Cats and dogs are different in so many ways beyond the fact one is feline and the other canine. That's obvious. But besides their temperaments being dissimilar and the point that they look absolutely nothing alike, cats and dogs have different dietary requirements that need to be met as well. While most dogs would disagree, if they could — as there seems to be nothing better than to get into cat food when no one is looking — cats really do need a diet tailored to their feline needs. If you've got cats, continue reading to find out how you can best take care of them when it comes to nutrition.
Feline Dietary Requirements
Just like us, cats need things like water, protein, vitamins, minerals, carbs and a certain amount of fat in order to stay healthy. One of the things that a lot of people do not know about them, though, is that they are part of a group known as obligate carnivores. All felids fall into this category, even domestic cats. If you're not familiar with the term, it's pretty self explanatory: they are obliged to eat meat. Why? Because it's a biological necessity. They are descendant from meat-eating predators that stalk their prey, which — given the chance — cats still do.
Protein & Carbs
Cats need protein. It is essential to their diet and should comprise the most significant portion of it. Protein supplies cats with necessary elements for things like energy, growth and body tissue repair. Without it they'd be hard pressed to run, play, pounce and prowl. A lack of it in their system will break down body muscle and organs. Protein also supplies them with the ability to meet their blood glucose demands through gluconeogenesis, instead of from the breakdown of carbs. Speaking of which, cats are actually unable to utilize carbohydrates as a source of energy, like we can. That's another reason proteins are so vitally important to their diets.
Amino Acids & Cats
Due to the fact meat-eating only diets provide some fatty acids and vitamins in pre-formed states, cats have since lost the ability to make them on their own. One amino acid that is considered very important for felines is taurine. A deficiency in this amino acid can contribute to a number of health conditions such as heart disease, blindness, developmental abnormalities and other serious medical issues. That's why it's crucial to maintain healthy levels of it. But doing so can be a challenge. This is partially due to the fact they have a restricted ability to create taurine and the fact that they lose it in their waste products.
Fat in the Diet
Fat, of course, needs to be restricted in our diets. If not, it can lead to problems like obesity, clogged arteries and a host of other unhealthy conditions. But, fat is also required for the absorption of vitamins and a valuable source of fatty acids, nutrients that play a positive role in things like healthy skin and coat, the healing of wounds and even reproductive ability. Fat is also another way cats can derive energy besides proteins.
This will seem like a no-brainer, but make sure your cat gets plenty of water. Staying hydrated is critical to most creatures and said to be one of the most important nutrients for cats. In order to do this, provide them with canned or wet food in addition to dry, if you normally go the dry cat food route. Doing so can quite possibly ward off urinary tract and kidney issues your cat could encounter later in life. In order to increase the odds of their staying hydrated even more, provide your cat with a water fountain. They love fresh flowing water and will choose it over a bowl any day.
Wet Food vs. Dry
Finally, the consensus seems to be that feeding your obligate carnivore a high protein wet diet regularly is preferred. The theory behind this is that high proteins are thought to be the best way to naturally maintain a low urinary pH in cats. Felines on wet diets statistically have fewer FLUTDs (feline lower urinary tract diseases) than those strictly on dry cat food diets. In recent years, many people have begun to advocate raw diets for both cats and dogs. This can be expensive and it's not for everyone, but if you can afford it and you want to provide your cat with optimal nutrition for its feline needs, it's something to consider looking into.
Longevity in Cats
Combining all of this information will hopefully give you a better understanding of your cat's nutritional needs and a solid foundation for what to look for when providing them with a proper diet. By doing so you can help your cats to live longer, healthier, happier lives.