What to Know About Cat Diets in Lansing, MI
For cat owners, feeding a proper and well-balanced diet to your cat is an important part of keeping your cat healthy and happy. It’s also important to know that cats require specific nutrients and amino acids and cannot just eat any old diet. Cats are obligate carnivores, which means that they rely on nutrients found only in animal products. Over time, cats have evolved as hunters, so they require high concentrations of protein in their diets, moderate amounts of fat, and small amounts of carbohydrates and their diet still requires these general proportions today. Cat diets also require more than a dozen other nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, and amino acids.
Necessary Nutrients for Your Cat’s Diet
Cats have evolved to require specific amino acids that exist in animal meat sources because their bodies cannot produce enough of these vital nutrients on their own. Unlike other species, cats cannot produce certain nutrients such as niacin, vitamin A, and vitamin D, so they must get them from their diets. Also, cats depend on several amino acids, which are the building blocks of proteins. Most animal species share a need for nine essential amino acids (histidine, isoleucine, leucine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine), but cats require two additional essential amino acids: taurine and arginine.
Taurine is an amino acid that is vital to eye and heart health, and necessary for normal reproduction and kitten growth. Cats can synthesize small amounts of taurine but cannot produce enough for their overall health. Taurine deficiencies in cats can cause blindness because of retinal degeneration, and dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), reproductive issues, and central nervous system problems.
Arginine is also an essential amino acid, and deficiencies result in a build-up of ammonia in the blood, causing neurologic symptoms, seizures, and even death.
Choosing the Right Food for Your Cat’s Diet in Lansing, MI
Commercially produced cat foods have been developed to give your cat the needed combination of nutrients and calories. The Feline Nutrition Expert (FNE) Subcommittee of the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) provides the minimum nutritional requirements for cats, and pet food manufacturers use these standards in producing cat foods.
The best way to choose a cat food is to read the nutrition label on the food packaging. By law, pet food manufacturers are required to supply nutritional information on the package, and labeling regulations are set by AAFCO and the United States Food and Drug Administration (USDA). Commercial pet foods that carry an AAFCO-approved nutritional guarantee, are viewed to offer a complete and balanced cat diet.
When selecting cat food, run down the list of ingredients. Food items are listed in descending order of weight, so look for foods in which meat, meat by-products, or seafood are listed among the top ingredients. This way you can be sure that the food contains enough animal protein to supply the amino acids and fatty acids that your cat needs.
When you have settled on a brand, you can also choose between canned food, dry food, or a combination of the two. It all depends on what your cats like to eat. It is helpful to know that in the case of diabetic cats, canned food is preferable since it contains fewer carbohydrates than dry food and that canned foods can add water to the cat’s diets, ensuring proper hydration and appropriate gastrointestinal (GI) motility.
Different Diets for Different Life Stages
Just as with people, nutritional requirements change as a cat passes through different life stages. There are essentially three life stages for cats:
- Pregnancy and lactation
When selecting cat food, be sure to read the label, and make sure that the label matches your cat’s life stage, that the food offers a complete and balanced diet, and that it meets AAFCA requirements. There are some commercial cat diets out there that are conveniently formulated for all life stages. If you are unsure which food is best for your cat’s life stage, your veterinarian will be able to help.
Commercial Cat Foods Available
If you’ve ever wandered into a pet food store, your head probably swims at all of the choices. Commercial cat foods come in dry kibble, canned and semi-moist. All these diets differ in moisture content, calories, protein levels, digestibility, and palatability.
1. Dry Foods
Most dry cat foods have little water (most contain 6-10% water), and may include the following products:
- Animal meat and/or animal meat byproducts
- Fish and/or fish byproducts
- Fish meal
- Sources of fiber
- Grain and/or grain byproducts
- Dairy products
- Vitamin and mineral supplements
- Poultry and/or poultry byproducts
Dry cat food is relatively cheap, and it is a convenient way to feed your cat, especially if your cat “free feeds.” But dry food may not be as exciting for your cat since it may not be as aromatic or tasty as wet or semi-moist food, but it is a good option for a cat who likes to graze throughout the day. If you feed your cat dry food, always store the food in a cool, dry place, and toss it after its expiration date. If possible, store dry cat food in an airtight container to prevent the breakdown of nutrients and maintain flavor.
2. Canned Food
Canned cat food has more moisture than dry food, with moisture content at 75%, making it a good source of moisture and water for your cat. Canned foods tend to be more expensive than dry or semi-moist diets, but most cats love wet food. There are a wide variety of choices and options, from pates to morsels in gravy, which can be helpful if your cat is a finicky eater. Premium canned cat foods usually offer high-end meats, such as liver, kidney, or fish, as well as whole meat byproducts. As with dry food, make sure to read the label to ensure that the ingredients contain the necessary nutrients.
3. Semi-Moist Food
Semi-moist foods usually come in bags or packets and are made up mostly of meat and or meat byproducts, and offer more water content than dry food (35% moisture). These foods often have additives such as cereals, grains, soybean meal, cereals, and preservatives. Semi-moist foods generally cost more than dry foods and might be a good option for cats who don’t necessarily like dry food but still can be feed free choice. The only issue with these diets is that after opening the package, the food can spoil faster than dry foods. Always follow the instructions on the package when feeding and storing.
What About Homemade Cat Diets?
Some owners may want to create a home-made diet for their cats; however, this can be an intensive process, and the hardest part is calculating the right quantities and proportions of nutrients for your cat. Most veterinarians will suggest feeding a commercial diet unless your cat has a particular medical condition, in which care your veterinarian may recommend a special cat diet.
What About Treats?
Most cats love treats, and while giving your cat an occasional commercial treat is perfectly OK, treats should not be a substitute for actual cat food. The reason is that treats are often not nutritionally complete and may not have all the dietary essentials your cat needs. It’s also important to know that you shouldn’t feed certain foods to your cats, such as raw meat, canned fish products, and milk products. Milk is not recommended for cats, as some cats are lactose-intolerant and can develop GI issues such as vomiting and diarrhea.
Talk with a Vet About Your Cat’s Diet in Lansing, MI
When considering a diet for your cat, make sure that whatever you feed contains the necessary nutrients and ingredients your cat needs. If you have any questions or concerns, please call Pennsylvania Veterinary Care in Lansing, MI at (517) 393-8010 or make an appointment today!