Nutritional principles

Cats are natural carnivores, so their diets should include plenty of meat. Cats can get all essential nutrients, such as fats, carbohydrates and minerals, from balanced food.

Nowadays, even indoor domestic cats are still faithful to the ways of their ancestors: food is eaten in a calm manner, and the presence of other cats does not make a cat gobble up food like canines. Studies have shown that in case cat food is freely available for the cat, cats can eat an average of 9 – 16 portions per day, with an average portion size being approximately 23 kilocalories. This can be compared to a small mouse, with approximately 30 kilocalories.

The correct ratio of nutrients

Cats are true carnivores. Optimal cat food corresponds to the nutritional content of a mouse: an average mouse contains 70 – 80 % water, 14 % protein and 10 % fat. In order for the cat to feel well, their food must contain plenty of protein and fat, and the nutrients should come from animal-based sources. Furthermore, the food should contain the amino acids taurine and arginine. Cats should also have fresh water available at all times.

Proteins

As cats are carnivores, they need plenty of protein in their diet. Protein should amount to at least 14 % of the daily energy intake of an adult cat. This is the largest difference between cats and dogs, because dogs are omnivores and a significantly lower amount of protein is sufficient for them. Hence, cats cannot live on food meant for dogs.

Cats get important building material for their musculature, as well as energy, from protein. Protein has other important tasks in the cat’s metabolic functions, as well. They are responsible for nearly all cellular functions, and are thus indispensable for vital functions. Proteins are necessary for maintaining the nitrogen, liquid, acidic, alkaline, potassium and sodium balance in the body. Proteins enable cells to move, join, transmit signals, and deal with immune defence.

Fats

Cats get energy from fats.  Fats also protect the cat’s internal organs, insulate heat, and promote the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins in the body. Cats get essential fatty acids from fat, which are important for the well-being of their skin and coat, as well as the functionality of their kidneys.

Carbohydrates

Cats’ bodies can turn some protein into glucose for a source of energy, so they do not need carbohydrates for this purpose. However, cats do need insoluble carbohydrates of fibre to ensure that their digestive system functions normally, and for general health. Plant-based carbohydrate-rich foods, such as rice, corn and apples, can be a good source of fibre.

Water

Cats have naturally a very weak sense of thirst, as it hunts from small game, and is used to getting all the liquid it needs from food. So, remember to have fresh water available for your cat at all times, preferably in various locations. Water is an important nutrient for all living creatures. Among other things, it transports other nutrients, acts as a heat regulator, and affects the removal of waste products. Drinking water also lowers the acidity levels of the cat’s urine, thus preventing the formation of uroliths.

Vitamins

Vitamins are organic compounds that the cat’s body needs for its normal everyday physiological functions.

Vitamins from the B-group and the C-group are water-soluble. Water-soluble vitamins mainly work in tissue fluids, serum, and intercellular fluids. Intracellular water-soluble parts also need vitamins. Vitamin C is the most important intracellular water-soluble antioxidant.

Fat-soluble vitamins include Vitamins A, D, E and K. Fat-soluble vitamins do not pass from the body in urine, like water-soluble ones. Fat-soluble vitamins are stored in the liver, and in the body’s adipose tissues.

Minerals

Minerals are elements found in food. Minerals are divided into macrominerals and microminerals, depending on what amounts are present in the body.

Minerals are necessary in the body for three kinds of tasks:

- building material for tissues (calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, silicone and sulphur)

- adjusting the osmotic (cellular) pressure of tissues and tissue fluids, and membrane permeability (sodium, potassium, chlorine, calcium and magnesium)

- acting as catalysts for enzyme-related and hormonal adjustments (iron, cobalt, zinc, manganese, molybdenum and selenium)

Changing to a new food

Any changes to the cat’s food should be implemented gradually. If the change to a new food is too quick, it might not digest fully, and the cat can get an upset stomach.

When changing to a new cat food, it should be done gradually, over the course of several days. This way, the cat’s digestive system has enough time to get used to the new diet. It is not good to feed cats with food meant for human consumption, because those often contain spices and too much salt. Furthermore, some ingredients they contain can even be toxic for cats.

Unlike dogs, cats prefer several small meals throughout the entire day. Also, cats’ diet should contain plenty of animal protein. Cats also need taurine, as they have a limited ability to create taurine in their bodies. There is a sufficient amount of taurine only in animal-based nutrition. Never forget that cats should not be without food for more than 10 hours. 

Verkkopalvelut: Mediasignal