Back to Basics

He is friendly to a fault, invading the personal space of anyone who enters our home.
She is as aloof as they come, and wouldn’t leave her bed if an earthquake struck unless she felt like it.

He is like a feline garbage disposal, eating anything within his reach, and even some things purposely placed out of his reach. She turns her nose up at the slightest variation in her food bowl, and will go hungry for days until she approves of the meal.

Believe it or not, as different as they are, both of my cats need the same nutrition. What it all boils down to, is that they are both cats, and a cat’s nutritional needs are very specific.

When it comes to feeding your cat, just remember to get back to the basics. Cats are carnivores. Carnivores eat meat. Think of all those documentaries showing the feline predator stalking and chasing down its prey. Your cat needs the same kind of food. Meat contains protein, which is one of the main energy sources for cats. It is absolutely essential for their growth and development. Cats need proportionately more high quality animal meat proteins in their diet than other mammals. In fact, adult cats need almost three times as much protein as dogs. Cats, unlike dogs, do not utilize plant-based proteins very well. Therefore, their bodies require animal-based proteins that contain amino acids vital to a cat’s health. Cats also have relatively smaller GI tracts and stomachs, which need more highly concentrated foods. Simply put, they need meat.

Red meat, fish, poultry and eggs are high in protein. When looking for the right cat food, look for these ingredients, specifically labels with more than 30 percent protein on dry food, and more than 8 percent protein on canned food. By law, the ingredients are listed in descending order, with the highest concentration of ingredients listed first. The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) regulates how cat foods can be named, based on their ingredients. However, the wording can be deceiving. For example, if a cat food is labeled “chicken,” it must contain 95 percent chicken. If the label says “chicken dinner,” it only has to contain 25 percent chicken. Finally, if the label says “with chicken,” it is only required to contain a minimum of 3 percent chicken.

All cat foods must contain the required amounts of protein, fats, carbohydrates, minerals and vitamins to maintain the proper standards established by the AAFCO for the quality and safety of pet foods. Most cat food brands contain a nutritional adequacy label stating that the food is complete and balanced. Look for these labels, because fat, water, vitamins and minerals are also important parts of your cats nutritional needs. Fat is another source of energy for your cat, and help his skin and coat health, as well as metabolic regulation, reproductive health, and immunity. Water is included, because a cat’s body is designed to get most of its water requirements from the food it eats. Cats have a naturally low desire to drink water, therefore, it needs to be provided in their food. Finally, vitamins and minerals work together and are essential for the normal growth and function of your cat.

Recent trends include cat foods labeled “premium,” “all natural,” “holistic,” “organic,” or “human grade.” These labels don’t change the basic needs of your cat. In fact, they have little to do with the nutritional value of the food at all. They are based more on consumer preference than your pet’s actual needs. Whatever your lifestyle, when it comes to your cat’s nutrition, just remember to stick to the basics. If you keep that in mind, you will keep all of your felines happy no matter how different they may be.

                            Cat Nutrition
By Kelly McCardy-Fuller

Kelly McCardy-Fuller is a freelance writer/editor residing in Westminster, Maryland with her husband and two children. She obtained a degree in Journalism, Summa Cum Laude, from Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. After that, she traveled extensively, working on United States Naval Bases as a Hotel Manager, all the while working on her freelance writing career. Settling down to raise a family, Kelly has been editing and ghostwriting for a Neuropsychologist at Behavioral, Medicine & Health Psychology in Ventura, CA for the past eight years. She has had articles published on various websites, in newspapers, magazines, and medical journals from coast to coast, and recently finished her first book, which is awaiting publication. To contact Kelly, please email:
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