Cat Nutrition

April 05, 2018

Cat Nutrition

Cats as we all know that they are an obligate carnivores, which means that their body are fully dependent on meat. Whose survival depends on nutrients which are found only in animal flesh. Obligate carnivores might be able to ingest small amounts of plant material, because of their evolution they lack the necessary physiology required to digest that plant matter.

Domestic cats are obligate carnivores requiring a diet of primarily animal flesh and organs. Specifically, cats have high protein requirements and their metabolisms appear unable to synthesize certain essential nutrients (including retinolargininetaurine, and arachidonic acid), and thus, in nature, they can rely only on animal flesh as their diet to supply these nutrients. 

 A cat's gastrointestinal tract is adapted to meat eating, being much shorter than that of omnivores and having low levels of several of the digestive enzymes needed to digest carbohydrates. These traits severely limit the cat's ability to digest and use plant-derived nutrients, as well as certain fatty acids. Despite the cat's meat-oriented physiology, several vegetarian or vegan cat foods have been marketed that are supplemented with chemically synthesized taurine and other nutrients, in attempts to produce a complete diet. However, some of these products still fail to provide all the nutrients cats require and diets containing no animal products pose the risk of causing severe nutritional deficiencies.  However, veterinarians in the United States have expressed concern that many domestic cats are overfed. 

 See Article: Giving Your Cat a Vegan Diet

As the Expert Says: 


According to Dr Bruce Syme,  a practicing vet and animal lover who founded Vets All Natural in 1996: 

The Cat family (felids) has evolved closely alongside their canine counterparts, but has developed their own unique dietary requirements as a result of their own unique dietary intake. Cats, unlike dogs, are obligate carnivores, which means they must have meat in their diet to live (dogs can live on a vegetarian diet). 

Cats require significantly larger amounts of protein in their diet, as well as fats, and less carbohydrate and vegetable matter. Cats must have a dietary source of the amino acid taurine, which is only naturally found in meat (but easily destroyed by cooking), and the essential fatty acid arachidonic acid, also found in animal fats. 

Cats have evolved as a fine tuned hunting machine, which parallels their need for fresh meat and animal fats in their diet. The structure of their bodies, teeth, claws, and digestive tracts are finely tuned to catch and process live prey. Cats, unlike dogs, will rarely touch carrion (old dead meat/carcass), and will not scavenge like dogs. They always prefer fresh meat/prey, and as such, are rarely poisoned or take baits. 

This is also why they can be fussy eaters, and will rarely be tricked into taking medication mixed in their food. They have evolved to exist in the most arid environments, which is why they thrive in the Australian bush. Their urinary system has evolved to enable them to conserve water very effectively, producing highly concentrated urine (the strong smell we all know well) and requiring only minute amounts of water each day. They do this by absorbing up to 80% of their water requirements from their live prey, and hence they need to drink very rarely.

This is why that the practice of feeding dry food rations to cats is totally wrong, and results in the high levels of urinary tract disorders and renal failure we see in cats today. Unless cats adapt quickly, and dramatically increase their water intake to compensate for the lack of moisture in the food, their urinary system is forced to produce more and more concentrated urine, which results in crystal formation, PH imbalance, and renal overload.

Substitution of meat protein with cheaper carbohydrates and vegetable protein, as occurs in nearly all commercial cat foods is another prime reason why we see a decline in health, and an increase in obesity, and diabetes in modern cats. Cats are unable to properly cope with long term dry food intake, and will not live to their full potential on this type of ration, no matter how good or expensive the product. 


Taking In Nutrients: 

Nutrients are substances obtained from food and used by an animal as a source of energy and as part of the metabolic machinery necessary for maintenance and growth. Barring any special needs, illness-related deficiencies or instructions from your vet, your pets should be able to get all the nutrients they need from high-quality commercial pet foods, which are formulated with these special standards in mind.

Here are the six essential classes of nutrients fundamental for healthy living 

  • Water :

The most important nutrient. While food may help meet some of your pet's water needs, pets need to have fresh clean water available to them at all times. A deficiency of water can cause serious illness or even death.

If a cat does not ingest enough water, she can become dehydrated. Dehydration occurs when the normal body fluids, including water and electrolytes, fall below required needs. 


Factors to Consider in Taking Water: 



Water is necessary for digestion. Cats who eat dry food will need 10 times more water than those who eat unprocessed or raw food. Cats eating canned food will drink somewhere in the middle. Drinking less will lead to a state of dehydration.

It is a misconception that cats are considered desert animals and therefore require little water. Scientists believe that cats are descended from African wildcats. The reason cats in the wild need little water is because they eat prey and absorb the water from the animal. 

Environmental Temperature:

Temperatures in the 50 to 60 degree Fahrenheit range will require the least amount of additional water. However, either colder or warmer air temperatures requires more drinking, as it takes more water to cool or warm the body. 


A cat with a urinary tract infection, kidney disease or diabetes will drink more water, while a cat with liver disease or a respiratory illness will drink less water. Fluid losses can occur due to diarrhea, vomiting and fevers, or from certain medications that can cause a cat to urinate frequently. Any change in water consumption suggests a problem that requires the attention of your veterinarian. 

Aging And Body Size:

Necessary water is directly proportional to the weight of a cat. The larger or heavier the cat, the more water is needed. As cats age, they may lose body mass which then requires less water. 


Additional water is needed to account for the higher metabolism of an active cat. 

Mental State:

Stress can reduce a cat’s desire to drink water. 


These are the basic building blocks for cells, tissues, organs, enzymes, hormones and antibodies, and are essential for growth, maintenance, reproduction and repair. Proteins can be obtained from a number of sources. Animal-based proteins have complete amino acid profiles. (Please note: Do not give your pet raw eggs.) 

Protein is also found in vegetables, cereals and soy, but these are considered incomplete proteins. Dietary protein supplies essential amino acids and is needed for the manufacture of antibodies, enzymes, hormones, and tissues and for proper pH balance. It provides energy for cats and is essential for growth and development. 


                 Vitamins and Minerals In Foods 


                The amino acid components of muscle tissue are constantly being broken down, so adequate protein intake is vital to not only build muscle, but also maintain it. Aside from stretching their muscles, using the right scratching post that we can find or on online shop like activefelinesolutions. Without adequate protein intake, cats may develop a dry coat, become anemic and eventually lose muscle mass as the body fights its deficiency. 


                Amino Acids

                Amino acids
                are the building blocks of proteins, and are divided into essential and non-essential amino acid. There is a common theme among these amino acids: MEAT source.


                Essential Amino Acids

                Essential amino acids cannot be synthesized by the animal in sufficient quantities and must be supplied in the diet.

                Essential amino acids include: 

                  • Arginine - Mammals use arginine as a source for eliminating ammonia from the body. Ammonia is a toxic waste resulting from the breakdown of protein. Ornithine is actually the amino acid that binds to the ammonia and makes it non-toxic. Other animals can create this ornithine through a variety of ways, but cats can only produce it through arginine.

                    Meaning, if there is no arginine, there is no ornithine. This can cause the ammonia to build up and become toxic and poison the cat on its own wastes. Excessive drooling, stumbling, seizures, and possibly death can result from the high ammonia levels. This usually occurs several hours after the cat has a meal.The cat’s natural source of arginine is meat. Peas are a good source of arginine as far as vegetable sources go. 

                  • Methionine - Methionine plays a role in the prevention of urinary crystals. The metabolism of this particular amino acid creates a product called sulfate. This sulfate is then excreted by the urine as sulfuric acid. Well, as it turns out sulfuric acid is exactly what is sounds like: an acid. This makes the urine a slightly more acidic environment. Crystals thrive in an alkaline environment. Therefore, this discourages crystal formation. 

                    Methionine also helps the liver process fats and protects the liver and the kidneys. It regulates the formation of ammonia. Ammonia is a toxic waste in cats. It also helps create ammonia free urine. 

                  • Histidine - Histidine is important in absorbing zinc and transporting it to tissues. Without a proper level of histidine, the radiation from the metal can cause serious damage to the body. Histidine is also important in the creation and maintenance of myelin sheath. This is basically fat that covers and insulates the nerves. It protects the nerves as well as allows impulses to be sent at a rapid rate (basically as soon as you touch something, you feel it). Without this myelin, the impulse will travel at a much slower rate (you won’t feel the touch right away) 

                  Histidine is needed to create histamine. Histamine is well known in its role in allergic reactions. Histamine is released when the body is allergic to something, and it creates the sneezing, etc to protect the body and ward off any potential hazards.

                  Histamine is also important in the digestion of foods. Histamine helps produce the gastric juices in the stomach that assists in the breakdown of foods. It is also needed for the creation of red and white blood cells. 

                  • Phenylalanine - Phenylalanine is converted in tyrosine. Tyrosine in turn gets converted into dopamine and norepinephrine. Through the conversions, phenylalanine can aid in the memory and learning of a cat. This allows the cat to remain sharp and alert. This is because dopamine, norepinephrine and epinephrine are responsible for creating either a calm relaxed state, or an uptight, alert state.

                    One of the big signs of a black cat not getting enough tyrosine is that its fur will start to turn a reddish-brown color. This can be reversed by feeding it phenylalanine or, in other words, meat or foods rich in protein. 

                  • Isoleucine - Along with leucine and valine, isoleucine is found mostly in skeletal muscle. This is why it is required for optimum growth. Because it is found in the skeletal muscles, it helps promote growth and helps repair the tissues. It also plays a role in protein synthesis. 

                    Isoleucine can be metabolized during exercise or fasting to form glucose. This helps regulate the blood sugar levels. This is where isoleucine is mostly used in animals 

                  • Threonine - Threonine is essential in maintaining a healthy heart, liver, and immune system. Important in the production of collagen and elastin. This keeps muscle tissue throughout the body strong and helps maintain elasticity. This includes the heart, where strength and elasticity is vital.

                    Threonine teams up with methionine to help the liver process fats and fatty acids. Without threonine, the fats could build up in the liver. This can cause liver failure.

                  • Leucine - Leucine increases protein synthesis in skeletal muscle. As a regular part of the diet, leucine slows the breakdown of muscle tissue by increasing the protein synthesis. This helps protect the muscle and act as fuel for the body. Leucine also promotes the healing of muscle tissue, skin tissue, and bones. A decrease in leucine can be characterized as weight loss/less muscle mass. 

                  • Tryptophan - Tryptophan plays an important role in serotonin creation. It is the only essential amino acid that can be converted into serotonin.

                    Serotonin is then turned into melatonin in the brain. Melatonin is a natural way to help prevent anxiety or stress. It has a calming effect on the body. In fact, in cats with severe stress or aggression, melatonin supplements are prescribed by the vet to help relieve the symptoms.
                      Serotonin is also used by a variety of systems including the digestive system, the reproductive system, and the cardiovascular system.

                    Serotonin causes the gut to contract and move the food. Serotonin has a role in the growth of a cat, finding a mate to reproduce with, and regulate memory and learning.
                     Serotonin is similar to arginine, it is different enough where the herpes virus attaches more readily to lysine, than with arginine. 

                    This virus is responsible for diseases of the respiratory tract. This is known to be very common in cats. Signs include eye discharge, sneezing, squinting, fever, mouth or throat sores and sinus congestion. 

                    The lysine helps by limiting the virus’ capabilities as well as limits the signs and symptoms in infected cats. 

                    Lysine is also involved in the production of collagen and particular chemicals. These chemicals help the cat produce a healthy looking coat and skin. 


                  • Valine - As previously mentioned valine, leucine, and isoleucine are extremely similar in both structure and purpose. It is found mostly in the skeletal muscle. It helps promote growth of the muscle and prevent breakdown from occurring.

                    Valine also helps remove excess nitrogen from the liver, and is able to transport this nitrogen to other parts of the body as needed.

                  • Taurine - It is required for companion cats, for the prevention of eye and heart disease, as well as reproduction, fetal growth and survival. This essential amino acid is only found in foods of animal origin, such as meat, eggs and fish. 


                  Non Essential Amino Acids

                  Non-essential amino acids can be synthesized by your pet and are not needed in the diet.

                  • Fats are the most concentrated form of food energy, providing your pet with more than twice the energy of proteins or carbohydrates.

                    Fats are essential in the structure of cells and are needed for the production of some hormones. They are required for absorption and utilization of fat-soluble vitamins. Fats provide the body insulation and protection for internal organs. Essential fatty acids must be provided in a pet’s diet because they cannot be synthesized by a cat in sufficient amounts. Linoleic acid is an essential fatty acid for cats. 

                  • Omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids play a vital role in healing inflammation.

                    Replacing some omega-6 with omega-3 fatty acids can lessen an inflammatory reaction—whether it is in the skin (due to allergies), the joints (from arthritis), the intestines (from inflammatory bowel disease) or even in the kidneys (from progressive renal failure).

                    Arachidonic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid, is also essential for cats for the maintenance of the skin and coat, for kidney function and for reproduction. 

                  • Carbohydrates provide energy for the body’s tissues, play a vital role in the health of the intestine, and are likely to be important for reproduction. 

                    While there is no minimum carbohydrate requirement, there is a minimum glucose requirement necessary to supply energy to critical organs (i.e. the brain). 

                    Fibers are kinds of carbohydrates that modify the mix of the bacterial population in the small intestine, which can help manage chronic diarrhea. For cats to obtain the most benefit from fiber, the fiber source must be moderately fermentable. Foods that are high in fiber are not good for cats with high energy requirements, such as those who are young and growing. 

                  • Vitamins are catalysts for enzyme reactions.

                    Tiny amounts of vitamins are essential to cats for normal metabolic functioning. Most vitamins cannot be synthesized in the body, and therefore are essential in the diet. 

                  • Minerals are inorganic compounds that are not metabolized and yield no energy.

                    These nutrients cannot be synthesized by animals and must be provided in the diet. In general, minerals are most important as structural constituents of bones and teeth, for maintaining fluid balance and for their involvement in many metabolic reactions. 

                  • When feeding a complete and balanced dietit is unnecessary to give a vitamin or mineral supplement unless a specific deficiency is diagnosed by a veterinarian. Over supplementation can result in poisoning with some key vitamins and minerals!   

                  For healthy hair, skin, and body, your cat needs a diet with a good balance of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, just like you do. Aside from taking kitty for a bath with a nice cat shampoo,  it is better for them not only on the outside but also taking nutrients inside.

                  Sometimes cats develop nutritional deficiency, usually due to a poor, home-cooked diet that hasn't been approved by a vet or board certified veterinary nutritionist. Whether you’re concerned about your pet or a stray you’ve taken in, nutritional deficiency in a cat can be alarming. If you suspect that your cat is suffering from a lack of vitamins and nutrients, it’s easy to spot signs of nutritional deficiency in cats by inspecting your cat, observing your cat’s behavior, and checking your cat’s health. You may also like to check this book, The Well Cat Book: The Classic Comprehensive Handbook of Cat Care Reissue Edition - Kindle Edition (Amazon), as it might help you with every aspect of cat care especially on daily care. 

                  It is important for us to know these nutrients for our cats. We can all see these in their foods, we may not find them in canned foods that we give to them, mostly of these nutrients are found in meats. It is best to take note on these so that our cats are healthy.