Feline Diet and Nutrition: 4 Things You Need to Know


If you want to get the right diet and nutrition for your cat, it’s important to know a bit about their unique digestive and metabolic system, and how it relates to their diet.
Getting the right diet and nutrition for your cat can be a real challenge. Anyone who owns a cat will know that the best way to develop a good relationship with them is to understand their needs. In this article, we’ll explain some of the most important things you need to know about feeding your feline friend.

The origins of the feline diet
The domestic cat’s wild ancestors were obligate carnivores and hunted a wide variety of prey. Eating a diet entirely made up of animal tissue eventually lead to the loss and alteration of their digestive enzymes.

Evolutionary experts believe that these changes represented a distinct advantage, allowing cats to save energy.

Feline diet and nutrition: how do we know what cats should eat?
Outside of academic circles, there is very little information on the exact dietary requirements of the domestic cat.

In recent years, there have been a number of studies into the eating habits of wild cats. These studies have helped to improve knowledge of what cats naturally choose to eat in the wild.

A cat’s daily energy intake is made up of approximately 52% protein, 46% fat, and less than 2% nitrogen-free extract (NFE). This NFE contains carbohydrates such as sugars and starch.

1. Why do cats need so much protein in their diet?



Analyses of the stomach contents of wild cats have shown that their diet is made up of 78% mammals (mainly rodents and rabbits), 16% birds, 3.7% reptiles and amphibians, and 1.2% invertebrates.
Cats are obligate carnivores, which means that they need meat to survive. They require large amounts of taurine, arginine, arachidonic acid, fatty acids, and vitamins in their diet – all of which are only found in sufficient quantities in meat.

The high protein requirement in the feline diet is mainly due to the animal’s inability to “switch off” the enzymes which take part in the digestion of proteins.

Other carnivorous animals, including fish and birds, have also developed this same mechanism when it comes to metabolizing proteins. This suggests that it gives carnivores a significant advantage.

2. Why do cats need taurine in their diet?



While many animals can synthesize taurine from other amino acids, cats are unable to produce sufficient levels in their bodies. This is because they lack the required enzyme to make it themselves.

As a result, taurine is considered an essential part of the feline diet. Both cats and dogs use taurine for the production of bile in the intestinal tract. As such, it is essential for the absorption of fats and fat-soluble vitamins.

Taurine is also important for neurological development, and for regulating the levels of water and salt in the blood. If a cat doesn’t get enough taurine in its diet, it can lead to the degeneration of the photo-receptors – the cellular components in the retinas which detect and react to light.

Finally, the taurine deficiency is also closely associated with poor reproductive health, often leading to developmental or cardiac issues in kittens, including conditions such as fetal cardiomyopathy.

It’s important to highlight that taurine isn’t found in food such as vegetables. Meat is by far the best source of taurine for cats, as it is the second most common amino acid in muscle tissue and blood.