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Taking A Closer Look At The Way We Feed Our Cats

When it comes to a cat's diet there are, no end of commercially produced foods on the market. These fall however in to two main categories; that of dried food and that of wet or as it is more usually called, tinned food. But in reality how well suited are these products to our cats? There is no doubt that dried foods are popular with some owners, who report their cats eating it with a seeming relish. And this is quite reasonably taken as a signal that all is well. Especially when given that cat's are notoriously fussy in what they eat. Apart from this it has also been mooted, by the producers of dried food, that, as well as being nutritionally sound, it helps maintain good dental health too. Whether this is true or not we shall look into in more detail a little later in the article. Meanwhile what about wet food, how well does that serve our cats' needs as a suitable and nutritionally balanced diet? Again, many feel it is fine, in fact not only fine but a real treat, especially the so-called designer labelled stuff that looks and smells (according to the ads at least) good enough to eat ourselves! Well in order to answer these questions, we should in the first instance look a little more closely at exactly what a cat's nutritional needs are. A few facts:

  • Cats are obligate carnivores - this means that their bodies and digestive systems are designed to eat meat and/or fish.
  • If a cat does not eat appropriately they will suffer from many health problems.
  • Cats are designed to kill and eat prey.
  • Their teeth are made for tearing through flesh and crushing bones and this helps them keep healthy.
  • Cats need proteins, fats and carbohydrates, as well as vitamins and minerals.
  • Proteins consist of amino acids and cats need these for cell and tissue growth, maintenance and repair.
  • Cats need some 20 amino acids, 11 of which are called essential amino acids. They are not manufactured in the cat's body. Whilst sources of protein are meat, fish, eggs and milk, cats also need animal tissue in their diets to stay in tip top condition.

It is also interesting to note that water plays a large part in a cats' well being, providing, as it does, the ability for important materials to be transported around the body. It is central to temperature control, P.H. balance, blood health and tissue cell lubrication. With this in mind we should say at this point that tinned cat food is by far a better source of water than dried cat food. Or more pertinently perhaps that dried food is simply not suitable - in fact may almost be described as a hazard to a cats' health when you consider a commonly reported fact, that a cause of kidney failure in cats is often about by lack of water - to be fair dried food packets do state that it should not be given without accompanying water but even this is not ideal because in fact a cat should get most of its fluid from solid food. Yes - they are literally evolved in such a way as to get the majority of their fluid from their prey.

What's in the tin then?

Read the back of any tin of commercial cat food and you will certainly find, amongst the ingredients list, evidence of meat but added to this there will be an ample supply of grains and cereals. Some contain soy as a cheap form of protein. None of these vegetable-based foods are appropriate for a carnivorous animal like the cat. It is true that in the wild they might consume some form of grain, seed or vegetable matter; if it eats the stomach contents of its prey. But that amount would be very small. Understandably though commercial cat foods are popular, because we lead busy lives and they are easy to use and there are some better quality commercial wet foods around, that we feel will be okay. And many will argue that their cat is doing fine, having energy and vigour... this is though, a debateable point and advocates of 'natural food', maintain that commercially produced foods or indeed recipes that we cook up ourselves in an attempt to give only the best ingredients, are not appropriate, in the latter case because the very act of cooking alters the food in a way that makes it undesirable. But whatever you think, you should be at least aware that a lot of the evidence suggests that it's time to return to a more natural way of feeding our cats.

Natural cat food

This is entirely what the name suggests, it is fresh, it is raw and it is all meat. Some would go a step further and say it is not even meat that has been butchered, but whole food. i.e. small prey such as mice or birds. But muscle meats like, chicken, lamb, beef, duck and turkey are all suitable. As is offal - heart in particular is high in a substance called taurine - this is an essential amino acid and aids retinal health as well as helping guard against heart disease and reproductive problems. When it comes to changing a cat's diet though, it is well to do so with care. Any sudden major change may cause digestive upset, plus to remember, is that cat's don't always take well to change. No matter how good it is for them! Ideally, we should introduce new foods gradually, perhaps even just placing a little alongside the usual food and seeing what happens. In the beginning it is very much trial and error. But as time goes on you should eventually be able to replace the old style of feeding with the new. Note: Whether your cat has established health problems or not, always speak to a vet before making changes to diet. Besides which it just makes sense to garner as much information as possible about your cat and what will ultimately keep it happy and healthy.


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