Nutritional Guidelines for Feeding Cats

Feeding cats a healthy balanced diet requires some basic knowledge of feline nutrition. Feline nutrition isn't complicated and commercially available cat foods should provide all the nutrition your cat needs.

Nutrients Cats Need

Cats have evolved to be carnivores, subsisting on a diet of meat. Because of this, cats need a diet high in protein. A cat's stomach is small and its intestines short because they're suited to digesting meat, just as a cat's sharp, pointy teeth are suited to killing prey and tearing flesh.

Cats also derive a lot of their energy from fat. In nature, they would meet their vitamin and mineral requirements by eating the flesh and organs of their prey (many organs, like the liver, are high in vitamins and minerals). Commercial cat food provides domestic cats with the vitamins and minerals they need. Cats need very few carbohydrates, so any food your feed your cat should be high in protein and fats and low in carbohydrates.

Feline Water Requirements and Intake

Domestic house cats are descended from the African Wildcat, a desert hunter who receives most of its liquid requirement from ingesting the blood and body fluids of its prey; the bodies of most mammals are made up almost entirely of water. Because of this, domestic cats don't drink a lot of water. Instead, they need to get their water requirement from a diet that contains moist canned food.

Cats may drink more water when they're fed dry food, but that's because they're getting so little moisture from their diets. Cats fed on a diet that contains canned food obtain most of their moisture requirement from the diet itself and drink little water. Cats fed on dry food only become more prone to calcium deposits that can obstruct the urinary tract and lead to death. That's because the water cats drink when they're fed a dry food diet goes to help digest the food and most of it is expelled in the stool, rather than in the urine, so urine becomes more concentrated and urination occurs less frequently.

When feeding cats use a diet that contains both dry and canned food. The high moisture content of the canned food ensures that your cat's liquid requirements are met. Keep dry food available so that your cat can eat frequently, whenever he wants. If your cat were to depend on hunting for his food, he would hunt an animal every few hours.

Cat Vitamin and Mineral Needs

Cats need a range of vitamins and minerals for good health. Some of the vitamins cats need include:

  • B Complex
  • Vitamins E, C, A, K and D
  • Magnesium

Commercially prepared cat foods contain these vitamins. If you're preparing your own cat food at home, you should feet not only the flesh of animals but organs like the liver. You can also add cooked vegetables to your cat's diet. Your cat can digest cooked vegetables because felines in nature often eat the stomach contents of their prey, which are usually vegetable in nature.