Cat Nutrition Guide

dinnercat
Photo by Judy Reinen/Creative Shotz

Cat nutrition is not complicated. In fact, it is really quite simple. However, many people – from pet parents to veterinarians and even pet retailers that deal in pet food – often tend to make the subject complicated because they just don’t have a full comprehension of the ideal diet for kitties.

Below is the 411 about what felines need to consume – and what they should avoid – to remain happy and healthy for a lifetime.

Cats Need Meat

Cats are obligate carnivores that are predatory by nature. This means that they require meat, period, because they need protein and animal fat, plus all of the essential nutrients, vitamins and minerals that meat products contain in order to survive, and thrive.

Cats need:

  • Amino acids such as taurine (more about this below)
  • Essential fatty acids
  • Minerals including calcium, phosphorus and magnesium
  • Vitamins such as A, B complex, D, E and K

It is also very important to bear in mind that cats have different nutritional needs from dogs. Unlike cats, dogs are classified as omnivores or carnivorous – I am of the opinion that they are the latter – not obligate carnivores. They have different digestive systems, and their bodies synthesize and utilize foods differently from cats.

The Importance of Taurine for Cats

This is a very crucial essential amino acid that is especially critical to cat health, as a deficiency in this can result in blindness, heart ailments and death. Most mammals, including dogs and humans, synthesize this on their own. Cats, however, do not. So their diets must contain the proper amount of this for their survival.

In the 1970s, there were a number of reported cases of cat blindness and deaths from dilated cardiomyopathy. This was later attributed to a severe lack of taurine in the new wave of commercial pet foods and the growing popularity of dry foods/kibble, which contained more plant as opposed to meat protein.

This is another one of the many reasons why cats need meat, because this is a prime source of taurine, and this cannot be overemphasized.

What Cats Don’t Need

As cats are obligate carnivores, they do not need plant matter, fruits or vegetables for survival. With the exception of onions, garlic, grapes and raisins, which can be toxic to cats, fruits and veggies in moderation won’t hurt them. In fact, a number of holistic veterinarians recommend adding a bit of pureed pumpkin to foods for cats that suffer from diarrhea, constipation, inflammatory bowel disease and other digestive issues.

Some cats actually like fruits and veggies. My late Omar adored watermelon and natural frozen fruit bars, and I have a friend whose cat goes gaga for steamed asparagus. So a little certainly won’t hurt them.

Otherwise, top cat nutrition experts insist that cats do not need grains, ever – even the high-quality ones – because felines cannot properly digest these and may be allergic to grains, which can cause feline eosinophilic granulom – also known as “rodent ulcer.” Furthermore, grains and diets that are too high in carbs contribute to any number of cat ailments, from diabetes to heart disease, obesity and many others.

That means that they should not be fed grains in any form, including foods that contain cereal grains such as wheat and glutens, rice, barley and oats, as well as corn or soy and starches such as potatoes and peas.

The Dry Food Controversy

Many cat nutrition purists are dead set against feeding felines dry foods/kibble in any form, ever, even the grain-free varieties. Two experts who are especially vocal about this are veterinarians Dr. Lisa Pierson and Dr. Jean Hofve.

Dr. Lisa, who also happens to be a leading proponent of raw diets for cats, points out that dry foods tend to be too low in moisture, too high in carbohydrates and contain far too high a level of plant as opposed to animal-based proteins.

Dr. Jean further points out that the manner in which dry pet foods are processed, at high rates of heat, can often destroy essential nutrients, and the lack of moisture can contribute to or even outright cause such ailments as kidney and bladder stones and urinary tract ailments, among other issues.

This is why the die-hard purists highly recommend that cats be fed the raw diet or high quality canned foods that contain meat products first and foremost.

However, a great many cat parents refuse to give up their kibble. So it’s a wise idea to opt for brands that are high in meat, are low in carbs and do not contain grains. And try to avoid feeding cats dry foods exclusively.

Do Not Forget the Water

Last but certainly not least, cats need water! As they are descended from desert animals, cats are not inclined to seek water and are subsequently prone to dehydration, which can be life threatening. This is another big reason why cat nutrition purists are against feeding cats dry foods, and believe they should exclusively be fed wet foods.

So make sure that your kitties have plenty of H2O available to them at all times.

Top Vet Warns About Trifexis and Comfortis

Dr. Andrew Jones, DVM, better known as the “Online Vet,” is warning dog parents about two relatively new meds: Trifexis and Comfortis.

These are both chewable tablets administered to pooches on a monthly basis. Tefiexis is prescribed to treat fleas, hookworm, roundworm, whipworms and heart worm, while Comfortis is used specifically to treat fleas.

According to Dr. Jones, the FDA has recorded approximately 340 dog deaths associated with these meds, with reports of side effects in 26,000 pets.

The main culprit appears to be the ingredient spinosad, a natural insecticide in use in the U.S. since the late 1990s.

There have been reports of numerous effects from these meds including vomiting, diarrhea, convulsions, depression, lethargy, loss of appetite, among many others, and death.

The doc said on his Veterinary Secrets website: “Clearly, there are serious problems with this drug, and the FDA should be warning pet owners and veterinarians about these potential side effects before more dogs become ill or die.”

For more info and a full list of side effects, please see the doc’s website.

Lily Makes Her Debut on the Cat Walk

Lily Bride Best
Photo by Carol Zytnik/MTV.com

On Aug. 2, there was a meow-velous shindig held at Manhattan’s legendary Algonquin Hotel to benefit the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals.

Highlights of the event included a grand reception with food, open bar and raffle; a Petco van bearing kitties available for adoption; celebrity guests such as Vito Vincent, the kitty star of the show “Breakfast at Tiffany’s;” and a fur-bulous cat fashion show featuring 14 feline fashionistas … including my own Lily.

The show was organized by acclaimed pet fashion designer and animal welfare advocate Ada Nieves, and was fashioned on a Broadway show theme, with kitties dressed in costumes from such shows as “Wicked,” “Chicago,” “Rock of Ages” and others.

Lily, who is 5 months old, was dressed as the bride from “Mamma Mia,” in a gorgeous white satin beaded gown and tulle veil.

Unfortunately, she did not enjoy herself. Although she was not adverse to being petted and stroked by her many admirers, she preferred to spend her time in her carrier, away from the crowd and constant flash of cameras.

But it was all for a furry worthy cause. The event netted a reported $7,000 in donations, and most if not all of the cats and kittens available for adoption found fur-ever homes.

To view more cat-tastic pics, click here.

No, They Can’t Take That Away from Me!

Many of you may remember me as the Pet Shops editor for About.com, a position I proudly held for close to four years.

dog-playing-pianoSadly, the company decided to terminate a slew of writers in recent times, and I unfortunately was one of them. During one particular wave of terminations, I and seven of my colleagues were given the axe with no warning, whereby we were abruptly locked out of our websites and company e-mail accounts.

Some of these fine folks had been with the company since the beginning, or almost the beginning, with tenures of 15 years or more on the front lines of About. Regardless, we were all stunned, shocked, hurt and angry at the manner through which we were let go.

The majority of us are friends, and we have spent a lot of time commiserating and wondering why the company decided to cut us loose. The only reason we were given was that this was a “business decision,” whatever that means. Be that as it may, we all poured our hearts and souls into our sites, even in light of the ever-diminishing returns, and all felt like homeless orphans after the axe fell.

But there is one thing that my colleagues and I all agree about: We all did extraordinary work and acquired a terrific set of skills through our association with About. More importantly, at least in my opinion, is that our time with the company enabled us to become a part of a global community of wonderful people who shared our passions, and whose lives we helped to enrich – and vice versa.

I met so many wonderful people among my readers and colleagues, who have become dear friends. And I built a site and a personal brand based upon advocating for the well-being of pets on a retail industry level, which is sorely needed within this booming industry.

They can take away my website, they can take away my company e-mail account, they can take away my job, they can take away my livelihood …

But they can’t take away the amazing, heartfelt work I did, or my passion for my topic, or my love of animals, or my pride, or my dignity … or my ability to continue to advocate on behalf of companion animals, and the people who love them.

No, they can’t take that away from me.