Cooking for a Cat: Basic of Feline Nutritional Needs

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Cooking for a Cat: Basic of Feline Nutritional Needs

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Cooking for a cat is not a simple task, as we can think. In order to provide all necessary nutrients for cats, we have to inform ourselves thoroughly. Any missing ingredient represents a huge health risk in a long run. Thus, knowing what the cats’ basic nutritional needs are can help us to understand better what constitutes a rich and balanced diet. Cats’ nutritional requirements are, at its core, completely different from humans’. They need a vast amount of protein and fat in their diet. Cats’ high-quality diet should consist of 85% meat, offal, and fats. Some people add a certain amount of bones. The rest of their diet can include vegetables and herbs. Cats also need a high quantity of vitamin A, B, and E. Also, the most missing ingredient is taurine, which they can take from red meat and poultry, especially from livers. If we want to go deeper in this type of research, the article “Your Cat’s Nutritional Needs: The Basics” elaborates every essential building block for cats’ proper diet in detail.

Cooking for a Cat: Basic of Feline Nutritional Needs

Protein. Dietary protein supplies essential amino acids and is needed for the manufacture of antibodies, enzymes, hormones, and tissues and for proper pH balance. It provides energy for cats and is essential for growth and development. Complete proteins contain ample amounts of essential amino acids and are found in foods such as meat, fish, eggs, and poultry. Incomplete proteins do not provide allessential amino acids and are found in many foods, including legumes, grains, and vegetables. These plant proteins don’t supply the essential amino acids that a cat needs (such as taurine), which come from animal protein.

Cats need animal sources of this nutrient, as the amino acids from vegetable sources aren’t well utilized. How much each animal may need can vary slightly due to a variety of factors, including physiological state, age, activity, and the digestibility of the protein source being fed. Overall, cats have a very high requirement for protein.

Fat. This concentrated source of energy also provides essential fatty acids and aids in nutrient utilization and transportation. It’s involved in cell integrity and metabolic regulation as well. Saturated fat is found primarily in animal sources, while polyunsaturated fat comes mostly from plants.

Fats (and oils) are composed of fatty acids, sometimes referred to as “vitamin F.” The following are the fatty acids most involved in feline health: omega-3 fatty acids, which include alpha-linolenic acid, eicosapentaenoic acid, and docosahexaenoic acid; and omega-6 fatty acids, including linoleic acid, gamma-linolenic acid, arachidonic acid, and conjugated linoleic acid.

Linoleic and arachidonic acids have long been considered to be essential fatty acids for cats. More recently, DHA has been added due to its important contribution to feline vision, reproductive health, and the immune system. EPA may also be of benefit.

Essential fatty acids are just what they sound like — essential for the cat’s health — and they must be obtained from food sources. Unlike some animals, felines don’t efficiently convert plant sources of EFAs to the needed derivatives. For example, cats must eat meat to obtain arachidonic acid. Also, they don’t convert LA to GLA (as some animals do), and studies show that GLA can benefit the health of feline skin and coat. We can theorize that in nature, the cat would eat another animal whose body had already made the conversion, thereby offering some of this useful fatty acid. The cat would also consume omega-3s and CLA when eating its natural herbivorous prey.

To sum up, LA; AA; DHA (which is mostly found in nature with other useful omega-3s); and to a lesser extent, EPA and GLA, can be considered important fatty acids for good feline health. CLA may become recognized as a bigger player in feline nutrition in the future because it’s found in the meat and fat of a cat’s natural diet, but it has only recently been “discovered” by nutritional science.

Minerals. These are essential to the cat and are involved in almost all physiological reactions. They contribute to enzyme formation, pH balance, nutrient utilization, and oxygen transportation and are stored in bone and muscle tissue. Biological availability may vary widely depending on the source of the nutrient. Elemental minerals are generally taken from the earth or water; chelated minerals are those that are bound with other organic substances, often making them easier for the body to absorb.

Minerals include calcium, chloride, chromium, cobalt, copper, fluorine, iodine, iron, magnesium, manganese, molybdenum, phosphorous, potassium, selenium, silicon, sodium, sulfur, and zinc. There are others that cats require at trace concentrations. Minerals, like vitamins, work synergistically, with a cooperative action between them.

Vitamins. These nutrients are essential for metabolism regulation and normal growth and function. Usually found in food, some are synthesized within the animal’s body. They’re classified as either fat or water soluble.

Fat-soluble vitamins include A, D, E, and K. The water-soluble group includes C and the B complex. Generally, fat-soluble vitamins are stored in the body, while water-soluble ones pass through more quickly. Once again, the carnivorous cat utilizes animal sources of nutrients more readily than plant sources. For example, felines can’t convert beta-carotene from plants into vitamin A (as some animals do), so they need preformed vitamin A from an animal source. This type needs no conversion.

Water. Because cats are designed to fulfill most of their water requirements by eating fresh raw food, they naturally have a low thirst drive. This can lead to health issues when they eat dry food products and treats. One of the problems is that even though they become dehydrated eating the kibble, their natural “programming” may not encourage them to drink more, and their urine can become too concentrated. Even though a healthy cat doesn’t drink much, you should always have clean drinking water available. And please make sure it’s good quality, which means that just turning on the faucet may be out, especially if your community puts fluoride in the water supply. If you have a well, get it tested annually for contaminants.

Even though the manufacturers of the cats’ food claim that they include all necessary ingredients in cats’ optimal diet, a recent research has discovered the negative effects of too much carbohydrate content in cats’ dry food. As we have seen in the quote, our feline pets do not need carbohydrates in their diet. Moreover, according to veterinarians, diet with too much grain can cause diseases and decrease longevity of our cat. Although processed food has its pros and cons, we should be careful with homemade food. Whether we decide to feed our cats with a raw meat diet, cook for the cat, or combine the two, we should bear in mind that we have done our research thoroughly and completely. The new diet should not deprive the cat of any essential ingredient. On the other hand, no matter how carefully, we have done our task, the one thing is certain – our cat does not like big changes. It is highly recommended to introduce these dietary changes gradually and give the cat time to adapt to it.

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