Diet is the brick and mortar of health…
Putting a little thought into what you feed your cat(s) can pay big dividends over their lifetime and very possibly help them avoid serious, painful, life-threatening, and costly illnesses.
An increasing number of nutrition-savvy veterinarians are now strongly recommending the feeding of canned food instead of dry kibble. However, many veterinarians are still recommending/condoning the feeding of dry food to cats. Sadly, this species-inappropriate source of food only serves to promote disease in our cats.
Like medical doctors for humans, veterinarians receive very little training in school regarding nutrition. And what is discussed is often taught by representatives of large pet food companies, or the curriculum is sponsored and heavily influenced by members of the commercial pet food industry. This represents a significant conflict of interest. After veterinary school, the most commonly available source for nutrition education for veterinarians continues to be the large pet food companies that manufacture so-called therapeutic/prescription diets. Unfortunately, the result is that veterinarians are not always the best source of nutrition advice.
The three key negative issues associated with dry food are:
Water content is too low
Predisposing your cat to serious and life-threatening urinary tract diseases including extremely painful and often fatal (and very expensive to treat) urethral obstructions. Cats do not have a very strong thirst drive when compared to other species. Therefore, it is critical for them to ingest a water-rich diet. This substantially lower water intake sets cats up for significant kidney, and bladder diseases, as well as urethral obstructions (especially in males), which are excruciatingly painful, costly to treat, and can be fatal
Load is too high – possibly predisposing your cat to diabetes, obesity, and intestinal disease – note that low-carb dry foods are NOT healthy diets since they are still water depleted and are harshly cooked resulting in nutrient loss/alteration
Type of protein
Too high in plant-based versus animal-based proteins – cats are obligate carnivores and designed to eat meat, not grains/plants
Other negative issues include:
- Bacterial contamination (can lead to vomiting and diarrhea)
- Fungal mycotoxins (contained in grains and are extremely toxic)
- Insects and their feces in stored grains and finished dried foods (can cause respiratory problems)
- Ingredients that often cause allergic reactions
- All dry food is harshly cooked which destroys/alters vital nutrients
Your cat may seem to be fine in younger years on a dry food diet, but it is wiser to prevent future potentially serious health issues caused by the food you have been feeding.
Cats inherently have a low thirst drive and need to consume water *with* their food. A cat’s normal prey is ~70 – 75% water; dry food is only 5-10% water. Contrary to the wishful thinking of cat owners, cats do not make up this deficit at the water bowl. Several studies have shown that cats on canned food consume double the amount of water when compared to cats on dry food when all sources (food and water bowl) are considered.
Carbohydrates wreak havoc on some cats’ blood sugar/insulin balance predisposing them to diabetes. Dry foods, as well as some canned foods, are high in carbohydrates, some much worse than others. “Grain-free” does not always mean “low-carb” since potatoes and peas are often used instead of Grains.
Cats are strict carnivores which means they are designed to get their protein from meat – not from the high level of grains/peas/potatoes found in dry food. Cats are built to get their nutritional needs met by the consumption of a large amount of animal-based proteins (meat/organs) – not plant-based proteins (grains/vegetables).
Proteins derived from animal tissues have a complete amino acid profile (the building blocks of protein). Plant proteins do not. Generally speaking, the protein in dry food, which is often heavily plant-based and always harshly cooked, is not equal in quality to the protein in canned food, which is (in most instances) meat-based and more gently cooked. The protein in dry food, therefore, earns a lower biological value score. Because plant proteins are cheaper than meat proteins, pet food companies will have a higher profit margin when using corn, wheat, soy, rice, etc.
Most canned foods, when figured on a dry matter basis (not by using the values on the can or bag which are wet weight values), contain more protein than dry food. But remember, the protein amount does not tell the whole story. It is the protein’s biological value that is critical. The average dry food contains 35-50 percent carbohydrate calories, which can severely alter the sugar/insulin balance in some cats. A high quality canned food, on the other hand, contains approximately 3-5 percent carbohydrate calories. Please note that not all canned foods are suitably low in carbohydrates since they can also contain high levels of grains, potatoes, and peas.
Contrary to a popular myth, dry food exerts no beneficial effect on dental health and has no scientific support for its use in preventing dental disease. It is often swallowed whole but even if it is chewed, it is brittle and simply shatters – providing no abrasive force against the teeth. That said, canned food also does not provide any abrasive force however with the decreased use of carbohydrates, it does not contribute to the buildup of tartar/plaque on the cat’s teeth or resultant gum disease. ). Brushing your cat’s teeth daily is the best way to keep their mouth healthy. Also, supplying chunks of meat to chew on is also helpful.
Resources for further Information on Feline Nutrition Requirements:
Sometimes cats are difficult to switch from dry food to wet food.
Here is a helpful article to help you do this:
Finding a quality, grain free, high quality protein based canned or raw diet for my cat:
(choose those canned or raw foods that have a green check in all the boxes)
(These are all very high quality health supportive foods for cats)
My Top Picks for Canned Cat Food:
- Tiki Canned Cat Food
- Pure Vita Canned Cat Food
- Nature’s Variety Instinct LID Canned Cat Food
My Top Picks for Raw Frozen Cat Food:
- Primal Raw Frozen
- Redcat Raw Frozen