Diet can have a big impact on health. Just like humans, cats have special dietary needs to help them stay healthy.
However, feline diets are a lot different than human diets. Cats are obligate carnivores, meaning they require meat in their diet and need little carbohydrates.
In the wild, cats usually prey on small animals, such as mice and birds. But as a pet, a cat might only be preying on a can of cat food. Because pet cats often don’t get the opportunity to hunt for their own food, it’s important for cat owners to mimic the high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet their cat would naturally eat in the wild.
Dr. Deb Zoran, a professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, said the best way to mimic a cat’s natural diet is to feed them canned food that has a protein content of 40 percent or higher and a carbohydrate content of 10 percent or lower.
Eating canned food will also help your kitty meet their daily water needs.
“Cats are used to getting a large percentage of their daily water needs from their diet,” Zoran said, adding that if a cat is primarily eating dry food, it may have a harder time staying hydrated. “All dry foods are low moisture, so cats that eat only dry foods consume less water and are more prone to dehydration.”
Dry food diets can also present other health challenges because they are typically high in fat, carbohydrates, and calories. In fact, a high-carb diet can lead to obesity and diabetes, Zoran said.
In addition, a dry food diet may also upset your cat’s stomach, since cats are not “built” for carbohydrate digestion and absorption.
So what should you feed your cat? Zoran said it is best to choose a canned-food diet that says on the label “complete and balanced.” If you want to feed a homemade diet or other type of whole-food diet, Zoran said that’s OK, too. Just make sure to consult a nutritional expert to ensure the diet meets all of your cat’s needs.
Additionally, it’s OK if you want to give your cat a treat every now and then. Zoran recommended plain, cooked meats that are not seasoned and do not contain onions and garlic, which can be toxic.
Other foods that can be poisonous for pets include fruits such as grapes and raisins. In fact, Zoran said to avoid giving your cat fruits and vegetables unless your vet has given you permission.
There are also many plants that are toxic to cats, such as Easter lilies.
“They are extremely deadly to cats,” Zoran said. “Chewing on a single leaf can cause kidney failure. It is best to know what plants you have before you put them in the house.”
As a cat owner, it is your responsibility to keep your pet safe from potentially harmful foods and to take your cat’s dietary needs seriously. As the old saying goes, you are what you eat!
Pet Talk is a service of the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences.