The Ideal Diet for Cats

Catster recently posted an article asking what the “ideal” diet Cat and gerbil by Sodapop 2391for cats may be. Dr. Eric Barchas, the veterinarian who wrote it, concluded that “no one really knows,” although he admits that most commercial diets probably don’t fit the bill.
The article isn’t terrible; it does point out that cats evolved as carnivores that eat other animals; and that because of this history, cats have more specific nutritional requirements than dogs or people. It also acknowledges the serious nutrition-related diseases associated with diet, including obesity, diabetes, and urinary tract problems.
But then Dr. Barchas gets a little wishy-washy. He says, “It would seem logical that a diet that mimics that which is consumed in the wild (which is to say, whole prey animals) would be best. But at this time there is no proof of that. And remember that cats in the wild generally live only a couple of years; house cats, who for the most part are fed high-carb commercial foods, live up to 10 times longer.”

This is a misleading argument. Pet cats live longer primarily for reasons other than diet, including the reduction of kitten-killing diseases like panleukopenia, and a trend toward keeping cats indoors, where they are not exposed to disease, predation, and injury. Data suggest that diet is largely irrelevant in terms of extending longevity.

On the other hand, there is plenty of research showing that the more prey-like the diet, the better for the cat. Certainly dry cat food has no place in the diet if longevity is the goal. Thirty million years of evolution have structured the cat to eat a diet comprising 65% moisture, with a dry matter composition of 50-55% protein, 35-40% fat, and <10% carbohydrate.

Coincidentally, when cats were offered their choice of foods with various compositions, foods with those nutrient proportions were exactly what they picked.

While Dr. Barchas may be technically correct that no research has “proven” that prey animals are an “ideal” feline diet, a prey-like diet—with high moisture and low carbohydrates—is just about the best we humans can provide for our cats.

 


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