Of all the myths around the nature and care of cats the most damaging BY FAR are the myths and outright lies around the food we feed them.
To start things off, let’s look at what food cats actually need to thrive.
Cats Need Meat To Survive
Cats are obligate carnivores. This means that, for cats, meat is an absolute biological necessity. Cats have no dietary requirement for carbohydrates. In fact, cats lack the specific enzyme that processes plant-based proteins metabolically! They are biologically unable to derive any nutritional value from plants.
In addition, cats evolved to get their fluid intake from the food they eat and, as a result, they have a very low thirst drive. Cats on a dry food diet, even when including the water they drink, consume less than half the water of a cat on a raw or wet food diet. Their thirst drive isn’t strong enough to compensate for the lack of moisture in their food. If cats don’t get enough fluid from the food they eat, they most often live in a state of mild to severe dehydration.
These are the facts.
Dry Food Is Dangerous
Commercial cat food companies would like you to believe that their food is nutritionally complete and provides everything your cat needs to be healthy. It is true that the food will keep your cat alive, but your cat will in no way be healthy and thriving.
Let’s take a closer look at commercial cat foods. Dry cat food is, by far, the most common food fed to domestic cats. This is followed distantly by canned food.
- Problem 1: Contains carbohydrates that cats can’t process. An analysis of the composition of dry cat food compared to what a cat needs is shocking. The average dry food contains 35%-50% carbohydrate calories which means that, as obligate carnivores, cats can’t process at least 35%-50% of the food fed to them. The carbohydrates will make your cat fat while providing no nutritional value.
- Problem 2: Doesn’t contain enough moisture. Dry food contains less than 10% moisture whereas cats need 65%-75% moisture content in their food to avoid dehydration.
- Problem 3: Contains insufficient animal protein. Most of the “protein” in dry and wet food is derived from plants which cats can’t process.
- Problem 4: Vital nutrients destroyed during processing. Dry food is supplemented with life-saving nutrients (like taurine) to replace the nutrients destroyed during high-heat processing.
- Problem 5: Artifically flavoured to trick cats into eating it. Dry food is coated with flavour-enhanced animal fat, grease, and other oils to trick your cat into eating something completely unpalatable. Without this fat coating, cats would never eat dry food. Ever.
If we look beyond the obvious flaws of kibble being dry and carb-filled, it gets even worse. Most commercial cat food is packed with unidentified meat byproducts and meal which could be anything (at BEST this would include rejected product deemed non-human grade, expired products, and dead animals).
The manufacturers also manipulate the ingredients list by weighing named meats before processing and other ingredients after all the moisture’s been removed (reducing it by approx. 80%). This artificially elevates named meat ingredients to the top of the list. They also split “undesireable” ingredients into two or more products to break them up and move them lower down the list.
Dry kibble at best is junk food and at worst is inedible garbage.
If you are unsure of whether your cat food is bad, there is a quick and easy reality check you can do yourself. It’s called…
The Poop Test
To quickly determine the nutritional value of the food you are feeding your cat, just look to your cat’s litter box. If the poop is small, dry, and doesn’t smell then you know that your cat has digested all the food he’s eaten.
If your cat’s poop is big, moist and smelly then you are being told quite dramatically that your cat cannot digest what you are feeding him and it is quite literally coming out the same way it went in… as indigestible shit!
Sorry. But, that’s the truth.
So, what can you do?
There are many incremental steps between the worst food (kibble) and the best food (raw diet).
Firstly, if you are free feeding your cats, stop that. Free feeding is the number one cause of obesity in cats (obviously!). Also, free feeding interferes with your cat’s hunter instincts and can lead to many behavioural problems.
Secondly, stop feeding your cats dry food and switch to a grain-free, human-grade canned food. Canned food is usually just as nutritionally deficient as dry food but it better meets the moisture requirements of cats so that’s good. And, grain-free, human-grade canned food is the best of the canned lot so look for that where possible.
Thirdly, transition your cat to a raw diet consisting of muscle meat, organ meat, and bones. This food can be homemade or can be bought in frozen or freeze-dried formats. Cats are usually addicted to their kibble (it’s formulated to be addictive) and there are many strategies to breaking their addiction and transitioning them to a healthy diet.
But, my cat is healthy? Why should I change?
Although your cat may appear “healthy”, they are even better than we are at hiding discomfort when they are ill or in pain. It’s hard to know exactly what’s happening beneath the surface.
But, the fact is we are what we eat. And the same is true for cats. The proof that our diets are severely deficient can be seen in the shocking increase in health problems over the past decades that are showing up in doctor’s offices and veterinary clinics.
For cats, a dry food diet causes them to be dehydrated and is the leading cause behind heaps of urinary tract and digestive problems. In addition, feeding cats food high in carbohydrates leads to a number of chronic and degenerative diseases, including obesity, diabetes, kidney disease, and inflammatory bowel disease.
Like a person on a steady fast food diet, cats on kibble and canned food diets are walking around in a junk food stupor. They are living, but they are definitely not thriving.
If your start feeding your cat a biologically appropriate diet, the change will be transformative. Your cats will have more energy, be more present, their coat will be silkier and shiner, and they will be much, much healthier. In fact, humans would have the same all around improvements as well if we cut out the processed food and ate properly.
While your cat may live a long life on dry kibble, why not choose an optimally healthy life for your pet? Feed to thrive, not just survive.
Cindy, Pickles, Peanut and Pumpkin
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