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.”
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.