Understanding nutrition for cats is very important to all cat owners. There are different feline dietary requirements for different breed types but the key nutritional rules apply to them all.
Everything you need to know about cat nutrition can be found on this page! But if you do have a pedigree cat that has specific nutritional requirements check out our cat breed profile page for additional information.
Like with humans what you feed your cat must be a balanced diet of protein, carbohydrates, fats, fibre, vitamins and minerals. When understanding nutrition for cats you should always start with our first and most important part of your cats diet, Protein.
The Importance of Protein
The difference between humans and cats is that cats must have a diet more heavily reliant on protein. The average cats diet should be made up of at least 28% protein. In the wild cats will almost only eat small animals and therefore their bodies have become reliant on using protein for energy. In fact for a domestic cat in the wild to survive they would need approximately 150gs of protein equalling between 4-5 whole mice per day! It is therefore important to feed your cat a high protein diet.
Will any protein do?
No. Proteins contain aminos acids and each protein has different levels of time needed to be broken down. The best proteins for cats are turkey, chicken and fish. This is because they are the easiest of proteins to be broken down by your cat, they are also completely cat safe and have a higher biological value than vegetable proteins. The highest biological value of natural protein is eggs. Eggs should not be used as a sole source or protein in your cats diet and should not be eaten raw. Eggs contain high levels of phosphorus which in excess could be harmful to your cat however cooked and on a specific occasion are a good treat. It is important your cat recieves a balanced diet not 100% focused on protein. Although excess protein will be excreted, it is believed that a diet of 100% protein could cause kidney problems.
Good nutrition for cats does not stop at just protein…
Fibre is an important part of your cats diet and a key nutritional requirement for feline breeds. Cats spend a large amount of their life grooming. When cats groom their fur must be swallowed and cannot be spat out, a diet consisting of fibre is therefore essential to pass that fur. If there is a lack of fibre in a cats diet they could suffer from excessive hairballs which can be painful and damaging to their health. Up to about 4% of your cats diet should consist of Fibre.
Question: What is a natural cat friendly source of fibre?
Answer: A great source of fibre for cats is pumpkin. If your cat seems to be having problems coughing up hairballs then try feeding them cooked pumpkin or a cat food that contains pumkin. This may help your cat pass the hairballs.
Fat and Essential Fatty Acids
Fats and essential fatty acids are a essential part of your cats diet. Fatty acids will help keep your cats skin and coat healthy. Cats also require Omega 3 which helps their nervous system and immune system and Omega 6 which is known to help a cats brain function properly.
Unlike humans, cats get most of their energy from proteins and fats. Many cat foods contain cereals which contain carbohydrate. A small percentage of carbohydrate in your cats diet is fine however the majority of their energy should come from a good meat protein like fish or chicken.
Vitamins and Minerals
Vitamins and minerals are an essential part of your cats diet. Cats need Vitamin A for their extremely advanced eyes and Vitamin E which protects against oxidative damage. Cats also require Naicin and Taurine which are vitamins found in meats and muscle tissue important for healthy heart function.
✓Vitamin A: Needed for development and maintanance of the eyes. Vitamin A also maintains a cats immune system.
✓Vitamin D: Needed for bone structure and development and also helps to control phosphorus imbalance.
✓Vitamin E: Needed to defend against oxidative damage
✓Vitamin K: Helps the bones and blood
✓Calcium: Helps the bones, muscles and blood
✓Phosphorus:Needed for the bones and your cats motabilism
✓Magnesium: Needed for enzyme functionality, bones and teeth
✓Sodium: Needed for the nervous system, heart and brain
✓Potassium: Needed to balance amino acids and or the nervous system
✓Chlorine:Needed to balance amino acids and or the nervous system
✓Iron: Needed for the blood cells and muscles
✓Copper:Needed for connective tissue formation
✓Zinc:Needed for connective tissue formation
It is important to remember that vitamins in excess can cause more harm than good. If you buy supplemental products for cats always read the guidelines and seek advice from a vet.
So how do i know if my cat food is nutritionally satisfactory ?
When you choose a cat food it is important to check the label for the content. You will want to know if the food is organic, where the source of protein is from, where the vitamins and minerals are coming from and if the food has been bulked out with cereals that contain little nutritional value. It is important to remember that words like deluxe or premium mean little unless they are backed up with facts.
Lets do a case study on a cat food so you can see at home how to check if your cat is getting all the nutrients it needs!
Dry Cat Food Ingredients:
So have they got the ingredients right?
✓ Protein Source: Fresh chicken, chicken meal and eggs.
Fresh chicken is one of the best sources of protein, this particular food is organic too which is always beneficial. The product is supplemented by chicken meal which is another good source of protein and amino acids . Chicken meal is a perfectly satisfactory supplement in a dry organic cat food. This food also has a small amount of protein from eggs which has the highest natural biological value of protein. This food has therefore passed the first and most important test, the protein test.
✓ Fibre and Carbohydrate Source: Grains, Carrots, Peas and Broccoli
Grains are high in fibre and are a perfectly good part of a quality cat good. They also contain vitamins and carbohydrates. It is fantastic to see natural vegetables such as carrots, peas and broccoli in a cat food. These vegetables not only contain high levels of fibre and carbohydrates which as discussed above are important for passing hair balls, they are also rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
✓ Essential Fatty Acids Source : Flaxseed Oil and Soybean Oil
Flaxseed oil and Soybean oil are high in essential fatty acids. The addition of these two products will help your cats coat and soft skin. They will also help the central nervous system.
✓ Vitamins and Minerals: Apples, Cranberries, Vegetables and Supplements
It is great to see the addition of fresh fruit in a cats diet. Apples and cranberries are high in Vitamin C which helps your cats immune system, they also provide valuable anti-oxidants. The product has been supplemented by Vitamin E which is needed to prevent oxidative damage.
As we can see we are missing some valuable vitamins and minerals so it is important to take a deeper look into all the ingredients that may be provided in a smaller print and is required by law:
As we can see the product also contains the below vital vitamins and minerals:
✓ Vitamin A
✓ Vitamin D
Nutrition for cats is important, as we can see this good quality food meets all the nutrition requirements with good quality ingredients.
But how do we know the ingredients are in the right proportion?
It is important to remember that the highest proportion of nutrition for cats should be protein. Anything from 25% to 35% is good.
Good nutrition for cats will include up up to 20% fat. Fat is important for energy but also your cats coat. Fat contains essential fatty acids that are rich in vitamins and are needed for the skin, fur and eyes.
Between 2-4 % Fibre is good. Nutrition for cats must consist of fibre any less than this amount and your cat may struggle to pass food (especially when their diet consists of high levels of protein) or hair. Any more and your cat may be losing valuable nutrition from their diet.
The rest of the food should consist of a small amount of vitamins and minerals.
Cat Food Conclusion
As we can see they have got their dry food spot on with a balanced diet of proteins, amino acids, fibres, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. It is also organic which is not essential, but beneficial for the environment and also your cats health.
Cat Nutrition Summary
To summarise the most important part of your cats diet is protein. A good quality meat protein (white fish, chicken and turkey) is recommended supplemented by the required amount of fibre, vitamins and minerals. Nutritional supplements for cats are not normally required if you are using a good quality cat food. Remember you normally get what you pay for so think about that when you are deciding which food to feed your cat! We hope our nutritional requirements for cats page helped you. If you have an article about nutrition for kittens or cats then please contact us and we may publish it on the site.