Dr. Al Townshend
The dog evolved as a hunter and scavenger, consuming large, infrequent meals of fresh or decaying tissue. Whereas cats in the wild are prone to smaller, more frequent meals comprised of fresh nutrients to support a more sensitive digestive system.
The domestic feline we know today has evolved as a true or obligate carnivore. They have no nutritional requirement for carbohydrates, and their primary source of protein must be animal protein or meat.
Animal protein is the best source of the eleven essential amino acids necessary to be in the recipe to be considered a complete and balanced diet. Plant protein from grains or legumes in small quantiles is fine as long as the bulk of the protein is from animal sources.
Most Guardians are aware that fat provides an abundance of calories, and the levels of fat must be controlled to reduce the risk of obesity in all animals. Fat is also necessary for growth and development and the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. The best sources include:
- Linoleic acid, an essential Omega 6 fatty acid, is abundant in plant oils like canola oil and vegetable oils. Chicken fat and other animal fats are also a source of Omega 6 fatty acids.
- Arachidonic acid, an essential Omega 6 fatty acid for cats, is found in animal fats, especially fish oils, krill oils, chicken, and lamb fats.
- Alpha-Linolenic acid, an essential Omega 3 fatty acid, is found in fish oils and plankton and krill oils. Two essential Omega 3 fatty acids are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), they support growth and the immune system. They are crucial for a healthy skin and hair coat as well as heart and kidney health.
The cat and dog can convert protein and fat to glucose, which is an essential energy source and so they do not need carbohydrates in their daily diet. The cat has a limited ability to utilize carbohydrates, so they can be in the recipe but should be at lower levels.
Fiber has no nutritional value for the cat. It cannot be digested; however, adequate fiber levels are essential to provide proper stool volume to maximize the flow of digestive contents for optimum digestion and absorption and to encourage a consistent firm stool.
Vitamins and Minerals
Vitamins and minerals are essential for every metabolic process in the body. Pet food manufacturers are only required to provide the minimum needed. Many pets benefit from additional supportive supplementation that can work to ensure that both cats and dogs care getting and properly adsorbing required vitamins and minerals at optimum levels.
Water is essential for life. Humans and animals are almost 70% water and water is necessary for all metabolic processes, so it must be replenished daily.
The domestic cat, especially indoor cats, should always have multiple sources of fresh water.
One of the most common problems cats have are urinary issues. Cats are not typically active water drinkers, so for those that are on exclusively dry diets have a potential to lack adequate hydration levels which can lead to health issues.
Guardians feeding dry kibble should consider adding wet foods to the diet to encourage better water intake and reduce the risk of urinary issues that can be life-threatening. Providing an exclusively wet recipe such as canned, raw, or freeze-dried/dehydrated (with water added) can be great options to create excitement in the bowl, provide a variety of textures and flavors while encouraging additional water intake.
Many Guardians have found that rotating the diet helps to encourage appetite, improve the immune system, reduce the risk of urinary issues and can help with issues around food sensitivities and allergies.
There are two ways to introduce a rotational diet to your cat:
- Rotate Primary Proteins: Offer your cat different proteins in the same line of food that you are already feeding. Just choose the same food, but pick chicken instead of beef, or salmon instead of chicken.
- Rotate Food-Types: This feeding style offers your pet a wider variety of options, textures, flavors and can help to creatively introduce more water into your pet’s diet. Consider adding toppers, mixers or raw options to your pet’s kibble. Mix some dehydrated options with your pet’s canned food, or simply change up what type of food they get at different mealtimes – kibble for breakfast, and raw or wet at dinner.
Many Guardians concerned about their health have heard of the benefits of adding vitamins and minerals through supplementation. This is the same for our pets.
Balanced vitamin and mineral supplements assure the levels go beyond the basic minimums to enhance the immune system and provide ideal levels for all of the body’s metabolic processes. Consider adding the following to your pet’s feeding routine:
- Digestive Enzymes: If we do nothing else, a good digestive enzyme supplement will ensure that your pet will be able to properly absorb and benefit from the nutrients, vitamins and minerals provided by whatever diet your pet is being fed.
- Probiotics are the good bacteria essential for optimum digestion of the foods and enhance the immune system. Many Guardians are not aware that 70% of a cat’s immune system is in the gut, and probiotics play an essential role in the immune system too.
- Omega 3 fatty acids can enhance the immune system; they are heart and kidney healthy and essential for healthy skin, hair and coat.
- Glucosamine, Chondroitin and MSM are joint support supplements. Just like dogs, as cats age, they too are vulnerable to arthritis. Supplementing before there are obvious problems can slow the process and reduce discomfort.
It is vital for all Guardians to be aware that they have 100% control of what they feed their beloved pets, and nutrition is the foundation of health. Taking the time to provide food that goes beyond the basics is the key to a long and happy life for our beloved pets.