… Yes, Cats are Obligate Carnivores!
That is the single most important thing to understand….. and the starting point of understanding Feline Nutrition!
The “Obligate” means that they are “obliged” – like all members of the feline family – to eat meat in order to have all the essential vitamins, amino acids and elements that they need to survive.
Cats are wonderful, perfect beings…. they adapted and evolved over the millennia to their environment.
Our cats are descended from the African wildcat, a desert-dwelling species living in Asia and North Africa. They adapted to their environment, eating exclusively meat in the form of small rodents, birds, insects and frogs, and getting most of the moisture that they needed from the animals they ate.
Domestication did not impact that diet.
When they decided to domesticate themselves (and it was, as is everything to do with cats, THEIR decision!), they established a synergy with people – still based around their carnivorous diet. They ate the rats, mice and small rodents that would eat stocked grains….. the grain itself did not interest them one bit!
Very nice for humans to have an animal around that rid them of the pests that were eating their hard earned stores of food…..and very nice for the cat to have a nice easily available source of rodents!
Cats were carnivores… and cats are carnivores…. humans have more than benefited from that over the centuries!
Perfectly Designed for their Carnivore Diet
Cats are a beautiful example of nature at its best. Cats are perfectly designed for their carnivorous diet. Along their evolutionary route they have either not wasted time developing or have rid themselves of unnecessary physical and metabolic attributes to concentrate on and develop those needed and necessary to eat and digest meat, and only meat:
- Cats lack amylase in their saliva – the digestive enzyme that helps us (and omnivores) start digesting food as we chew it – it is up to the pancreas to “overproduce” the amylase necessary to digest slow digesting matter such as cereals and vegetables.
- Cats have much shorter digestive tracts than most mammals: the protein and fats from animal sources are absorbed much more quickly than those from vegetable sources… which means they absorb non-animal protein much less well.
- Meat provides many vitamins, various acids and elements in a ready formed state… so cats have lost the capacity to break down other components to make those. For example, unlike dogs, they are unable to break down beta carotene into vitamin A. They cannot “make” their own taurine – which is essential for their health.
- Cats metabolize protein to create the glucose needed for energy: a process that results in relatively stable blood glucose levels. They have not evolved to deal with an onslaught of carbohydrates and peaks in blood sugar because of that.
- Cats use only one vs. the usual two enzyme systems for metabolizing glucose in the liver – they don’t need the system to deal with high carbohydrate loads.
- Cats have teeth that are made for ripping and slicing meat – they are sharp, they are not flat and made for grinding down grains
- Cats have jaws that move up and down – they don’t move around to help grind down grains. Their jaws are made to simply cut up the meat into sizes they can swallow – not to grind food up into smaller and easier digestible bits
- Cats have very low thirst drives – the moisture they need is already included in the prey they eat.
Cats are perfectly evolved to eat a diet that is 100% meat, one that is very high in protein, moderate in fats… and one with very low carbohydrates.
They are not at all evolved to try and cope with digesting grains…. or fruits and vegetables.
They are not at all evolved to cope with the high carbohydrates that those bring into their diet.
Feeding any animal food that their body is not adapted to leads to a multitude of health problems.
Cats are no different….
Dry food… and the damage that it causes
Dry foods are the opposite to what the cat has evolved to be able to eat:
- It is not easy for them to eat as they can’t grind it…. if you have had the experience of a cat vomiting up a dry food meal and have found perfectly formed little bits of dry food in that you have seen it for yourself!
- It is based primarily on cereals: food that they have difficulty digesting as they lack the enzymes in the saliva and have too short of a digestive tract to be able to deal with the slow breakdown necessary.
- The very high carbohydrates from grains (corn, wheat etc) flood their bodies with sugar that they have simply not evolved to cope with – they lack the systems to do so.
- The low moisture content coupled with their low thirst drive means they will not be taking in enough moisture.
Dry food does not help fight tartar and promote good dental health.
What about dry food being necessary to keep their teeth clean?
….. see the points about cat jaws only working vertically and teeth which are made to rip and shred, not grind!
The dry food simply shatters – if they chew it at all…. again, cats rip and shred food, they don’t chew.
The bits of dry food around the teeth and mouth coat the teeth rather than cleaning them. Think of eating a cracker…. not a method promoted by dentists to clean our teeth! Eating crackers tends to leave a rather gummy film behind…
The best way to promote dental health for your cat is to give your young (or old!) carnivore some nice chewy chunks of meat – gizzards are very good as they are tough and require work – that he does need to rip and shred with his teeth!
Diseases and conditions related to feeding dry food
Many illnesses – a number of which are very serious – are linked to the totally inappropriate diet that dry food is for a cat. Cats are simply not equipped to deal with dry food!
Some illnesses linked to dry food:
- Feline diabetes due to the excessively high carbohydrate content that your cat is not made to cope with…. and so also is the root cause of all the potential diseases and conditions associated with Feline Diabetes.
- Kidney stones due to the lack of moisture… and very painful and potentially life-threatening blockages because of those
- Kidney/renal disease and infections due to the lack of moisture
- Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) – possibly linked to the many cats that are allergic to corn, wheat, etc!
- Skin allergies – again linked to cats being allergic to ingredients they are not made to eat
- Asthma for the same reason
- Stomach disorders/upsets – dry food is a breeding ground for microbes, fungii etc.
ANY wet food, even if high carbohydrate is better than dry food for your cat.
High Carb Wet Food
As there is at least a good moisture content, high carb wet food is preferable to dry food.
However, it is not a good choice for your cat either!
If the wet is high carb, it certainly contains grains and/or vegetables… and will still very much contribute to/cause certain illnesses as listed above:
- Feline diabetes
- Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
- Skin allergies
The best food for your cat is very simple….
….. it is the one your cat has specialised in eating for millennia and that your cat has arranged its entire body and its metabolic system to thrive on:
100% low carb wet food!
Important note: If your cat is on high carbohydrate food (dry or wet) and on insulin, you MUST follow the “Detox Procedure” to ensure that your cat is safely transitioned from high to low carboydate food whilst keeping them safe from a clinical hypoglycemia. Do NOT change food without joining the forum and getting help in doing that safely.
Please join us on the Diabetic Cat International Forum for more help and information about:
- Making raw food – the ultimate “perfect” diet for your cat!
- Lists of appropriate low carbohydate foods for a number of countries and help with the best choice for your cat
- A carbohydrate calculator to help you calculate the percent of carbohydrates in the food you are giving
© Diabetic Cat International 2015 – 2017