What we choose to feed our cats is a matter of life and death over time. It’s importance cannot be overstated. Many of us already know this when it comes to our own bodies. But the sharp divisions over what people are choosing to feed their cats are intense. While we all know cats eat mice and bugs, many of us- including conventional veterinarians- still insist that kibble is like “cookies” for cats and even healthy for them. There are those who feed their cats nothing but raw food diets, yet get confused and discouraged when their cat falls ill after receiving “routine” shots.
This is a massive topic to be sure, and organizations such as the Feline Nutrition Foundation have done decades worth or research on everything from basic biology to nutrient-specific requirements for cats. This is the basic primer:
“What to feed your cat can be one of the most important decisions you make in the health and well-being of your feline family member. Cats are obligate carnivores, meaning they are especially adapted to a diet consisting of the flesh of other creatures. They are uniquely equipped to eat a diet of small prey and they evolved to eat this diet raw. There are no vegan cats.
Cats have no dietary requirement for carbohydrates. Period. They evolved to get almost all of their fluid intake from the food they eat. A mouse, a typical prey food, is about 70% water. Dry kibble food contains far too much carbohydrates and far too little moisture to be an appropriate food for cats.
There are many ways to feed bio-appropriate raw food for cats. You can make your own ground raw cat food at home or buy commercially ground meat/bone/organ mixes especially made for pets. You can buy commercially-prepared complete meals that are available frozen or dehydrated. You can feed whole meat cuts or small, whole prey foods. Many people feed a combination of some or all of these.
If you and your cats are new to raw cat food, transitioning is the next step. Whether this is fast or slow depends on your cat’s particular situation. Many cats take to a raw meat diet right away. Making the change is worth it, the benefits are tremendous for your cat and for you.”
Hydration- A Matter of Life and Death
Lisa A. Pierson, DVM – “Kidney disease is probably the leading cause of mortality in the cat. It is troubling to think about the role that chronic dehydration may play in feline kidney failure. And remember, cats are chronically dehydrated when they are on a diet of predominantly dry food. The prescription dry kidney diets, such as Science Diet k/d, which is commonly prescribed by veterinarians – contain only a small amount of moisture leaving your cat in a less than optimal state of water balance.”
It cannot be overstated: cats MUST get their primary source of fluids from food, not water bowls or fountains. This is how cats in urban environments, even in desert conditions, are able to thrive with no apparent water sources available.
What’s in YOUR Kibble?
The first five ingredients are all that are required by the USDA to be listed on a pet food label in terms of quantity. After that, it is all hopes and wishes from a regulatory standpoint. So, when was the last time you read your cat’s food bag label? What are the first five? Think the expensive prescription diets are made from superior ingredients with superior protein sources? Maybe not.
Note the following list of the first five ingredients of the two most popular- and expensive- prescription kibble brands – understanding your cat is a carnivore. Hills at least has updated it’s main ingredient to chicken, but the others are not even meat and the cellulose in the Royal Canin is in higher volume than chicken. Cellulose is wood pulp, and when added to foods, is considered a carbohydrate at best. The purpose of these prescription diet is to restrict protein which they do well.
“Unfortunately, (these diets) restrict (protein) to the point that the cat will often catabolize (use for fuel) his own muscle mass which results in muscle wasting and weight loss. The level of protein in this diet is not only at an extremely low level, it is in an incomplete form for a carnivore. Note that it is made up mainly of plant proteins – not meat proteins.” Lisa A. Pierson, DVM
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