Your Cat Is An Obligate Carnivore. Here’s Why They Want You To Remember That.

Folks, we’re here to fill you in on something that people seem to keep forgetting or wanting to force the issue: cats are obligate carnivores.

Since the beginning of time, cats of all sizes have relied on their hunting skills to catch prey. Whether you’re looking at a lion, a tiger, or that cute little kitty sitting on your lap, felines are, in fact, predators. Think of the way that your cat hunts and stalks its prey. Whether it’s toys or rodents, your cat relies on their instincts to zero in on their “kill” and make it theirs.

What exactly is an obligate carnivore, you might be wondering? Well, it means exactly what it says: they are obliged to be carnivorous. 

Cats are different from dogs, we know that without question. And of all these differences, one of the main ones is that felines cannot digest carbohydrates the way that canines can. In other words, your cat MUST eat a high protein diet in order to survive. This is not an option. By going against what is vital to their well-being you can harm, or worse, kill them. The nutrients found in meat are essential to their growth and to the maintenance of all their vital systems.

According to Marla McGeorge, JD, DVM, a feline specialist consultant out of Portland, Oregon: “Vegetarian or vegan diets fail to provide the amino acids necessary for proper feline health and are too high in carbohydrates that cats have not evolved to be able to process.”

About your cat’s delicate digestive system:

The feline digestive tract is short, and unable to process the nutrients contained in plant matter. In addition to this, cats require taurine as a fundamental building block of good health. Taurine is a nutrient that can be found in animal flesh, though the best quantities are located in the organ meat; specifically the liver and heart.

When you go to purchase cat food from the store for your feline friend, there’s always one crucial first step you must take. Look at the back of the bag on the ingredients list. Meat must be the top ingredient. And fillers? No, no, no. That is no bueno when it comes to your cat. It’s our job as cat owners to protect them and provide them with the proper diet to keep them healthy and strong.

OBLIGATE CARNIVORE, BY EXACT DEFINITION:

  • Obligate (adjective): ob•li•gate • biologically essential for survival • restricted to one particularly characteristic mode of life
  • Carnivore (noun): car•ni•vore • an animal that feeds primarily or exclusively on animal matter

We know that cats do not have the ability to taste sweetness so they aren’t likely to go dipping into your candy stash. But a cat should not be presented with foods that do not adhere to the diet restrictions of an obligate carnivore.

Wondering what human foods your cat can eat? Check out our article on it here: 7 Human Foods You Can Share With Your Cat

Humans have the ability to decide their food preferences for themselves because they have the means to break down plant matter, meat and carbohydrates, but the same cannot be said for our feline friends. Your cat must eat meat for survival. Please, do not try to put your cat on a vegan or vegetarian diet because you yourself are a one. Your cat must eat meat in order to live and they do not care about social welfare or human ethics. After all, your cat is an opportunist. Same goes for dogs. When presented with an opportunity, they’re going to jump for it. And they aren’t likely to regret it or ask questions later.

The idea of a vegetarian cat is a contradiction, if not a deadly paradox. Becoming a vegetarian is not a viable nutritional alternative for a cat. Feline nutrition is optimized when the primary source is meat.

What Should You Look For When Purchasing Cat Food?

As we mentioned above, meat should always be the first ingredient in your cat’s store-bought food. Specifically, the meat will be listed as a named protein. Look for chicken, turkey, lamb, salmon, etc.

Always keep in mind that cats have evolved as hunters who consume prey. Their kill contains high amounts of protein, moderate amounts of fat, and a minimal amount of carbohydrates, and their diet still requires these general proportions today. Do your due diligence and keep their dietary restrictions in mind so that they the two of you can live a long and happy life together.

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23 Comments

  1. Thanks for this – I have seen too many post with people thinking it’s ok too make a cat vegan.

  2. We did our research after our last cat passed due to health issues (IBD) and decided that our next (and now current) cats would be on an all raw diet. We get their food from farms who specifically raise animals (turkey, chicken, rabbit, emu, beaver, etct) for their raw food consumption. While it’s a little more work (we can’t just leave food out), we know this is EXACTLY what they need.

  3. All animals, besides the plants, were given as food in Genesis 9, so I eat everything. But if cats don’t have a sweet tooth why does Flora like honey? Another cat wanted whatever you had including bread! As for science, pandas digestive tract isn’t the type to process vegetables, but look what happened with that. Apparently other bears also eat berries and honey, so I think animals, like us, eat whatever’s available.

    • Why not go with science instead of mythology? Geez louise. Pandas are evolved (GASP) from bears, but they started eating bamboo 2 million years ago. It’s the environment they’re in that makes them adapt. Stop bringing religion into everything.

    • Just add evolution to the picture, and it all makes sense. To scientists, pandas look like an omnivore that is evolving toward being a bamboo specialist. This makes sense: there is tons of bamboo in Asia, where panda bears originated, and plants don’t run away. Much easier, in some ways, to eat plants than animals. But plant cells are made of cellulose fiber, and that makes fibrous plants, like bamboo, especially hard to digest. Pandas have to eat almost constantly to get enough nourishment from their bamboo diet. The panda seem to be a bear that is “trying” to trade food quality for food quantity, and its digestive system hasn’t caught up yet. Evolution isn’t perfect; biology goes with what works “well enough”, and it’s possible to see species in the act of evolving. And I read in National Geographic that pandas DO still like to eat meat, even though they are too slow to catch most prey. When Chinese researchers need to capture pandas for radio-collaring, they lure them with the smell of meat roasting over a fire.

    • P.S. Some of my cats like to eat ice cream and will taste donuts and cake icing, but, since they apparently can’t taste the sweetness, I figured it must be the fat in the food. Cats tend to loooove fat; few will turn away from a treat of butter, cheese, egg yolk, or steak rinds. But nature is always a little messy. I’ve known cats that DID like carb snacks, including bread. But they couldn’t live on it. That felines can’t taste sugar is a testable fact (lab cats can’t tell the difference between sugar water and plain water, in experiments where they’d really LIKE to tell the difference because they’re working for a food reward). So, if your cat likes honey, maybe she likes the texture? Maybe she tastes something else in it that she likes, besides sweetness? Several of my cats love to hunt bugs; maybe honey tastes like bee or insect, to a kitty? All I know is, cats’ taste buds must be wired a lot differently than mine. Just nibble on some kibble, as I did as a child, and you’ll see what I mean. : D Kibble tastes like slightly bitter burnt toast with a fishy aftertaste. But my cats run to the bowl and can’t get enough of it.

    • Bears are not cats dumbass. Did you even read the article? Cats cannot digest plants. PERIOD. Get off your crazy horse and pay attention, or kill your cats, your choice. If you do try to feed a cat plants, hope you rot in jail.

    • Um, no. Did you read the article? It defined obligate carnivore for you. If you want your cat to be at her healthiest, feed her meat. Jesus, lady.

  4. Thanks for this. I really don’t understand why some people are so desirous of forcing their diets on cats. You may consider a cat to be “a person”, and that is ok. BUT DON’T TELL ME THAT A CAT IS A HUMAN!!!!!!! Cats are NOT bipedal. They walk on all fours. That is why my 5 cats love me. I treat them right…like cats. 🙂

  5. HMMMMMMMMMMMMM the sweet thing, IM not sure about I had a cat who would IF you let her, eat a whole cake! And yes if she got more than a small amount she would get sick, BUT IF I eat a whole cake (or more than a slice) I would get sick

  6. Cats can’t taste sugar, so they can’t tell that it is bad for them. Just like we can’t taste water (not that water is bad for us!). Sugar is really bad for humans and not an essential part of a healthy diet, even worse for cats, as it is pure carbohydrate. Please don’t let your cats eat sweet foods.

    • I know carbs are very bad for cats; my cats got a lot healthier when I switched to low-carb kibble. (Watch out; many of the “grain-free” ones actually use potato or sweet potato instead of grain, and those are just as bad as grain for an obligate carnivore.) When I mention above that my cats like to eat ice cream, donuts, and cake icing, I should clarify that I only LET them eat tiny tastes of those things! BTW, we humans, being natural omnivores, probably CAN taste sugar, and are hard-wired to like it, because it’s so rare in nature. Basically, the love of sweet foods that’s found not just in humans but in many other animals, like apes, monkeys, bears, pigs, and rodents, exists BECAUSE sugar is rare in the natural world, and it’s such a great, concentrated source of quick energy. Basically, our sweet tooth worked fine when the only sweets we had were ripe fruit and occasional honey. But then we invented agriculture, started growing and improving the foods we liked (including sugar cane and sugar beets), and now we have just too much sugar for our own good. We never evolved to have this much sugar around!

  7. When purchasing cat food, it is ideal to avoid looking at bags! There is no dry food sufficient in animal matter or fluid. That meat is the first listed ingredient by mass only tells that the meat has a larger mass on its own than the other ingredients. ALL dry foods contain fillers-if they didn’t, the foods would be gritty dry meat meal, not kibbles. Plant fillers are necessary to form kibbles. When all of the plant matter is added up, it will be a substantially greater mass than the meat. But the meat can be listed first because on its own, it is a greater mass than each of the other ingredients on their own, but once the plant sourced ingredients are added together, their mass is greater. All plant sourced ingredients are fillers. When selecting cat food, it is best to choose a wet or raw food as wet and raw foods tend to have far less plant matter than dry, and also provide fluid in the way that cats evolved to take fluid. You can easily derive a more sensible and useful composition of any foods you feed your cat than the ridiculous “Guaranteed Analysis” that is on the labels. Here is one of several sites that explain the process:

    https://endocrinevet.blogspot.com/2014/01/how-to-calculate-carbohydrate-and.html

    Is dry food a complete no-no? Not here! I use it as a treat for the cats-it’s much less expensive than the marketed treats and probably healthier. They get about 10-20 pieces each day, often stashed about the room for them to find as they go about their cat stuff. It’s easy to dole out and the cats really enjoy it.

  8. This is one of the reasons thats cats and cat clubs are not as popular or as established as dogs or dog clubs in India as a majority of the population are vegetarians.

  9. My cat has kidney disease, I have always fed my girls blue buffalo or another brand that did not have grain. My vet put my cat on Royal Canin for renal support. This has bothered me for the past year but felt the doctor knows best. The reason it bothered me is due to the ingredients are listed in this order. Brewers rice, corn, chicken fat, wheat gluten, corn gluten meal, chicken by-product meal, soy protein isolate, powdered cellulose, wheat chicory. I do not eat processed foods at all. This is way too processed for my cats plus way to processed for my sick cat. Thoughts?

    • Vets are not experts in feline nutrition, and what little information they do receive is sponsored by pet food companies – prescription pet foods are NOT healthier (or even healthy at all)! Example: They manufacture and sell a dry kibble specifically designed for diabetic cats. This is, of course, being “prescribed” to cats who became diabetic from overeating dry kibble. Literally.

      Please find your cat a more appropriate food.

      http://www.catinfo.org (Dr. Lisa Pierson, DVM) has some really, really informative stuff you can check out. 🙂

  10. I have been a vegetarian for 32 years with 95% or more of my food intake being vegan. My cats are NOT! They get a grain & starch free wet food with a little bit of low starch dry kibble, a few meat-rich treats, and periodically some organic wheat grass.
    Although I appreciate the sentiment of my veggie colleagues, I state emphatically, if you can’t stand the notion of feeding meat to an obligate carnivore, don’t have one as a companion!
    Furthermore, if we really could we ought to feed our kitties rats and mice. That’s they’re natural prey food. Seriously, they don’t hunt “tur-duck-en” by choice. It is my understanding that the closest animal available for commercial consumption that matches rodent nutrional composition is bovine. So if your kitties like the taste of beef, canned or raw, you may notice a difference in your felines. Unfortunately only 1 of my 4 kitties likes the wet food containing beef, but she has more energy than the other 3 combined and she’s the oldest! Just something to ponder, fellow kitty servants.

  11. HOW AND WHY DID THE ARTICLE ON OBLIGATE CARNIVORES TURN THIS FORUM INTO SUCH A “BITCH” SESSION!!! THIS IS SO RIDICULOUS TO!!! COLE AND MARMALADE ARTICLES ARE VERY INFORMATIVE & EDUCATIONAL. ALTHOUGH MOST TEAR AT MY HEART STRINGS….( I LOVE A GOOD CRY WHEN IT COMES TO ANIMALS, CATS ESPECIALLY) COLE AND MARMALADE IS A FEEL GOOD PLACE FOR ME, AND SHOULD BE FOR EVERYONE!!! THEY ASK FOR COMMENTS ABOUT AN ARTICLE…..NOT ABOUT RELIGION
    (UNLESS ITS TO THE CATS), NOT ABOUT POLITICS, NOT ABOUT HUMAN DIET, OR ANY OTHER CRAP THAT’S ALREADY POLLUTING EVERY DAY LIFE. LEAVE IT AT THE DOOR, LEAVE IT ON THE NEWS, BUT PLEASE FOR CAT’S SAKE (AND HUMANS) DO NOT CORRUPT MY FEEL GOOD PLACE WITH UGLINESS AND NAME CALLING!!! MAYBE SOME OF YOU SHOULD CRAM SOME BAMBOO DOWN YOUR MOUTHS!! AND MY DEEPEST APOLOGIES TO COLE AND MARMALADE FOR THE UGLINESS THEY BROUGHT INTO THIS HAPPY PLACE.

Written by Modi Ramos

Cat lover since birth. Crazy cat lady behind CattitudeDaily.com, former Editor of iHeartCats.com

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