So you want to start a holistic diet for your cat? Great! There can be a lot of information that comes along with this sort of transition but I’m going to keep it as easily digestible as possible. You may be coming into this with absolutely no knowledge of cat nutrition and that’s OK. You’re taking an important step in nutritional awareness for the well-being of your cat. In time, you will find yourself wanting to expand on this information as you continue to learn!
Essential Nutritional Needs
You must keep in mind this is stuff that cats do not produce on their own, or need help to produce it. Humans also go through the same process, that is why we eat.
- High protein. Cats need higher amounts of protein versus dogs because of the rate at which their liver enzymes break down protein. Absolutely core for your cat.
- Essential amino acids. These are found in dietary protein and any deficiency in these can lead to SERIOUS health problems! Taurine and Arginine are examples of amino acids.
- Essential fatty acids. Dietary fats provide the most concentrated energy a cat can get. Arachidonic acid and various Omega-3 and Omega-6 acids fall into this category.
- Vitamin A. Cats don’t have the enzyme to break down beta carotene into retinol- you’ll see this as retinyl palmitate mostly in cat foods.
- Niacin, a type of Vitamin B. Adult cats deprived of Niacin will eventually lose weight and experience a loss of appetite.
- Various Minerals– Cats also need calcium, sodium and phosphorus. There are 12 known essential minerals cats need.
Cats are obligatory Carnivores!
This shouldn’t need a lot of explanation. Cats are built to process animal proteins. No ifs ands or buts about it. Please think about this first and foremost. Also, do not ever buy your cat cans of food or anything that has cheese or dairy in it- I’ve seen it before and it’s pretty revolting it’s allowed to be shelved.
The protein you serve your cat absolutely must be animal-based and NOT plant-based. In fact, plant-based foods can actually strain the organs, which is never a good thing. Cats also cannot thrive on vegetarian diets unlike humans or dogs. We can break down those enzymes efficiently, but cats can’t! A cat on a vegetarian diet is one of the worst things I can think of.
Speaking of which, did you know most commercial cat dry foods are based on plant-protein? That’s because it’s cheaper to make. This leads us into our next topic…
Break free from dry food
I know I know. I had my cat eating dry food for most of his life up until 6 years ago. If you’re willing to go holistic, you should go all the way into at least feeding wet food, especially if you don’t want to go into raw food. If for some reason that’s out of your budget (it really does not cost that much more to buy wet vs. dry) pick out the highest quality holistic dry food you can find that is mostly animal-protein. In fact, I have a hard time even calling dry cat food “holistic.”
Dry food also contains unnecessary amounts of carbohydrates. Cats in the wild would never consume the amount of carbs that come in dry foods. They don’t have a dietary need for carbs and carbs happen to make up 35 to 50% of dry food- meaning it’s just filler content to “fill up” your cat. Awesome (sarcasm if you couldn’t tell).
Don’t be played by these brands.
Now, take into consideration a high quality canned food or wet food brand has 3 to 5% carb calories. Be aware there are still low quality wet food brands to watch out for!
So what this means for you is finding high quality wet food that is grain free and gluten free.
High protein does NOT destroy your cat’s kidneys as they age
This is a strange myth perpetrated by commercial brands. How did this even start? The answer is poor manufacturing of quality of proteins. That is, high plant-protein as discussed earlier, is the culprit here. This is the protein that makes a cat’s organs and kidneys work harder than it should, as they are packed with soy and corn.
Once again, cats just can’t process this like humans can. It is just essential for aging animals to continue to eat high quality animal proteins, and it’s nonsense to think otherwise.
Studies have shown that aging cats, including cats with kidney disease need more protein instead of less! Again, this is boiling down to the types of proteins you are giving your cat. Cats with kidney and renal disease do best eating wet ( a MUST for kidney disease), human grade food (holistic food). A lifetime of over processed dry food may lead your cat to kidney problems in the future. Genetics will also play a role in your cat’s health.
So the question shouldn’t be how much protein, but rather what is the quality of the protein?
Intimidated by all of these words? Don’t be, you don’t have to learn every single aspect of fatty acids or amino acids to point your cat in the right direction. You’re just an owner trying your best like I was just a few years ago! Work together with your little buddy, you’ll both find something you love.
As a disclaimer, I’m not a veterinarian. I have been researching this topic for about 6 years now and have found food my cat likes and is good for him through trial and error. It’s been a slow process trying to find the right food for Shadow, but it is so much easier than it was just a few years ago to find organic, holistic, and raw cat food. I want more people in general to care about what their cat is ingesting.
Here are some sources I use when researching cat nutrition: