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The Purrrrrrfect Diet

We have learned a great deal about the ideal diet for our feline friends. They are obligate carnivores and must have animal protein, and lots of it, to survive. They cannot use carbohydrates to build muscle or feed their internal organs. They turn carbs into fat.

Why Cats Get Fat

We have a cat obesity epidemic because we are feeding our cats dry food with little animal protein and lots of carbs – they crave animal protein so they eat and eat, trying to get enough protein. They can’t use the carbs or vegetable proteins, such as soy, so they store it as fat.

Why Canned Food Is Better

Canned food is better than dry food. Period.

There are several reasons for this: It is less processed and provides a natural source of fluids to keep your cat hydrated. Cats aren’t natural drinkers and feeding them canned food is closer to what they would eat in the wild – a mouse.

The biggest “cost” of a dry food diet is obesity (diabetes and other diseases), as well as constipation, all of which can lead to expensive trips to the vet. I use dry cat food as a treat, but the main diet of my cats is canned food.

What About Raw Cat Food?

What about raw? I do not recommend raw diets. There is no proof raw is better than cooked, and a lot of proof that it can be bad for your cat due to the pathogen risk and the risk that the food is not nutritionally complete. Cats and dogs don’t have long lives in the wild so understanding that our domestic pets are different and lead different lives is important.

The Healthy Cat Diet Rulebook:

Here’s a “rule book” to follow when picking a diet for your cat. If you follow these rules, your cat will be eating a diet that he or she will love, and that will lead to a healthy life.

Go to the Catinfo.org website and look for the Cat Food Composition Chart. It lists the canned food by brand and variety. It gives the percentage of protein, carbohydrates and fat as well as other important measurements such as calorie content and phosphorus content.  The other site that has diet tables is Tanya’s Comprehensive Guide – Feline Nutrition which has information on both canned and dry.

Pick a diet with:

  • Protein > 40%
  • Carbs < 10%
  • Fat will be the remainder
  • For senior kitties: phosphorous PHOS < 230 mg/100 Kcals or <1.00% on dry matter basis. This is a very important criteria for senior cats. For cats with advanced renal disease, a prescription renal diet with very low phosphorus is recommended.

Print this chart and take it with you to the pet store. Our local independent pet stores have a large number of the diets I use. Petco and Petsmart have them as well. Chewy.com is a good on-line alternative with free shipping and discounts if you use their “auto-ship” feature.  When researching the diets,  you must carefully read the label to narrow your choices down to foods which meet the following criteria (as well as the ones above):

  • No glutens (these are plant proteins and the pet food companies “cheat” by using them to increase the protein percentage. This is one of the contributing factors to a massive recall a while back.)
  • No grains
  • No soy
  • Avoid generic “meat meal” (I like to look for whole meats as the first ingredients. Many “meat” meals have rendered products.) Most dry foods have meals but look for specific meat meals such as “Chicken Meal”
  • Keep fish diets, which have great protein and low carbs, to 25% of your cat’s total diet. The reason for this is increasing mercury in fish stocks, as well as the risk of vitamin deficiency.
  • The diet must have an AAFCO statement which guarantees it is a complete and balanced diet for your cat. Some foods are designed as treats or toppings and this guarantee gives you confidence that it has at least the minimum necessary amount of vitamins, mineral and other essential ingredients.
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