Just like humans, cats need nutrients for energy, maintenance, and growth. Without proper nutrition, cats may suffer from a myriad of different health conditions, such as impaired immune reaction and weakness, making her at risk of serious, sometimes even fatal complications. As such, it is important for pet parents to know the nutrients necessary for their cat’s health, and the possible options that they have in order to include them in her diet.
Your cat needs a lot of nutrients for her daily metabolic and growth functions. To make it easier to understand what nutrients should be included in your cat’s diet and how much, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has grouped major nutrients needed by your pet into six categories:
Remember, dehydration among cats may cause irreversible medical harm, and may even cause death at times. Keep your cat hydrated and be on guard for any sign that may indicate dehydration.
Protein is extremely important in a cat’s diet because of several things. Proteins are regarded as the building blocks of cells. They are also responsible in many different metabolic functions needed for growth and development. Furthermore, cats are well-known to have the ability to utilize protein as an energy source. As such, protein is considered the most basic element in a cat’s nutrition, as it is virtually needed in all aspects of her growth and development.
There are two types of proteins a cat utilizes for her daily bodily functions. These are non-essential proteins, or proteins that she can synthesize and are not needed in her diet. The other one is essential proteins, or proteins that she cannot synthesize, therefore needed to be present in her diet. One example of essential protein is taurine, which can primarily be found on animal meat sources. An insufficient level of taurine may cause eye disorders, heart diseases, and problems with reproduction and growth.
Fats are responsible for the absorption of fat soluble vitamins, as well as for the production of certain hormones. Fats are also known to be the most superior source of energy for cats. In fact, these nutrients can give two times as much energy as proteins or carbohydrates can provide.
Fats are also responsible in maintaining the right body temperature. They can also act as buffer for internal organs for protection. A sufficient amount of fat in a cat’s diet would mean glossier coat, livelier behavior, and healthier reproduction. Some fatty acids, such as omega 6 and omega 3, even have anti-inflammatory characteristics, making them useful in managing allergies, inflammatory bowel diseases, joint pain, and even kidney failure.
For humans, carbohydrates can be a direct energy source. But for cats, this can be a slightly different story. Cats are known to utilize proteins as their energy source. In fact, bigger cats in the wild are known to hunt and feed on animal meat, which contains little to no carbohydrates. Some observers may even argue that cats are stricter carnivores as compared to other hunters in the animal world, which means they might not be eating any carbohydrates at all.
But that does not mean carbohydrates are completely not needed in a cat’s diet. Glucose, the most common type of carbohydrates, for instance, is significantly needed to supply energy to various critical organs of a cat, such as the brain. In fact, there is a minimum glucose requirement among cats necessary to perform its function of providing energy.
Fibers are also a type of carbohydrates and are needed in keeping the intestine clean and healthy. Beet pulp and bran and wheat middlings are just some of the best source of fibers that should be included in your cat’s diet.
Vitamins are essential nutrients needed by the body in small amounts. Because it cannot be synthesized by your cat, tiny amounts of vitamins should be present in her diet. Vitamins are known to ‘trigger’ enzyme reactions, which are needed for the body’s growth and development.
However, there is a danger of hypervitaminosis, or toxicity of vitamins, when giving your pet a vitamin supplement. Always keep in mind that foods have adequate amount of vitamins needed by your pets, which means vitamin supplements should be unnecessary unless prescribed by your veterinarian.
Minerals are responsible in maintaining strong teeth and bones. They are also necessary in maintaining the healthy levels of electrolytes and water in a cat’s body. Because minerals can never be synthesized by your pet, it is important to ensure that minerals are present in her diet.
Knowing what your cat eats means being mindful of her nutritional needs. As pet parents, it is our responsibility, and our joy, to provide our four-legged friends with the optimum diet she needs for her growth and development.