Tailoring the Feline Diet

April 26, 2023

Tailoring the Feline Diet

Tailoring the Feline Diet 

By: Jessika, Pet Nutrition & Education Specialist, Biotech Adv. Dip, B.Sc Candidate 2024
Article Featured in Pet Connection Magazine – December 2021 / January 2022 Issue.

It is often said domestic cats are “Obligate” or “True” carnivores - but what does this mean exactly? To answer this question, we need to dig a little deeper into where today's cat has come from. The domestication of the house cat is believed to have occurred around 1600 and 1500 BC and are now the most popular house pet in North America. Our domestic cats belong to the Superfamily Felidae along with raptors and mosquitos, this classification is based on their behavior, anatomy and metabolic pathways (Small Animal Clinical Nutrition, 5th Ed. Pg 362).

When we look into their nutritional requirements, the average healthy cat has a high biological requirement for protein, moderate requirement for fat and low carbohydrate requirement. Their ideal diet should reflect this to maintain overall health and wellbeing. Felines possess an unusually high maintenance requirement for protein compared to canines. This stems from the high activity rate of hepatic (liver) enzymes (transaminase, deanimases) that remove amino groups from amino acids. This allows the resulting ketoacids to be used for energy or glucose production and results in the cat's special need for the amino acids arginine, taurine, methionine and cystine. Cats have a limited ability to decrease the activity of these enzymes when fed low protein foods therefore a fixed amount of dietary protein is always catabolized for energy. What does this tell us about their ideal diet and feeding regime? It tells us we may need to approach feeding them slightly differently than we have in the past, focusing on diets with higher amounts of protein, moderate amounts of fat and low amounts of carbohydrates.

Like their wild counterparts, cats have a daily cycle that is unlike any other domestic animal, their sleep/wake cycle is very different from others and they are clear and persistent with their demands for food. If given the option, the typical cat will consume between 10 and 20 small meals (snacks) throughout the day and night (Kane et al, 1981; MacDonald et al, 1984), this is because their stomachs are not built to hold large amounts of food like the domestic dog. This often means most domestic cats will spend the majority of their waking hours hunting.

Many cat owners understandably believe that if they provide a cat with ample amounts of food, they will be able to curb their natural hunting instinct. Unfortunately, this is not the case and can often lead to cats being overfed - resulting in body scores that are not ideal (>5 out of 9). A well fed cat will still seek out wild prey when meat is not included in their diet, they will even go so far as to stop eating their current meal to dispatch additional prey! (Turner and Meister, 1988). Felines have such a strong prey drive as a result of their preference for the taste of certain free amino acids found in muscle tissues (alanine, proline, lysine, histidine, leucine).

When we look at the typical diet of a feral cat, we see that it is made up of ~40% small rodents, averaging 30 kcal of metabolizable energy (ME) per “snack”, which is approximately 12 - 13% daily calorie intake (Fitzgerald, 1988). This is one reason why it is important to offer your cat many small meals throughout the day and if you’re a night owl – throughout the night as well.

In a study by F. Salaum et al, domestic cats were given access to meals containing various macronutrient compositions. It was observed that when given this variety, cats regulated their macronutrient intake to attain an overall diet composition that provides 53% ME protein, 36% fat and 11% carbohydrates.

The ideal diet composition for a domestic cat is more in line with a well-balanced raw diet or high quality wet food than it is with a commercially available kibble diet. Providing your domestic cat with a raw diet or a high meat-inclusive wet food may help satisfy your cat’s natural instinct for hunting and eating prey. These diets are also rich in moisture which is great for cats as they naturally have low thirst drives and have a tendency to dehydrate rather quickly and easily.

Ultimately, your cat will determine whether they prefer a raw, wet or kibble diet. If you keep in mind the above key nutritional points - high protein, moderate fat and low carbohydrate, the diet choice you make should benefit your cat and help keep them in tip top shape.

When we take the time to understand our feline companions on a deeper level, we are able to better meet their nutritional needs, desires and enrich their lives.

The Iron Will Raw Feline Complete Dinners were formulated with all these considerations in mind, the products are higher protein, moderate fat and low carbohydrate. Each ingredient plays a key role in the overall nutritional composition of the final product, the base is composed of high quality, human grade ingredients and is complimented with a unique supplement blend to support optimal health.

Do you have questions about the Iron Will Raw Feline Complete Dinners? Reach out to our knowledgeable team at Iron Will Raw.

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