Cat Nutrition: What Nutrients Does Your Cat Need?
Your cat needs a specific number of nutrients to remain healthy. However, more isn’t always better. Around 59 percent of cats are classified as overweight.
That’s why it’s important to make sure you feed your cat a balanced and complete diet. There are many vitamins, minerals, and nutrients your cat needs.
Cats are carnivores, and protein is an important component of their diet. Cats require a certain number of essential amino acids, and they can get those from animal proteins. When you’re looking for food, choose one that includes one of the following:
Ensuring your cat gets the amino acids they need will help with healthy functioning, regeneration of body tissues, and keeping your cat’s claws and fur strong and healthy.
Meat and fish such as tuna for cats have good fats and essential fatty acids like Omega 3 and Omega 6. Your kitty needs these fats for health and for energy.
Animal fat is one of the primary sources of energy for cats. Fats also help your cat maintain their body temperature and absorb Vitamin D, A, E, and K.
Carbs are another energy source for your cat, and they’re also highly digestible. In most cat foods, you’ll find the carbohydrates come from grains like wheat and rice. However, grain-free cat food provides carbs from other sources like potato, tapioca, lentils, peas, yams, carrots, beans, and cranberries for cats who can’t eat grains.
Your cat should always have water available to drink. Around 67 percent of your cat’s tissues are made up of water, and many cats don’t drink enough throughout the day.
That’s why they rely on their food to provide the majority of the water they need. Water helps your cat’s body distribute and metabolize nutrients, eliminate toxins, and maintain body temperature.
Your cat also needs the right amounts of vitamins. Your cat can get most of the vitamins from the raw materials in their food. There are some common and essential vitamins your cat’s food should contain.
Vitamin A: Vitamin A helps your cat’s vision and immune system. However, too much vitamin A can be toxic. This vitamin is fat-soluble and gets stored in the fatty tissue of the liver.
Vitamin D: Vitamin D is another fat-soluble vitamin. This vitamin helps with the correct functioning of nerves, bones, and muscles. Make sure your cat is not consuming it in excess. It also helps your cat’s body balance and retain phosphorus and calcium.
Vitamin B1 (Thiamine): Vitamin B1 is water-soluble. Your cat needs this to help with the healthy metabolism of carbs. It also helps maintain normal growth and nerve impulse transmission.
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin): If your cat doesn’t get enough Riboflavin, the skin around its eyes and abdomen can be impacted. Riboflavin helps your cat’s skin and coat. It also helps break down carbs, proteins, and fats so your cat’s body can use them for energy.
Vitamin B3 (Niacin): Your cat’s body depletes niacin through urine, it’s a water-soluble vitamin, and your cat needs it regularly to maintain the right levels. Niacin helps keep your cat’s GI functions, nervous system, and skin healthy.
Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine): This is another water-soluble vitamin. Pyridoxine helps your immune and red blood cell function. In addition, it helps your cat’s body break down carbs, protein, and fat into energy. If your cat is deficient in this vitamin, they might show the following signs:
- Convulsive seizures
- Growth depression
- Irreversible kidney lesions
Fortunately, a vitamin B6 deficiency is rare in cats.
Minerals help your cat with pH balance, enzyme formation, nutrient utilization, and oxygen transportation. The minerals that are essential to your cat’s health include calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium, sodium, and chloride.
Iron: If your cat has an iron deficiency, it can become weak and end up with anemia. You’ll find iron in lean meats, fish, liver, whole grains, and legumes.
Calcium: You’ll find calcium in bones, eggs, dairy products, and leguminous plants. Calcium helps your cat’s body with:
- Blood coagulation
- Muscle contraction
- Bone formation and growth
- Nerve impulse transmission
It also helps nursing female cats produce milk for their kittens.
Magnesium: Your cat needs magnesium to use and absorb minerals and vitamins. In addition, they need it to help with enzyme functions, bone growth, and producing protein. You’ll find this in whole grain, soybeans, raw wheat germ, fish, and milk. Magnesium deficiency is rare in cats, but if present can cause weakness and muscle tremors.
Sodium: Sodium helps to transfer nutrients to cells and remove waste products. While foods high in sodium can increase thirst and water consumption, the extra will get excreted in the urine.
Chloride: Chloride will work to maintain the right alkali balance in your cat’s body. In addition, it helps produce hydrochloric acid in the stomach. Hydrochloric acid helps your cat digest protein. Most cat foods contain more than the minimum daily requirement of chloride.
What’s The Difference Between Dry Food and Wet Food?
Both dry food and wet food can give your cat the nutrients needed. However, there are some differences that are important to note.
A big difference between dry and wet cat food is the amount of water in the food. Dry food is made up of around 90 percent dry matter, like carbs, fats, and vitamins. The other ten percent of dry food is water. If your cat isn’t getting enough water, wet food is a great choice to increase their water intake. Wet cat food has much higher water content. It’s comprised of around 70 percent water.
Wet foods and dry foods get made using different processes. Canned cat food typically gets made using fresh or frozen meats. These meats are combined with a protein source that comes from grains.
In addition, the meats get blended with fats, water, and vitamins. Once the food is made, it gets placed in a can and heated to ensure that food-borne pathogens get destroyed. The process for dry food involves combining and cooking meats, minerals, vitamins, and fats at a high pressure and temperature. This process helps to make the starches more digestible.
There are slight differences in the nutrients in dry cat food vs. wet food. Dry cat food often contains a higher amount of carbs than wet food. You might also see a difference in the protein and fat in dry and wet food based on the diet. In addition, some dry foods might have probiotics.
Benefits of Wet Cat Food
In the wild, cats don’t always have easy access to water. Because of that, their diet has evolved to consist of animals with high moisture content. Because of that, wet cat food is a great choice to help make sure your cat is getting enough water. If your cat becomes dehydrated, it’s at risk for kidney disease and other diseases. Studies have been completed to look at dry cat food versus canned cat food and suggest that cats who eat diets solely consisting of dry food need to increase their water intake through drinking. However, there are other benefits of wet cat food.
Wet foods are great for urinary health. Because they have a higher concentration of water, they help to dilute urine. It is believed that the dilution allows for a lower concentration of inflammatory components in your cat’s bladder.
When you look at calories in wet versus dry food, there is a difference because of the amount of water in wet food. Since water doesn’t add calories, wet foods give around 0.8 to 1.5 kcal/g. If you pick a weight loss diet, it might provide less. In comparison, dry food diets give three to four kcal/g, with some foods having even more calories. This makes wet cat food a good choice for weight prevention plans.
If your cat is struggling with constipation, it could be because of dehydration. In this case, feeding your cat wet food can help increase water intake and give your cat relief from constipation.
Drawbacks of Wet Cat Food
While there are some great benefits to choosing canned cat food, there are also a couple of drawbacks. First is the cost of wet cat food. You will often find that feeding your cat a diet of wet food costs more than dry food. It might be difficult to sustain that diet if you’re on a budget.
The second drawback is the shelf-life. When you feed your cat dry food, you can free feed food and allow them to eat throughout the day. However, once you open a can of wet food, it’s only good for 24 hours. In addition, you can only leave it out for a few hours; after that, it needs to be moved to the fridge. Leaving it out for longer than a few hours increases the risk of contamination. This can cause gastrointestinal upset for your cat.
How Many Calories Does Your Cat Need?
How many calories or how much food should I feed my cat are very common questions. Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer to this question. You have to consider several factors when determining your cat’s dietary needs. There are calorie calculators and tables; however, many of these don’t take your cat’s unique needs into account. When determining your pet’s dietary and caloric needs, it’s important to talk with your veterinarian. They can make recommendations on diet and calorie intake. If you’re using calorie calculators and tables, make sure you take these factors into account.
A kitten has different caloric needs than an older cat. Kittens grow quickly; because of that quick growth, they need more energy and nutrients.
Senior cats and cats in their prime have similar needs when considering pet nutrition. After your kitten reaches one year old, it can get switched to adult food. The rest of the factors will address adult cats.
Your cat’s caloric needs are dependent on their weight and size. Larger breeds, for example, Maine Coons, need more food than a smaller breed.
However, even if you have two cats of the same breed, they might have much different needs depending on their frame.
Metabolic Rate and Activity Level
Is your cat active or more sedentary? If your cat is constantly zooming all over your house, it will need more calories than a cat who prefers sunbathing in the window. In addition, different cats will have different resting metabolic rates.
Cats that have been spayed or neutered need fewer calories. However, if you have a nursing or pregnant cat, it should have unlimited access to food meant for kittens or cats of all life stages. This helps ensure that the intense nutritional demands needed by reproducing cats are met.
Body Condition and Health
If your cat needs to lose weight, it will need to take in fewer calories, and an underweight cat will need more calories. Because of this, your cat’s body condition contributes to how many calories they need.
In addition, some health conditions will cause your cat to gain or lose weight which can impact how many calories you’re feeding it.
How Much Wet Food to Feed a Cat
You can choose to feed your cat canned food or a combination of wet and dry food. How much you feed them depends on how many calories they need. When you’re determining how much to feed them, check the caloric content on the label. Divide your cat’s calorie needs by the caloric content on your kitty’s food label. The answer will tell you how much to feed your cat.
If you are feeding your cat a few meals throughout the day, divide the daily amount by the number of meals you offer per day.
How to Serve Your Cat Wet Food
There are a few ways you can feed your cat wet food for their meal. However, keep in mind that it shouldn’t sit out for more than a few hours once you open a can and can only be refrigerated for up to 24 hours.
Your cat’s whole meal can be comprised of wet food. Simply open the can or pouch and put it in their bowl. Be sure to check the calories to ensure you aren’t serving them too much.
Topper or Mixer
If you have a picky eater but don’t want to switch to only wet food, consider using wet food as a cat food topper or mixer. Place the wet food in your cat’s bowl and then put the wet food on top of it.
This will encourage your picky eater to dive in. If they’re still not going for it, mix the wet food and dry food together. Keep in mind that you want to watch how much of each you’re giving to make sure you’re not feeding your cat excess calories.
Frozen Cat Treats
You can also turn your cat’s wet food into cat treats. Take a can of food and put it in a mixing bowl. Stir in a couple of soft treats or dried catnip. Then, put the mixture into a silicone ice cube tray and freeze until solid. Once your treats are frozen, you can simply pop them out of the tray and serve. These are the perfect summertime (or anytime) homemade treats for cats.
How to Choose the Best Wet Food for Cats
There are many options when it comes to choosing wet food for your cat. If you have a cat with special needs, it’s important to meet those needs.
Wet Food for Kittens
Wet Food for Cats With Sensitivities and Allergies
All of our wet cat foods are grain-free. However, if your cat can’t have gluten or chicken, there are other options you can choose.
Pet Nutrition: Choose the Right Food for Your Cat
How much wet food to feed a cat is dependent on multiple factors. You can choose to feed your cat a diet that consists solely of canned cat food or wet food pouches, just make sure to know their caloric needs and not overfeed.
Are you ready to start buying the best wet cat food around? Start shopping with us today, and let us help you keep your cat purrfectly content.