Every so often, you should refamiliarize yourself with nutritional guidelines and re-examine what you are putting in your cat’s mouth. Just as our nutritional guidelines can change, pets can too.
One occasion when it is especially important to revisit guidelines is when you add a new feline to the home. You need to check out the particular and changing nutritional needs of kittens as they grow to help you choose the best kitten food.
The following are still some of the most important ingredients in cat food along with their recommended amounts to look for.
Protein is included in all cat foods, but do you know how important it is, why it is needed, and how much should be included in the food?
Protein is at the top of the list for cats’ nutritional needs, and they need it every day. It is important for growth, development, and energy production. Protein provides cats with amino acids, and is needed to produce antibodies, hormones, enzymes, and tissues. There are two kinds of protein – plant-based and animal-based, sometimes referred to as complete protein that comes from meat and fish.
Cats are carnivores, meaning they rely mostly on meat (animal-based) to get their protein. As carnivores, cats’ bodies are specifically made for eating and digesting animal-based protein, and can’t function without it. Cats also need plant-based, but they can’t live on it alone.
When reviewing your cat’s food, it should have a minimum of 25-30% protein and kitten’s food at least 30%. However, 10-15% higher levels are recommended.
Taurine is an important component of protein that cats need. This amino acid, only found in animal-based protein, is critical to the growth and development of the fetus during pregnancy. Taurine is also vital to have normal vision, digestion, heart function, and to maintain a healthy immune system. If kittens and cats do not get the taurine they need, they can have a multitude of serious problems including heart trouble, blindness, digestive and kidney problems, and death. Many cat foods have added taurine, but be sure to look for it on the label.
Cats need fat in their diets. Fat provides fuel for the body and aids in the absorption of certain vitamins. It also protects internal organs and provides insulation. It aids in the production of hormones, and helps maintain healthy skin and coat. Fat is essential for proper kidney function and for reproductive health. It also helps reduce inflammation.
Full-grown cats should have 15-20% fat in his diet and kittens at least 20%. However, the minimum is 8% for cats, and 5% for kittens, which is closer to what most commercial foods provide.
- Vitamins and Minerals
Vitamins are essential for growth and function and for regulating metabolism. Although a few vitamins can be made in the body, most have to be consumed through diet.
Minerals are also necessary to complete most physiological reactions. They are stored in bone and muscle tissue. Minerals help utilize nutrients, transport oxygen, and form enzymes, as well as help maintain a proper pH balance.
Most cat foods include vitamins and minerals, but certain raw diets are lacking in certain ones. You need to check the label to be sure.
If you are feeding your cat a complete and balanced diet, vitamin and mineral supplements are usually unnecessary. Check with your veterinarian to see if your cat has additional needs beyond the food you are feeding him.
Water is the most important need. You must be aware of the moisture content in the food you are feeding your cat. Dry food can have around 10% moisture, where canned food can have 70%. Cats should be drinking about 4 ounces daily in addition to the moisture consumed from their food. Altogether, your cat should be consuming 1 cup per 10 pounds of body weight.
If you think your cat is not drinking enough water, try switching it. If you normally give him tap water, try giving bottled water. Sometimes cats do not like the altered taste of water with additives such as fluoride.
If your cat becomes dehydrated, symptoms such as lethargy, dry mouth, panting, and sunken eyes may become visible. You should seek medical attention immediately.
Remember, this is just a list that identifies some of the most important nutritional elements in cat food, but by no means a complete one. There are other important ingredients not included on this list.
For more help about how to compare cat food go to the FDA's website.