It’s feeding time at your house. You know this because Leo and Luna have begun the chorus and their dancing routine in the kitchen as you start preparing their kitty chow. Leo and Luna love their cat food, but what do you really know about it? Perhaps it tastes good to them, but is it healthy? Will it keep them fit and trim? Are there better options? These are a lot of questions, but there’s no need to feel stressed. Cat owners pondering feline feeding options can find the right answers to their cat chow questions with a little research and background.
Whether choosing between moist or dry cat food, feeding twice daily or on a regular basis, cat owners must keep nutrition in mind. (Understanding the meaning of the word synthesize—the ability to form a new material by combining parts or elements from other things—will be helpful, too.) Cats require six basic nutrients: protein, fat, carbohydrates, minerals, vitamins, and—of course—water.
Classified as true carnivores by the scientific community, cats need protein derived from meat, fish, eggs (raw eggs are a bad option, though), and poultry. Plant foods like grains, vegetables, and beans do possess some protein and amino acids, but they are limited. Quality protein sources contain the amino acids essential for all felines. Amino acids help strengthen the immune system and aid in producing antibodies (for fighting diseases), enzymes, and hormones. Amino acids also help build tissue, assist in maintaining a proper pH balance, and promote natural growth.
Nutritionists divide amino acids into two categories: essential and non-essential. Essential amino acids cannot be synthesized in sufficient quantities for cats, so they must be supplied in the diet. These elements are labeled as arginine, methionine, histidine, phenylalanine, isoleucine, threonine, leucine, tryptophan, lysine, valine, and—of course—taurine. (Derived only from animal protein, taurine is an absolutely essential amino acid found only in meat, eggs, and fish. Without taurine, cats risk damage to the eyes, brain, and nerves, heart, and digestive tract—as well as the immune and reproductive systems. Cats can also die from extreme taurine deficiencies.)
On the other hand, non-essential amino acids can be synthesized by a cat and can come from an existing healthy diet. So, finding quality protein sources for your feline is imperative to long-term health.
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What your kitty needs are the essential fatty acids derived from fat. Besides supplying some energy, fatty acids help maintain vision, reproduction, and immune system support. Proper levels of fats also provide body insulation and protect internal organs. Cats must consume a wealth of fatty acids via quality protein. In fact, some essential fatty acids like arachidonic only come from meat. Linoleic acid and others must be supplied for felines because they cannot synthesize it. Omega-3 and -6, plus at least seven other acids benefit feline wellness by healing inflammation, supporting joint function, plus at least seven other acids benefit feline wellness by healing inflammation, supporting joint function, maintaining a healthy intestinal tract, and encouraging kidney function. Many fatty acids are found on a cat’s fat menu and can be supplied by feeding kitty high quality, adult cat food.
While cats don’t require massive carb-loading, a little bit makes for a healthier kitty. There is no minimum requirement, but felines benefit from a minimum glucose requirement to supply energy to vital organs for things like brain function. A little bit of fiber (a good carbohydrate) goes a long way, too, by blending with the bacterial population in the small intestine to reduce chronic diarrhea. However, for cats the best fiber options should be moderately fermentable because they mix better with the good bacteria in the feline digestive tract. Adult and grown cats do better with higher fiber diets than young cats since fiber does not supply the immense energy the youngsters need to grow, thrive, and cause all the chaos kittens are known to do.
Although a cat requires several minerals for development and well-being, many of them can be obtained from quality feline pet food without having to use supplements. This depends on the bioavailability of the mineral, meaning how well it is absorbed internally. Minerals perform many jobs in a cat’s system like immune system protection, pH balance, transportation of nutrients and oxygen inside the body, and maintaining tissue and bone structure. Many minerals are called by their more recognizable names like calcium, chloride, cobalt, copper, fluorine, iodine, iron, magnesium, molybdenum, phosphorous, potassium, selenium, silicon, sodium, sulfur, and zinc. A few other minerals are needed only in trace levels by felines.
These substances are usually found in food and a cat’s body will often synthesize the elements from food. Vitamins play a role in metabolism regulation and growth function. Vitamins are labeled as either flat or water-soluble. Fat soluble vitamins like A, D, E, and K are stored in a feline’s body. Water-soluble vitamins, like C and B-Complex are passed through the body. As carnivores, cats can only synthesize certain vitamins through animal protein consumption.
Cats need access to fresh, clean water at all times. Like all other living creatures, water is essential for survival.
If your head is reeling from all of this info and you wonder how you can possibly figure out what is the best course for your cat’s diet, don’t despair. About three key facts will make cat food selection much easier.
First, ask your veterinarian for recommendations. Since they see cats on a regular basis, they’ll have more experience with food options.
Second, name brand quality pet food manufacturers will have the resources and financing to thoroughly research, develop, and implement nutritious healthy feline food for adult cats with varied physical needs.
Third, look for the name American Association of Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) on any cat food you are considering. This group monitors and set standards for companion animal food by evaluating the nutritional adequacy of adult cat foods through scientific feeding tests. These three pieces of information take much of the anxiety out of feline food selection.
For adult cats, the amount of food they receive will vary depending on the product selected and on each pet’s level of activity. Food packaging will provide instructions for amounts to feed mature cats daily. From that, you may have to tinker a bit. If you would classify your feline as more of a couch potato (in other words: always happy to nap via lap or other spot), he may not need the recommended daily amount to keep in shape.
However, if your cat is go-go-go for much of his day, he may need more chow to maintain his energy. The critical thing is to keep your cat at an acceptable weight level because it prevents a slew of health problems associated with feline obesity. Weight maintenance for an adult makes a huge difference in quality of life.
Be ready, then, for your kitty herd to come running when they hear the can opener being worked on the lid of their favorite food. No need to call anyone to the cat dinner table because they are always ready to dine. You can relax and give yourself a pat on the back for making sure your precious pets are eating the best, nutritious, and quality cat food available to keep them fit, trim, and happy.