Feline Nutrition-
Your Cat is an Obligate Carnivore

Your feline is a pure carnivore. This means that it was designed to get its nutritional needs met by eating other animals, gets very little nutritionl from plant-based sources, and ideally should have minimal or no grains in its diet. In nature, your cat would be eating a high protein, moderate fat diet with only somewhere around 5% of its diet consisting of any kind of carbohydrates. Dry foods contain somewhere around 35 to 50 percent carbohydrates. This is not what what our feline family need.

Feline Nutrition is largely logical in my opinion. There is a great deal of more technical things we will discuss to validate our nutritional beliefs but as I believe you will see, in its simplest form it is indeed all about logic. Just happens that as a normal consumer and an average cat owner we just don’t think about it until its pointed out. After reading through all this information I will warn you that you will no longer be able to ignore the logic. As I write this paragraph, there is a commercial playing on the television beside me for Kibbles and Bits and I cringe. If you are ready to come out of the dark that the pet food industry wishes you would stay in, then read on.

Why are cats described as "obligate carnivores?"

The following sentence makes sense to most people: "Cats are carnivores." The following sentence is unclear: "Cats are obligate carnivores."

What the heck does the word "obligate" add to the sentence "Cats are carnivores?"

Answer: There is a fine, but extremely important distinction between the two terms as related to cats. Let's start with the definition of "carnivore." The simplest definition is:

"an animal which eats flesh." The American Heritage Science Dictionary(from Dictionary.com) goes a bit further: Any of various generally meat-eating mammals of the order Carnivora. Carnivores have large, sharp canine teeth and large brains, and the musculoskeletal structure of their forelimbs permits great flexibility for springing at prey. Many carnivores remain in and defend a single territory. Dogs, cats, bears, weasels, raccoons, hyenas, and (according to some classifications) seals and walruses are all carnivores.

Not all Carnivores are Obligate Carnivores.

However, not all members of the order Carnivora are obligate (obligatory) carnivores.The difference? Take bears, for example. While bears kill and eat flesh, most of their species are omnivorous (eating both animal flesh and plant material.) We humans are omnivorous; so are dogs. Omnivores can live quite well on a combination of both meat and plant foods. Our intestinal tracts are quite long, and can do a satisfactory job of digesting, extracting the nutrients we need, including protein from legumes, rice, and some vegetables, and eliminating the rest as waste.

Why are Cats Obligate Carnivores?

Cats "guts" are much shorter than ours. They do not have the ability to fully digest and utilize the nutrients in plant material. Although theoretically, they might get enough protein from plant material to exist, they need taurine in order to thrive. Taurine is found primarily in the muscle meat of animals, and is most highly concentrated in the heart and liver.

In the wild, cats may get a small amount of grain and other plant material from the stomachs of their prey, but our domestic cats really do not need large amounts of grain. Corn is a good example. Corn is a cheap source of protein, and many of the brands of dry cat food are packed with corn in various forms, e.g., corn bran, corn germ meal, ground corn, corn gluten, corn gluten meal. If I could give you one rule of thumb only, it would be to shy away from any cat food containing corn, especially listed at or toward the the top of the ingredients. (Pet food ingredients are generally listed in descending order by dry weight.)

It should also be noted that some manufacturers practice "splitting" to keep corn from the very top of the list. Splitting is carefully calculating the percentage of each kind of corn so that the aggregate total weighs more than any other ingredient, however none of the corn ingredients is listed at the very top. There is nothing illegal about this practice, but it puts the consumer at a disadvantage. It would be much more transparent if manufacturers were required to list the percentage by weight of each ingredient. Corn is not only a poor source of protein, it is a known allergen to some cats.

While some cat food manufacturers add small amounts of vegetables and fruits to their formulas, the premium foods always have named meat protein high on the list of ingredients. The fruits and vegetables are generally added for their vitamin and mineral content, and sometimes for their probiotic value.



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