appropriate amounts of their food once or twice daily. When you're free feeding, and the cat has access to food at any time, this could allow a pet to overindulge, which can cause vomiting, and lead to them not eating the next day. Free feeding can also lead to weight issues. Feeding the proper amount, at a scheduled time ensures your cat is at a healthy weight. By feeding on a routine, you will be aware if your cat stops eating, has a possible health concern and you need to seek veterinary assistance. 

To make sure cats are getting the proper nutritional wellness they require from their foods, it's important to take into consideration all factors, such as moisture and protein content, ingredient list and how much of their food is made from starch and carbohydrates. A set feeding time, and proper amounts can ensure a capricious cat is eating the proper amounts to maintain a healthy weight and optimal health. 

Certified Professional Pet Sitter
PetTech CPR & First Aid Certified
PPG Badge
Pet Sitters International
National Association of Professional Pet Sitters
Angieslist 2015 Super Servica Award
Angieslist 2016 Super Service Award
Shock Free
Pet First Aid/CPR Certified
Pittsburgh's Professional Pet Sitters Network
Bite Prevention Educator
Doggone Safe
2020 Nextdoor
Fear Free Logo
National Association of Professional Pet Sitters Certification