Understanding Feline Nutritional Requirements
Cats, like all living creatures, require six classes of nutrients:
Water: The single most important nutrient for sustaining healthy cell and overall body function. Cats lose water through their:
Cats also have evolved to receive the majority of the water in their diets through the consumption of food. This is why sound feline nutrition includes a diet that is rich in unprocessed proteins and water. Canned cat foods are usually formulated with water content in mind, and can contain up to 80% of this feline nutrition requirement per serving.
Protein: Protein is a fundamental component of feline nutrition that is necessary for the maintenance and support of a cat’s:
Additionally, many of a cat’s functional body components are made of proteins, including:
Proteins all have their own digestibility profile, because some proteins, like fish and chicken, are more available for use in the body than other proteins, like plant and dairy. Digestibility refers to the net amount of protein that is left after the cat food’s chemical breakdown in the body.
Proteins also contain essential amino acids that synthesize, or break down and utilize, the protein molecules themselves. Amino acids are synthesized in the liver with the help of carbon and nitrogen. There are 30 total amino acids, 20 dispensable (or non-essential) and 10 non-dispensable (or essential). Dispensable refers to the ability to be safely absent from a diet. This means the 10 non-dispensable, or essential amino acids, must come from a cat’s diet. A high quality cat food that follows a sound feline nutrition requirement protocol will only use unprocessed or minimally processed fish, poultry and meat that contain upwards of 40% of this feline nutrition requirements per serving.
Essential fatty acids: Essential Fatty Acids, also known simply as fats, provide the most concentrated source of energy of any feline nutrition requirement. In cats, fats provide energy, making carbohydrates unnecessary. Fats carry fat soluble vitamins: D, E, A and K.
Fats also supply linoleic and arachidonic acids, which are essential for overall health. Cats that have fat deficiencies will display the following symptoms:
A high quality cat food will contain between 20-40% fat (essential fatty acids) of total daily calorie intake.
Vitamins: Vitamins are organic substances (made by plants or animals) that are very important feline nutrition components because they help regulate various body processes, including:
There are two types of vitamins, fat soluble and water soluble. We mentioned fat soluble vitamins above, but the difference between them is:
Fat soluble vitamins are processed and can be stored in fat cells. They are generally more sustained release than water soluble vitamins, and also have acute toxicity levels.
Water soluble vitamins must dissolve in water before the body can use them. They cannot be stored and therefore must be replenished with greater frequency than fat soluble vitamins.
The water soluble vitamins are:
The B Vitamins: Thiamine, Riboflavin, Pyridoxine, Pantothenic Acid, Niacin, B-12
A raw or minimally processed cat food diet usually fulfills vitamin requirements naturally through the use of whole foods like chicken, meat and fish. Dry foods usually add synthetic vitamins to make up for the removal of natural ones during processing. Although there is no universally accepted vitamin intake requirement for cats, exhaustive documentation exists to support vitamin intake as part of overall feline nutritional health and wellness.
Minerals: Minerals are inorganic substances that are produced in soil or water, and that are consumed by plants or animals to regulate:
Just like vitamins, there is no universally accepted mineral intake requirement for cats, but volumes of data exist indicating the need of the following minerals to help facilitate healthy body functioning:
The overall balance of a cat’s diet is affected not only by the levels of each individual minerals, but also by the interactions between them. For this reason, we recommend consulting a veterinarian or veterinary nutritionist about mineral amounts and balance when choosing cat food, or cat food supplementation.