One of the crucial responsibilities as a cat owner is to provide your cat with the essential nutrients required for its maintenance and growth. A cat’s diet needs to achieve the right balance of the five major groups of nutrients: protein, fats and oil, vitamins, minerals, and carbohydrates. A cat needs to obtain 41 different specific nutrients from cat food, and it is to be kept in mind that a pet requires nutrients not ingredients.
Cats are obligate carnivores which mean that they need meat in their diet. They require higher levels of protein which can be obtained from chicken, beef, fish, and eggs. Protein is responsible for healthy muscles, hair, and skin. It is also an integral part of the immune system and ensures transportation of oxygen. Insufficient protein in cats can lead to poor growth and coat condition, loss of muscle bulk and increased risk of infection through impaired immunity.
What ingredients should be contained in good cat’s diet?
Fat acts as fuel to a cat as it helps them stay active providing twice as much of energy as protein. Crucial fatty acids which are Omega 6 and Omega 3 are required for a healthy coat and skin as they protect internal organs.
All Vitamins (A, B, C, D, E, and K) are essential for cats. Vitamin A, E, D and K are called as fat soluble vitamins and are stored in cat’s fatty tissue, whereas, Vitamin B complex and C are called as water soluble vitamins and are excreted in the urine.
Vitamins are required in a small amount in the diet that helps and maintain growth, healthy coat and skin and also normal vision. It is also required for healing of wounds and for enabling the normal functions of the cat’s nervous system.
Minerals like phosphorous and calcium are crucial for healthy and strong bones and teeth. They are mainly important for kittens. Other vital minerals for normal body functions are magnesium, zinc, sodium, potassium, chloride, iron and copper.
Carbohydrates are not a significant component of the cat’s diet; it is, however, a source of immediate energy. Another indispensable nutrient for a cat is Taurine. It is an essential amino acid that is only found in meat protein and is mandatory for a healthy heart and good vision.
Water is an equally crucial ingredient in a cat’s diet. Amount of water that a cat requires may depends on many factors such as exercise levels, environmental temperature and if they are eating dried or wet food. A loss of only 15 per cent of their water can lead to death, and insufficient water intake can also contribute to bladder problems and cystitis. So it is necessary to provide a fresh and sufficient amount of water to cats.
There is three type of food available in the markets for the cats:
Dry food –It is cooked under high heat and pressure; fat is later sprayed on it to make it palatable. Some heat-sensitive vitamins and minor ingredients are added after the high heat process of cooking.
Wet food – Canned foods or wet foods are higher in protein and fat, and low in carbohydrate substances, than dry foods. It has more moisture than dry food. Hence, increasing the cat’s overall water intake, keeping the bladder and kidneys healthy. The high amount of fat contributes to healthy skin and coat.
Vegetarian or Vegan food – Although cats are carnivores, still one can feed them with a vegetarian diet fortified with nutrients like Taurine and Arachidonic acid.
Care needs to be taken while feeding a cat. Good-quality cat food is carefully formulated to supply the accurate balance of all the nutrients a cat requires to thrive. Adding human food to a nutritionally balanced and complete commercial cat food may upset that balance.
When looking for a healthy cat food make sure the first and main ingredient is a quality source of protein. In addition look for whole foods and grains like brown rice, peas or carrots, and quality fats like flax oil, chicken fat or even olive oil. It’s best to avoid cat foods containing artificial preservatives and colors. Many cats are sensitive to these ingredients as well.