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As with any other animals, cats require a diet that is biologically appropriate for their bodies that allows them to get all the nutrients that they need, but what exactly are those nutrients? Let’s break it down in this article.
#1 - Animal Protein
To start off, we should know by now that cats are obligate carnivores, which means that it is necessary for them to have sources of meat in their diets for them to thrive. They literally would not survive long without eating any form of meat. This is why animal protein is number one on the list as cats are able to get all the essential amino acids they need from cat food that contains meat. Amino acids are the basic building blocks of protein and are responsible for the healthy development and maintenance of your cats’ organs and tissues.
Cat food that is complete and balanced should have meats present be it turkey, chicken, beef or fish. Feeding your cat a diet that is well-balanced is essential in keeping them healthy and strong.
That being said, animal protein is an expensive ingredient, which is why many manufacturers try to keep their amounts as low as possible in the cat food they produce – just enough for your cat to survive, but not thrive.
To be labelled as nutritionally complete and balanced, the cat food needs to meet AAFCO (American Association of Feed Control Officials)’s mandate on how adult cat food should contain 26% of crude protein minimally on a dry matter basis. However, do note that it is only for the maintenance of an adult cat, but if you would like to support your cat in reproducing, that number should bump up to 30%.
#2 – Fats
Fats are the most energy-rich nutrient that you can find in your cat food. Not only do they serve as energy stores, they also act as transport molecules and can help conduct nerve impulses within your cats’ nervous system.
Fats can come in familiar names such as Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids which are important for your cats’ skin and coat health. These fatty acids are colloquially known as “good fats”. If your cat gets hurt or has some wounds, these fatty acids also help to speed up their healing and tackle inflammations.
Fats and essential fatty acids typically come as part of ingredients such as salmon, chicken, or other meats that are included in cat food.
According to AAFCO, the minimum amount of fat that should be present in cat food is 9% on a dry matter basis. The only time that your cat would need more fats is if it is highly active or has trouble maintaining its weight. On the flip side, if your cat seems to be putting more weight than it should, there are cat food diets designed for weight loss and would typically contain less fat compared to adult cat food meant for general maintenance.
#3 – Carbohydrates
Unlike fats that typically serve as energy stores, carbohydrates serve as an energy source that is easily accessible and highly digestible. They come in forms of grains such as wheat or rice in your cat food. Carbohydrates are also responsible for providing kibble its structural integrity, otherwise the ingredients would just crumble. However, it is important to note that carbohydrates are not part of your cats’ natural diet and should only make up less than 10% of your cats’ food.
Studies have shown that cats may develop health issues such as diabetes when fed large amount of carbohydrates. For cats that have food allergies, this may cause them to react poorly to certain carbohydrates (although this is less common as compared to ingredients like beef, chicken or fish).
#4 - Vitamins
Vitamins are key in helping many enzymes which are important to maintain for your cat to function properly. Some of the key vitamins that should be present in cat food according to AAFCO include Vitamins A,D,E,K and B12. Vitamin A is important for vision, bone development and skin maintenance, Vitamin D is good for increasing blood calcium and phosphorous levels to support the maintenance of bones and growth. Vitamin E is an important antioxidant while B12 is good for metabolism and nerve conduction.
#5 – Minerals
Cat food needs to have various minerals in sufficient amounts according to AAFCO such as calcium, phosphorus, sodium, magnesium, potassium and chloride.
#6 – Water
Last but not least, your cats will be able to obtain water from their cat food if you feed them a wet diet which is important for our domestic cats, as they are known to have a bad habit of not drinking enough water.
Ultimately, as long as you ensure that your cats’ food is well-balanced, there is no need for additional toppers or supplements (subject to individual cat health).
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