How does the proper diet for cats look like?
Cats have very specific needs when it comes to nutrition. A cat's diet needs to include plenty of protein, the right types of vitamins, but needs to be low on carbohydrates. At the same time many types of food can be harmful when consumed regularly. Fat food can upset the stomach of the cat. Not to mention that raw food like eggs, meat or fish can lead to food poisoning due to the bacteria that might be found in it. Even stuff that you might find to be healthy for your beloved pet can lead to problems. For example too much tuna can cause mercury poisoning.
All in all there are two basic rules a cat's diet has to fulfill.
A cat's food needs to contain water. Cats are naturally inclined not to drink water on a regular basis, they are more inclined to fulfill their water intake with their food. So a cat needs to consume wet food on a regular basis. Giving your cat canned food is the best way of ensuring that your cat consumes enough water.
A cat's diet needs to contain protein for the most part. Unfortunately most cat foods contain too much carbohydrate. Good quality protein is very expensive, so cat food manufacturers are keen on substituting protein with substantially cheaper carbohydrates, like potatos, beans or wheat. Too much carbohydrate intake can cause diabetes and heart failure in cats. Unfortunately these problems are not recognised until the process is irevertible and the cat has a fatal disease. Canned foods contain substantially less carbohydrates but dry foods are very bad in this respect. They can have up to 30-35% carbohydrate in them.
Canned food contains substantially less - approximately 10% - carbohydrates, but if you take into account that the optimal diet for cats contains only 2% carbohydrates, basically anything that has any carbohydrate in it will not be optimal for your cat. Too much carbohydrate can lead to obesity, diabetes and ultimately severe heart diseases.
The most dangerous part of the above mentioned diseases is that they develop over a long period, and the disaster can happen long before you notice anything. I am a big advocate of preventive nutrition, meaning that you feed your cat properly in order to avoid the development of such severe diseases.
Protein, protein, protein...but what kind?
By now you have probably guessed that cats need to consume mostly protein. However not all proteins are created equal. The source of the protein matters a lot. Cats need to consume protein that comes from animals. Proteins from plants are still better than nothing, but cats can't digest them the way they can digest animal proteins. There is a reason why you don't really see cheetahs hunting grass.
Proteins are made up of amino acids. These are basically the building blocks of larger particles that we call protein. Every protein needs a certain kind of enzyme to be digested. Cats have enzymes that can digest proteins from meat, but lack the necessary particles to digest plant protein.
Furthermore plants do not contain taurine, a key ingredient of a healthy cat's diet. Taurine is a key ingredient that is necessery in order to have a healthy heart and eyeseight. This means that a cat that does not consume enough meat -and taurine with it- can loose its sight, or pass away from heart failure.
Fresh or processed?
We are all aware that humans are adviced to consume fresh, organic food whenever possible. The reason for this is that processed food has a lot of added materials in it. These are added to it because the long cooking removes ingredients. These are added before the food hits the shelves in order to replicate mother nature the best we can.
However mother nature knows exactly what a living organisation needs, and humans will inevitably leave out ingredients that they don't even know are missing. The best quality processed food will be subpar to its natural counterpart every single time.
The same logic applies to the diet of cats. Try to go for the food that has as few long and complicated named materials as possible. After all simple fresh meat makes most of a cat's diet in the wild, try to replicate that as closely as possible at home.
Wet Is Better Than Dry
I never see my cat drinking water. Every once in a while I catch him drinking condensation off the grass in the morning, but have never ever seen him drink from a bowl I put in front of him. If this could describe your cat as well, don't panic, he is completely normal.
Cats are naturally wired so that they consume water by drinking less than by eating the right types of food. These are obviously wet meals. This is another reason why you should give your cat canned food rather than dry food.
Dry food is manufactured through extensive cooking, which reduces its moisture to as low as 5-10%. if your cat has too low water intake it will suffer of kidney failure, which can eventually lead to death.
Is There A Place For Dry Food?
You have probably guessed by now that I try to avoid feeding my cat dry food as much as possible. However there is one undoubted positive side of dry food: it lasts longer than canned food.
If you are going out of town for two-three days and you can't ask anyone to check on your cat while you are gone, dry food is the way to go.
Pour plenty of dry food - well, enough that it will last for the time you will be gone - into a bowl where your cat will find it with ease but other cats won't find it. The food should stay fresh for a couple of days. Feeding your cat dry food once or twice certainly won't hurt, just don't make a habit of it.
The ideal diet for a home cat would consist of caned food made of meat. If the meat is in some kind of sauce, it is even better. The objective is to feed your cat wet food which consists of meat almost enterely.