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Want a Long Life For Your Cat? Here's What You Need to Know

Cat nutritional needs are very specific and the nutritional quality of cat food is one of the most important factors in cat health and longevity. If you would like your cat to live a long and healthy life, then you need to learn a little bit about cat food options.

The natural diet of cats in the wild is a meat-based regimen (eg. rodents and birds) that contains little carbohydrate. They are obligate (strict) carnivores, built by Mother Nature to get nutritional needs met by eating a large amount of animal-based proteins (meat) and not so much from plant-based proteins (grains).

Cats are very different from humans and dogs in their nutritional needs. Humans and dogs can live on a vegetarian diet...but cats cannot. All proteins are NOT alike! This sounds a bit on the technical side, but proteins from animal tissues have a complete amino acid profile and amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. Plant-based proteins do not contain the full compliment of the critical amino acids required by an obligate carnivore. Because protein in dry food is often heavily plant-based it is not equal in quality to the protein in most canned food, which is meat-based. There. That's the techie part. Humans and dogs can live on plant protein. Cats cannot.

Why do manufacturers sell dry food for cats, then? Plant proteins are cheaper than meat proteins, so pet food companies have a higher profit margin when using corn, wheat, soy, rice, and so on in their formulas. They add some of the missing nutrients back in artificially in order to claim that the products meet the nutritional needs of cats.

Do cats survive on supplemented plant-based diets that are sold as quality pet food? Yes, many of them do, but cats eating a naturally correct diet are less likely to suffer some of the common feline ailments, and more likely to live a full cat lifespan of 20 or more years. That's right, 20 or so years. In their natural setting, cats--whose unique biology makes them true carnivores--would not consume the high level of carbohydrates (grains) that are in the dry foods that we routinely feed them. In the wild, your cat would be eating a high protein, high-moisture, meat-based diet, with a moderate level of fat and with only approximately 3-5 percent of her diet coming from carbohydrates. The average dry cat food contains 35-50 percent carbohydrates! Some of the cheaper dry foods contain even higher levels. This is NOT the diet that Mother Nature intended for your cat to eat.

So why do we feed our carnivores like herbivores? Why are we feeding our beloved cats such a species-inappropriate diet? The answers are simple. Grains are cheap. Dry food is convenient. Affordability and convenience sells.

What is in your cat's food dish?


Melinda Korenchuk


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