Cat Nutrition 101

This recent epidemic of contaminated pet food has made me think of putting all my cats on a homemade diet.

Smokey, the youngest, is on a semi-homemade diet due to his in-born dislike of commercial cat food. The commercial food the others eat, luckily has not been the tainted variety.

As a result of this thought, I decided to do a bit of research once more, on cat nutrition and what a cat needs in its diet.

The results I have found have led me to believe I will leave well enough alone and proceed to feed my cats, as I have been traditionally doing with good results.

Some of the interesting things I have found are what is good for us humans, is not necessarily good for cats.

The internal or if you will, the evolutionary pathway that the cat has followed through time is totally different from ours. Cats were created as hunters and not vegetable eaters. Cats are true carnivores.

Granted there are some cats that will eat some corn, a piece of cantaloupe or other fruit or vegetable, but they cannot survive on them. You will never see a lion or a tiger munching in a wheat or cornfield.

In the entire millions of years of evolution, none of the feline species have ever found it necessary to develop the ability to metabolize and synthesize vegetable matter. They are meat eaters and cannot survive with out meat in their diets.

However, the domestic cat due to the lack of places to hunt and a total change in lifestyle, has become dependent on their humans as a food source and are committed to a life of prepared foods.

Many of today’s cats would not know what to do with a mouse once it was tired of playing with it. The fact that a domestic cat will not eat a mouse does not mean it has changed in structure to an animal that will eat a “people” type diet. It means, mostly that “mom” never taught Miss or Mr. Kitty how good a mouse really tastes.

It has been proven that even though a cat has been domesticated and its appearance changed through selective breeding, the true nature of the cat as a predator still remains.

Many people advocate a raw meat diet for cats and dogs, but meat alone does not provide all the nutrients a pet needs, especially cats.

My Smokey will only eat “raw beef”(not ground beef,) but small hunks preferably of London Broil. He was born with this intention in his mind. He did not have a mother to teach him that, though I have been accused of it.

He was found by my neighbor’s dog in a compost pile with another kitten (3 legged) that died. Smokey was approximately the size of a teaspoon and may have been a day or two old. I hand raised him with difficulty, but never offered him, as he grew raw meat of any kind, but somehow as he grew and I tried to stop bottle feeding him, he would not eat kitten food or anything else I put before him. He had a “I will starve attitude” rather than touch that stuff.

Through trial and error, conferences with the vet, trying to feed him cooked chicken, beef or pork with no results. I finally tried a piece of raw beef and that was what he wanted.

Now raw beef alone will not keep a cat alive, as I soon found out. With little help from my vet; and again almost losing Smokey due to the improper diet, I hit upon a recipe that has saved his life. At 6 years old he is still bottle fed once a day, a vitamin supplement I have made up through the years, that is dong him very well. He is a 14-pound cat that has beautiful fur and is a great hunter. He can’t climb like other cats due to hind leg problems, but he does everything else a cat can do.

Why did I go off on this tangent, I am not certain, except to prove a point that nutrition is very important in a cat’s life.

Going back to preparing homemade meals for cats I realized from my research that unless you are truly committed; and have plenty of spare time, it is very hard to do, if you are going to do it correctly.

Most of the recipes I found call for grinding up the raw meat and bones. Most people use whole chickens and other birds (quail, game hens, turkey) and even deer or lamb. They then add liver, hearts, kidneys, gizzards, egg yolks and a very few veggies such as pumpkin, squash, celery and/or broccoli and cauliflower along with adding chicken broth.

And if that was not enough, then you had to figure out the correct amount of supplements to add, not too much and not too little, as a cat needs certain supplements to survive.

It seems that eating that friendly little mouse is the “perfect meal.”

If you willing to all of this, I certainly agree that this is the perfect way to feed your cat. But only if you have all the right ingredients in the proper proportions and according to my research that is extremely hard to do.

If the truth were known, I doubt if anyone knows the real combination of supplements that would create the “perfect mouse” as food for a cat.

There are recipes on the Internet by people who are devoted to their cats and are willing to cook. There are also places on the Internet to buy specially prepared food for your cat such as which sell holistic cat products and great natural foods.

But for me right now, I do know, I will continually try to buy the best cat food (wet and dry) that I can find. I will take the time to see which ingredients are listed first. You want to see the protein at the top of the list and the grains, if any at the very bottom. Avoid any food that has grains listed first. Look for the AAFCO approval, which gives you some knowledge that the food has the basic nutrients in it.

Learn that “premium” does not always mean the best, it is just a word.

Cats do not need carbohydrates they need protein, which comes from poultry, fish, beef, or other meats. Dry food is mostly carbohydrates and should not make up a cat’s entire diet.

Do not offer your cat raw fish because many fish contain thaiminase, which will break down the thiamin in a cat’s body and cause a deficiency in some cats. Also raw tuna may contain mercury.

Offer raw meat in small chunks as a treat, however if you cat is not used to eating raw meat, offer a cooked piece as a treat.

In general buy the best you can afford and most of all play with your cat. That is the best treat you can give it.