Your Cat is a Carnivore
Question: What do tigers, rainbow trout, crocodiles, eagles, and your cat have in common?
Answer: They’re all obligate carnivores.
Even though these 5 animals are from quite different neighborhoods in the animal kingdom, they all became obligate carnivores as a result of their ancestral diets. Because they ate only meat, and raw meat provides vitamins and fatty acids in their preformed state, early cats and other obligate carnivores have lost the ability to make these in their own bodies the way herbivores and omnivores do. They don’t need to, because the prey they’re eating have already done it for them. For example, your cat needs vitamin A in its preformed state, but she can’t make it from beta-carotene like dogs can. She can form niacin from tryptophan. But she can’t make the absolutely essential amino acid taurine from methionine and cysteine, she must get it already formed, and taurine is almost exclusively found in animal flesh.
Obligate means “by necessity” - combine that with carnivore and you get “meat eater by necessity.” There is no such thing as a vegan cat.
Being an obligate carnivore, your cat has a really high protein requirement for her diet. Protein = Energy.
She meets her blood glucose requirements from gluconeogenesis using protein, not by breaking down carbohydrates like we do. So a lack of protein, and too many carbs, will lead to an energy deficit, and her body will start breaking down its own muscle to function, while packing on mass in the form of fat.
The digestive system of your cat has become specifically adapted to eating raw meat. Cats have the shortest digestive tract, in relation to body size, of nearly any mammal; because raw prey is so highly digestible that there’s no need for a long gut and fermenting bacteria that plant eaters need. Cats have lost the metabolic ability to break down carbohydrates because their natural diets have contained none for so long.
Now that we’ve got the biology out of the way, let’s take a quick look at how we feed our cats. Kibble, lots of canned foods, and even some premade raw diets contain plenty of fillers that aren’t meat. Potatoes, corn, even what you might think are beneficial veggies, like carrots, are fairly useless to your cat. She can’t make any amino acids or vitamins from them. But they’re inexpensive, and they can fill out the protein percentage on the label. Corn does contain measurable protein, it’s just not protein your cat can use.
Let’s wrap this up with another Question:
If kibble’s not great for our cats, is there a better way to feed them without hunting down mice and birds?
Answer: Yes, of course. If raw’s not your thing, high quality canned foods are full of the good stuff they need. And if you are interested in feeding your cat a raw meat diet, there are lots of frozen premade options that you can simply pop the top and feed. Biologically appropriate nutrition for her, and easy feeding for you!