Quick & Complete How-To Guide on your Feline's Nutrition
Where to start?
Your favorite feline's ancestors evolved and lived as hunters! This means that the uttermost important foundation to any quality nutrition for a cat is to start with high amounts of quality protein. Protein is the most vital macronutrient for your cat and is responsible for many aspects of their health and bodily functions.
Not enough protein?
Inadequate amounts of protein in a feline's diet can negatively impact many aspects of their health and impair immune function. Unless your cat has a health condition which would call for protein restriction, an older cat should not be placed on a protein restricted diet. Insufficient ingestion of the amino acid called Taurine is also in direct correlation with a protein-lacking diet. The only way a cat can ingest taurine is by eating animal products since the amino acid is solely available through animal proteins. Unlike other mammals, felines are incapable of creating their own taurine through pre-existing amino acids within themselves. Why would that one amino acid be so important you might ask? Taurine works to keep a cat's vision running smoothly and sharply. If your cat is lacking sufficient levels of taurine, this can lead to both vision loss and feline central degeneration. Furthermore, heart failure and dilated cardiomyopathy are both two very serious dangers that are associated with lack of taurine. Finally, The National Academy of Sciences indicates that without enough taurine, a cat may experience birth defects in her kittens and sluggish neonatal development.
Hydration Correlated to Nutrition
High Protein Diet
One of the most prominent issues pertaining to any breed of feline is dehydration. Although
dehydration may seem completely disconnected from a cat's nutrition; it is actually directly linked to their food intake. Important to mention, not every food source for a feline is equal in their specific benefits. The three primary food sources for domesticated cats are dry food, wet food, and raw food. To determine which type of nutrition is most biologically appropriate for a cat, it is essential to look back to the origins of our beloved friends. The lineage of all domestic cats today can be traced back through DNA testing to that of wildcats (Felis Silvestris Lybica) across the whole world. Our domesticated cats today still retain all of the predatory instincts of their early ancestors. Knowing this can lead one to conclude that our felines are obligate carnivores, just the same as their predecessors. The vast majority of daily moisture intake for a cat comes from the food that they consume. Cats naturally have very little desire to drink water all by itself. The importance for a cat to get an adequate amount of moisture through their day-to-day diet then becomes all that much more vital. Further breaking down the food options themselves then allows pet owners to make the best decision for their cat. Starting with the most common form of nutrition for a household cat: the dry kibble. While high in protein, which is an unarguably important nutrition metric, dry kibble typically renders around 6-10% moisture. Comparatively so, the second most popular form of nutrition, that being wet food, is able to provide 75-78% moisture on average. Last but most definitely not least, raw diets come in around 70% moisture. While the debate between the superior form of nutrition of wet versus raw food is left for the upcoming section, both are a clear winner when it comes to moisture provision. Pairing either a wet or raw food in conjunction with your cat's existing dry kibble diet is a fantastic way to ensure your cat is intaking an ample amount of moisture. The long-term application of this technique leads to a diminished susceptibility of all-too-common kidney issues for your feline. Dehydration is a common proponent of why a cat might develop kidney disease at some point in their life, that risk of kidney disease doubling in-between the ages of 10-15. Cats being stoic (not showing visual or audible distress and hiding their symptoms) typically will not show signs of kidney disease until 75% of their kidney function has already been lost. Knowing how to evaluate and identify early signs of dehydration are vital to the active prevention of long-term damage or health implications. The four most common areas for evaluation on a cat's body are their skin, eyes, gums, and feces. A cat's skin should feel elastic and supple due to fluid retention within the body. To test for dehydration simply pinch the cat's skin into the shape of a tent in between their shoulder blades. The skin should almost “snap back” if not, this could be a sign of dehydration. Looking towards a cat's eyes, dehydration becomes a concern when they appear sunken, dull, or lack their normal focus. Moving down towards a cat's mouth reveals healthy gums that are pink and moist, not pale, sticky, or dry. Gently pushing on their gums with a finger leaves a white space that should disappear within one to two seconds with a hydrated cat. At the opposite end of the spectrum, if your feline is pooping less than normal with small, pelleted poop, then that can be a sign of dehydration. Other less specific symptoms include solely or the combination thereof lethargy, an elevated or low heart rate, and uncommon hiding behaviors. Ideally, any of these symptoms should be prevented through multiple means of animal care. Nutrition should be a staple for your cat's moisture intake, but it is equally important to continue to provide fresh and clean drinking water at the same time. Drinking water should always be fresh and kept in a separate location from a cat's litter box location to prevent cross contamination and encourage your cat to drink. Play close attention to your cat's use of their water sources in order to manipulate the source in favor of your cat drinking more. These manipulations can be carried out through the change of the water's temperature, location, whether the water is "clean" flowing water, or through the addition of flavor additives. Our beloved felines can be a finicky bunch to please, but singular and small changes can generate the largest impact on their long-term health and quality of life. As with many aspects of life, awareness, knowledge, and action will lead to positive change. Every pet owner is accountable for the awareness and prevention of dehydration and its related issues pertaining to our near and dear feline friends.
Benefits of Raw Nutrition
As previously mentioned, your housecat's distant relatives were once wild predators roaming many different continents. Although your pet may not be roaming jungles, deserts, and forests for their dinner, they are still predatory in nature. As our present-day felines evolved, they did not lose the requirement for the same protein rich diet as their forefathers. The benefits of a raw diet are still of utmost prevalence to this day. The prominent benefits of a primarily raw diet consists of a higher moisture content, better gut health, and that of a diet high in protein. Raw diets provide a well-rounded form of nutrition for your cat as it is a pure form of a biologically appropriate diet. A diet consisting of raw food will provide ample amounts of protein derived from the raw meat consumed by your animal. A common misconception associated with the consumption of a raw diet is that it is inherently dangerous to your pet due to the risk
of contracting a food borne illness. The risk may be true to an extent, however, this is predicated in what food source you provide to your animal. While buying raw meat to feed is a common practice with many pet owners and may seem like an attractive practice to those who don't, this is actually the most dangerous way to feed raw. Feeding plain raw meat from the store is an outstanding way to increase the risk of your cat contracting foodborne pathogens. To negate this issue, it is critically important to locate and research a quality brand that manufactures raw pet food. A brand worthy of mentioning would be Stella and Chewy's. Not only do they produce a top tier product, but they also implement every measure necessary to ensure the safety of your pet. This high standard is reinforced through the means of batch testing, using a third-party lab for a test and hold program, and implementing hydrostatic high-pressure processing to prevent e coli, salmonella, or listeria on any product. Stella and Chewy's further takes action to thoughtfully and humanely source all meat ingredients. Past the point of morals and safety, Stella and Chewy's products are extremely functional. As a company, they provide shelf stable freeze-dried diets for your convenience as well as frozen food for your pet. The freeze-dried products will need additional means of rehydration such as warm water, or even better yet, one of the plentiful bowl-building products such as goat's milk, bone broth, or some Carnivore Cravings from Stella and Chewy's! Not only do these products add ample amounts of moisture, but also provide a variety of benefits such as better gut health, skin and coat health, immune function, hip and joint support, and a plethora of antioxidants and anti-inflammatories. This vast array of benefits is simply not achievable with solely a dry kibble, wet food, or combination thereof. Additionally, most common brands of wet foods will contain a high starch content that can lead to tooth decay later on in life. Stella and Chewy's is unlike most brands as their cans are comprised of whole meats and produce! That being said, the most appropriate diet for your cat will mostly be comprised of raw foods. Feeding solely a raw diet is the pinnacle of feline nutrition, but any step towards improving your cat's health is a step in the right direction. Through all of the common misconceptions, and with proper research, executing a raw meal plan will show immediate benefit in their appearance, but cascade into long-term health and well-being for your feline.
Steps Towards Superior Nutrition
Quality nutrition is one of the main building blocks to a healthy animal. This is all predicated on what we as pet owners decide to provide to our animals. An overwhelming majority of a cats' health issues throughout their lifetime will stem from their nutrition, so our decisions do lay an impact. Taking steps towards more protein filled, moisture containing, and nutrient-rich diets are fantastic places to start. Take a second to read the nutrition labels on the food source that you are providing to your animal. The first five ingredients listed on the label will be representative of the majority of the product's composition. Be sure to check where the protein source lies in the ingredient panel. The ingredient representing the highest portion will be listed first, so the protein source should always be first and foremost. It should also be taken into consideration that cats have a requirement for taurine, an essential amino acid found only in animal products, so the protein source listed first should only be an animal product. That animal should be that of quality sourcing as well, not from any sort of by-product meal. An animal meal is different from a by-product and an acceptable source of protein. A meal should be thought of as almost a jerky with all of the moisture removed from the meat prior to being made into a kibble. This process allows for more actual meat/protein to be added to kibble for the same weight as unaltered meat without the moisture already removed. The end result of the use of the animal meal is a very high protein diet that is sourced from animals, as opposed to poor sources such as soy. For cats especially, the more protein sourced from animals as opposed to plants, the better. Secondly, cats are obligate carnivores with little to no requirement for carbohydrates, so any ingredients listed past the main protein source should not be an immense number of meaningless fillers. Commonly used would be that of corn, rice, soybeans, and wheat. All ingredients in your cat's nutrition should serve purpose and hold importance. The use of fruits, vegetables, and healthy fat sources like sunflower seeds, flax seeds and their oils, are all fantastic things to look for in a quality cat food. It does go without saying that any and all of these ingredients should be from the highest quality sources available. The closest farm to factory for any ingredient will also produce a much more nutritious food item, and one with the least amount of stress for an animal in transport. Additionally, assuring that all ingredients are sourced ethically and sustainably will ensure the continuation of quality nutrition and products for generation after generation. These simple acknowledgements and implications in your pet's nutrition will provide a higher quality of life for both you and your pet for years to come.