The Granby Animal Clinic, Inc.
My recommendations on feeding your kitty are changing based on the success we are having treating some feline diseases with increased protein/decreased carbohydrate foods and the general body condition improvement of many of our older cats on higher protein foods, as well as some new research showing the potential negative effects of low protein/ higher carbohydrate foods.
If your cat does not have a medical condition requiring a special diet, I recommend feeding a combination of canned and dry foods aiming for a protein percentage of 40-60 %, fat 30-50% and carbohydrates < 15% on a % calorie basis. The average kitty needs approximately 180-200 calories/day. Your kitty may need more or less.
Cats are obligate carnivores. They need a high protein diet and they do not have the proper metabolism to utilize carbohydrates properly. Protein based on meat versus plants is better digested, more complete and requires less supplementation.
Cats evolved to get most of the moisture they need from their food so they are not big drinkers. Even though cats eating dry food drink more than cats on canned food, the overall water intake is believed to be higher for cats on canned food only diets. This increased water intake is especially important for cats with a history of urinary tract problems, older cats, cats with renal disease and many cats with chronic diseases.
Canned foods are less energy dense which is beneficial for our overweight cats.
It is easier to find higher protein/ low carbohydrate canned food then dry food and many of the higher protein lower carbohydrate dry foods are very high in calories.
Unfortunately, you cannot look at a can or bag of food and get the actual protein/fat/carbohydrate content on a percent of metabolized calories basis. You need to either check the food’s website, contact the company or you can try looking up the food on websites such as catinfo.org or www.binkyspage.tripod.com. Note the amounts on the food labels are usually guaranteed analysis expressed in maximum and minimums not actual amounts and the values need to be adjusted based on the moisture content of the food.
If your cat is middle age to older you may want to avoid soy. Some limited studies have shown that soy may raise thyroid hormone levels in cats and hyperthyroidism is a common disease in middle age and older cats.
I also advise avoiding acidifiers in middle age to older cats as well. Examples of acidifiers are dl-methionine, phosphoric acid and ammonium chloride.
Carrageenan is a common ingredient in many cat foods. It is used as a gelling agent and a fiber source. In people it is being investigated as a possible cause of gastrointestinal (gi) inflammation. You may want to avoid this ingredient if your cat has a history of gi issues or pancreatitis.
Cellulose is a poor quality fiber source that can interfere with nutrient absorption especially protein. I recommend avoiding it especially if you are feeding a lower protein food or have an older pet.
Diets high in fish, liver and giblets have also been associated with hyperthyroidism so these ingredients should be limited in your cat’s diet. Other potential risk factors for hyperthyroidism are pop-top cans with plastic liners which contain the thyroid disruptor chemical bisphenol-A and diets not supplemented with iodine.
What about your cat’s teeth? There are no studies showing that cats have better teeth on dry food than canned and feeding a lower carbohydrate diet may actually lead to less tarter development.
Beware of light, senior and dental diets. These diets are often lower in protein and higher in fiber which can actually decrease protein absorption. Older cats can have a 30% reduction in their ability to absorb protein from their diet so a diet they did OK on when they were younger can become a problem when they become older.
As with any diet change, a gradual change-over is advised. Begin by slowly introducing the new food over a week or longer. If your cat does not seem to like canned food, try offering small amounts when hungry and gradually decrease the amount of dry food offered. Canned food should be warmed to room temperature or slightly warmer before feeding. If using a microwave, make sure the food is not overheated and there are no hot spots.
Please note grain-free does not mean low carbohydrate. There are also several canned foods that are 95% “meat”, but protein content based on % calories is actually below 34%.
An easy to find example of a high protein low carbohydrate canned food free of soy, carrageenan and acidifiers is Purina One’s Smartblend pates. I also like the canned Tiki cat foods which are very high in protein and very low in carbohydrates and could help balance out a combination diet which included a not so high protein/low carbohydrate dry food.
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