Real Food for Real Cats

Pet Health and Safety  •   Pam Karkow  •   Sep 07, 2017

While doing the grocery shopping recently, I asked my kids to pick out a multivitamin since we had run out.  I try really hard to make sure they get vitamins and minerals they need from the foods they eat, but I am also aware that there are days they do not get their recommended fruit and vegetable servings.  I was shocked when I viewed the ingredients list on the side of the bottle they brought me.  Blue #2, Red #40, Yellow #6, sucralose, and sugar were just a few of the ingredients that sounded alarms in my head.

We have to remain vigilant about the ingredients we allow ourselves and our kids to ingest, and we must do the same for our pets.  Added sugar can wreak havoc on our metabolism and overall health and many sugar substitutes have not been studied enough for us to know if they are safe.  Pet foods, like people foods, are not immune to the addition of harmful ingredients.

Dr. Jennifer Coates noticed a trend in the cat food world with the introduction of foods like Tasty Treasures, Marinated Morsels, Divine Duos, and Seafood Sensations.  These foods have less going for them than just bad alliteration, many of them contain ingredients that are just not good  or necessary for a cat’s health.  Coates shares an ingredient list she came across that included cranberries, blueberries, spearmint, and thyme.  Although these ingredients are not necessarily harmful to your cat, they can give cat owners the false sense that human foods are perfectly acceptable for their felines.  And while in small doses, sharing people food with your cat is typically ok, it is important to remember that cats’ digestive systems are different than ours and that cat foods exist for a reason.  Coates reflects on the Australian kitten who nearly died after being fed a vegan diet consisting of potatoes, rice milk, and pasta.  The kitten was nursed back to health with IV fluids and a meat diet.  The Melbourne, Australia Herald Sun released the story of the malnourished kitten back in July of 2013, warning owners not to “force ideologies” on their pets. 

Protein is an important part of a cat’s diet and is vital to building and maintaining muscle, hair growth, and other anatomical structures.  Cats also use protein as their primary energy source.  So it comes as no surprise that cats need to eat a lot of protein in order to remain healthy and to have enough energy to sustain them throughout the day.  In her blog post, Everything You Need to Know about Cat Food and Protein, Dr. Jennifer Coates explains more about protein in cats’ diets, and the relationship between protein and amino acids.  Without essential amino acids, cats can experience serious health problems and even death.  Coates recommends cat owners check for the AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) statement of “nutritional adequacy.”  This signifies the food contains the minimum amount of protein and essential amino acids cats require.

It is also a good idea to read the ingredients list, just like I did with my kids’ multivitamin.  Animal-based protein sources (egg, meat, dairy, and fish) contain more essential amino acids than plant-based protein sources. 


If the old adage is true, you are what you eat, I sure do want to know what I am feeding my people, and that means my furry people too!

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