If you think cats and dogs have the same dietary needs, think again. While dogs have evolved to handle starchy carbs, this is not also true for cats. Your feline friend is an obligate carnivore, meaning she must eat meat to survive. You don’t have to throw your kitty a raw steak every night for dinner, but meat products must make up the majority of her diet, whether dry kibble, canned food, or a combination of the two. Here are three reasons why your cat needs meat in her diet.
#1: The digestive tract is shorter in cats than in most mammals
Plant eaters have longer digestive tracts because the gut bacteria take longer to break down plant material. Cats have much shorter digestive tracts since raw meat is more rapidly digested. If cats are fed a diet high in plant matter, they cannot digest these ingredients.
#2: Cats can’t produce all their own nutrients
Meat contains several vitamins and amino acids that cats need to survive, as they cannot produce them on their own. These nutrients include:
- Vitamin A — A cat’s body does not have the enzymes necessary to absorb vitamin A properly, so supplementation is required. Without adequate vitamin A levels, your cat can become blind. Vitamin A also supports healthy skin and the immune system.
- Arginine — Cats cannot produce arginine, an amino acid that is an essential building block for protein on their own. Arginine deficiencies can lead to excessive amounts of ammonia, which can cause drooling, lethargy, vomiting, and convulsions.
- Taurine — Meat is the only natural source of taurine, which is essential for proper functioning of the eyes and heart.
#3: Cats cannot be vegetarians
With only foods based on plant matter, a cat’s body cannot get the proper nutrients. The food is either too high in carbohydrates, which cats cannot digest, or it lacks the amino acids necessary for feline health. As an obligate carnivore, your cat gets her glucose from the protein she eats, while omnivores get glucose from breaking down carbohydrates. If your cat is fed a vegetarian-based diet, her body will begin breaking down her own muscles and organs for energy.
Questions about selecting the correct diet for your feline companion? Contact us for help!