What you feed your cats will impact their health for the length of their lives, so choosing the best food is one of the most important decisions you’ll make as a cat parent. With the overwhelming array of choices available and opinions diverging widely, it can be overwhelming to choose.
A species-appropriate diet for life-long health
Diet is the foundation of good health. We can’t control our cats’ genetics, but we can control what we feed them. A species-appropriate diet will help your cat thrive and prevent future potentially serious health issues. The better educated you are about feeding your cat, the healthier your cat will be.
Cats are obligate carnivores, which means they need meat in their diet not only to survive, but to thrive. The optimal diet for a cat is a properly formulated raw, home-cooked or grain-free canned diet.
Why dry food is not a good choice for cats
There’s no question that dry food is convenient. It’s also the equivalent of junk food for cats.
Think about dry food as similar to feeding kids an exclusive diet of sugary cereals. Dry foods, even the premium varieties, are too low in protein and contain too many fillers. Cat cannot get enough nutritional support from plant-based proteins such as grains and vegetables, because, unlike humans and dogs, they lack the specific enzyme that processes plant-based proteins metabolically.
A high carb feline diet can lead to any number of degenerative diseases, including diabetes, kidney disease, and inflammatory bowel disease. Dry food can cause urinary tract problems, and it is responsible for the obesity epidemic among cats.
Dry food is a leading cause of urinary tract problems
Dry food is a leading cause or urinary tract problems in cats, including kidney disease. Cats evolved from desert dwellers and have a low thirst drive. I In the wild, they get sufficient moisture from their prey. While cats who eat only dry food will generally drink more water, they still don’t get enough moisture to support optimal hydration for healthy bodily functions. These cats essentially live in a constant state of low level dehydration.
Free choice feeding leads to obesity
There is no question that dry food is convenient because it can be left out all day. Unfortunately, free choice feeding almost inevitably leads to weight gain. It goes against cats’ nature. Feeding two or more small meals a day mimics their natural hunting behavior. Meal feeding also makes portion control easier, and calorie intake and weight can be controlled without the cat going hungry.
But what about the teeth?
Contrary to what you may think, and what some veterinarians sadly still tell their clients, dry food does not clean your cat’s teeth. Cats tend to not chew their food long enough for any of the scraping action that is the theory behind this myth to kick in. It also just doesn’t make sense. If you dentist told you that all you need do to keep your teeth clean was to chew on hard pretzels or crackers, you would change dentists, wouldn’t you? Additionally, dry food leaves a carbohydrate residue in the cat’s mouth that actually encourages growth of tartar and plaque.
But my vet says dry food is okay
In an ideal world, your veterinarian would be the expert on feline nutrition. Sadly, the reality is that the nutrition curriculum in veterinary schools is limited, and often sponsored by the same large pet food companies that make dry food. Thankfully, many veterinarians are more open-minded and are educating themselves about nutrition independently from the big pet food companies. Sometimes, that education starts as a result of educated cat parents questioning their recommendations, so don’t be afraid to ask questions!
The one best thing you can do for your cat is to stop feeding dry food and feed a meat based, grain-free raw, homemade or canned diet which is consistent with the biological needs of a carnivore.
Image Pixabay stock photo