Cat Nutrition

I, too, am a Carnivore

As humans, we have found it necessary through the centuries to selectively breed specific traits in our canine companions. Some were necessary for search and rescue, others protection. Some were needed for hunting – and different types of hunting at that – while others were simply devoted companions meant to keep us warm in the winter.

Cats, on the other hand, needed very little selective breeding intervention. Their purpose was to hunt, and nature made them plenty efficient at that.

We have been selectively breeding dogs for centuries, perhaps even millenia. But we have only been selectively breeding cats for a bit over 100 years. To put it in perspective, Queen Elizabeth II’s grandmother probably hadn’t heard of Cat Breeding.

That means, a hairless Sphynx cat has genetically more in common with a giant Maine Coon than a Boxer does with a Pit Bull.

Because of this lack on genetic diversity, it means your couch potato tabby has nearly idential nutritional needs to not just the stray cats living in the woods behind your aunt’s house, but to big cats all over the world.

Cats are known as Obligate Carnivores. This means, they are unable to derive proper nutrition to thrive from plant-based sources. The only non-animal based food they consume is what is found already partially digested in the stomachs of their prey.

How Pet Food Is Made

Commercial pet food, while incredibly convenient for on-the-go human families, bears little resemblence to the prey cats require for optimal health. In fact, it bears a striking resemblance to how human cereal is made.

Don’t believe me, take a look at these two videos:


The largest concern with commercial pet foods is the ingredients are weighed BEFORE cooking.

Why is that important? It means the percentages and proportions of ingredients (like meat to carbohydrate) are not going to be the same when the products gets to the end.

Additionally, cats require at least 70% of their daily water intake from their food. They are not driven the same way dogs are to drink of puddles, streams and water dishes.

This is why the number one cause of death in cats is Kidney and Bladder diseases. Our domesticated, indoor cats that are fed kibble/dry food diets are living in a dehydrated state.

Before the advent of commercial kibble, the number one killer of cats was cardiac related. This still comes in at number two to three in our list of Medical Cat Killers, and is also why you will find so many cat breeders dedicated to testing for various cardiac defects and genes within their breeding lines.


How To Read a Pet Food Label

How many times have you picked up an item in the grocery store and flipped over the box to read the ingredients before deciding whether to purchase the product?

Most of us have a basic understanding of how to read a food label. We know that the ingredient list is sorted from Most to Least in quantity, and so it’s safe to assume that we would apply this same logic when we read a pet food label.

That is exactly what pet food companies are banking on. Pet food ingredients are not listed from Most of Least in quantity. They are listed by heaviest to lightest by WEIGHT, before cooking.

Take a look at the image above. If you weigh the ingredients before cooking, chicken makes up the largest amount, coming in at 10 pounds. But after cooking, all the water and even much of the fat, has been cooked off, leaving the chicken as the smallest amount in the ingredient list.

So, when you hear pet food companies bragging and touting that “real meat” is the first ingredient, it really doesn’t mean what you think it means, and they’re hoping you are reading the label like you do your own food.

The best way to read a pet food label is to go straight to the Guaranteed Analysis. Often times these are very small and difficult to read. If you have to, bring a magnifying glass (I know you think I’m joking here, but I’m not).

For canned food, look for:

Minimum Crude Protein: 12%
Minimum Moisture Conent: 70%

Try to avoid kibble/dry foods if at all possible. But, if you must feed, look for:

Minimum Crude Protein: 32% 

Limited Ingredient / Grain-Free Diets


Many pet owners have been reaching toward the top shelves of pet stores for Limited Ingredient or Grain-Free Diets, believing these to be better, healthier choices for their pets.

Pet food companies will tout ingredients like “Sweet Potato,” “Rice,” or “Pea Starch,” instead of the typical wheat and corn that many cats (and dogs!) have allergies to.

The problem with these ingredients is they are higher on the glycemic index, which increases the sugar/carbohydrate ratio in the food.

These diets can actually cause MORE harm than good, leading to diabetes and early arthritis problems.


Research Sources to Consider


“Idiosyncratic nutrient requirements of cats appear to be diet-induced evolutionary adaptions” by JG Morris of UC Davis

Pottenger’s Cats – great YouTube Video: Pottengers Cats-Diet Will Affect Future Generations” (18 years into the 30 year study)

“Raw Meat-Based Diets in Dogs and Cats” -Veterinary Sciences 2017

“Raw meat based diet influences faecal microbiome and end products of fermentation in healthy dogs– BMC Veterinary Research, 13, 65

NZ study on animal nutrition, by AgResearch, Massey University (published in Life, Bio and Health Sciences journal)

“Perceptions, practices, and consequences associated with foodborne pathogens and the feeding of raw meat to dogs” – Canadian Veterinary Journal

The Biologically Appropriate Food Concept and the Dietary Needs of Dogs and Cats” – Champion PetFoods (Orijen White Paper), Veterinary Sciences Journal