Cats are obligate carnivores and can only get much needed vitamin A from animal sources. They are unable to convert beta carotene from vegetable sources into vitamin A the way humans and canines can. Vitamin A must come from meat. Cats also need the amino acid taurine in their diet and unlike dogs and humans, their bodies can’t manufacture it. A diet deficient in taurine can lead to blindness and life-threatening heart problems.
Cats Need Meat
If you’re a vegetarian or vegan and you attempt to put your cat on that same diet you’ll be seriously jeopardizing her health. Regardless of what your nutritional or ethical beliefs are, you must offer your cat a well-balanced meat-sourced diet.
What about a homemade diet?
Good quality commercial cat food is specifically formulated to meet a cat’s nutritional needs. Cats require higher amounts of protein and fat than dogs do, and they also need a specific balance of carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals. Cat food companies formulate their foods to meet the specific life stages of cats. Kittens need a different formulation than adult cats. Older, less active cats don’t need the same diet as a young, athletic kitty. Cats with digestive issues or other medical problems often need a prescription therapeutic diet. If you decide to do a homemade diet you have to make sure it contains the correct balance of what your particular cat needs during that life stage. All-meat or all-fish diets without other nutrients can cause serious nutritional deficiencies. If you’re considering doing a homemade diet, consult your veterinarian for advice on whether that’s a wise thing to do based on your cat’s current health status, how to do it and what needs to be included in the diet.
CAT Food, Not Dog Food
Another mealtime mistake that some people make is to allow the cat and dog to share from the same food bowl. Cats require higher amounts of protein and fat in their diet. Because of this, it’s not unusual for the dog to try to sneak bites from the cat’s food bowl because that food is tastier. Allowing your dog to eat cat food can lead to medical problems such as kidney problems and obesity. A cat who is permitted to eat dog food won’t be getting adequate levels off protein, taurine, and fat. This can lead to serious and even life-threatening health issues.
Your veterinarian is the best person to consult when it comes to your cat’s nutritional needs. Your veterinarian will guide you based on factors such as your cat’s age, activity level, physical condition, and health.
Need More Help?
You can find more specific information on feeding and how to set up the best feeding station in the book Think Like a Cat.
Note: this article is not meant to offer a medical diagnosis. Please consult your veterinarian before making any nutritional changes to your cat’s diet.
Pam Johnson-Bennett is the star of Psycho Kitty airing on Discovery UK. She is author of seven best-selling books on cat behavior including Think Like a Cat: how to raise a well-adjusted cat – not a sour puss. Think Like a Cat has become known as the cat bible. Pam is considered a pioneer in the field of cat behavior consulting. In addition to her television series and public speaking engagements, Pam owns Cat Behavior Associates, a private veterinarian-referred behavior company in Nashville, TN. Cat Behavior Associates offers private cat behavior appointments on a limited basis. Pam Johnson-Bennett is a Certified Cat Behavior Consultant.