Making sure that your cat’s dietary needs are being met is one of the most important things you can do as a pet parent. Like all animals, proper diet and nutrition is vital for a feline’s overall health and well-being.

At first glance, it might seem like feeding a cat is pretty simple and straight-forward; just fill up a bowl with some dry cat food, wet cat food, or a mixture of the two, set it down, and your feline friend will do all the rest. While essentially, that’s all that the actual act of feeding a cat entails; however, in reality, there’s a lot more to it than that; more specifically, in order to ensure that your kitty’s nutritional needs are being met, choosing a high-quality, well-balanced food is crucial. There are so many different varieties of cat food on the market – some that are highly nutritious and some that aren’t.

How can you be sure that you are choosing a recipe that healthful meal for your kitty that offer her all of the vitamins, minerals, and other essential nutrients that she needs? By reading the ingredient list. But, what type of ingredients should you be looking for? Read on to find out more about a cat’s basic nutritional needs so that you can select a cat food that is comprised of ingredients that meet those needs.

Feline Dietary Needs

The ancestors of your domesticated cat were hunters, much like the wild cats that still exist today; lions, tigers, cheetahs, etc. They are considered obligate carnivores, meaning that they are strictly meat eaters. What does that matter? Because your house cat has evolved from hunters that consumed animal prey, and that prey contained high levels of proteins, moderate fat levels, and very little carbohydrates. While domesticated cats may be pets, they’re nutritional needs aren’t much different than those of their ancestors.

Being that cats are true carnivores, your feline friend needs to eat meat. She can eat other types of food, especially other animal-based products, such as dairy; however, these types of foods should not be a central part of her diet. Also, while domesticated cats can eat some types of vegetation, they should also be offered in limited quantities. Since they are meat eaters, their digestive systems are not designed to breakdown fruits and vegetables; therefore, if you offer your cat too much flora, she’s going to have a hard time digesting it.

Felines require a range of nutrients that are derived from the tissues of the animals that their ancestors preyed on; omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, calcium, niacin, vitamin A, and amino acids, for example. While plant tissues may offer some of these nutrients, they do not offer these nutrients in the forms that cats require; additionally, the do not offer enough of these nutrients.

Of all the nutrients that your felines need, protein and amino acids – the primary nutrients found in animal tissues – are the most important. Like the majority of mammals, protein is important for felines because it builds cells, maintains tissues, and aids in a variety of essential reactions. Additionally, protein serves as a cat’s main source of calories, which are what fuel their energy levels.

With all that said, it’s important that you are selecting a food that features ingredients that attend to these dietary needs. (Also check out: How much food should I feed my cat?)

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Selecting a Healthful Cat Food

Most cat owners choose to feed their pets’ commercial cat food; it is, after all, much more convenient than cooking.  A lot of cat owners also assume that commercial foods will automatically offer the right blend of nutrients that felines need to thrive; that is an incorrect assumption. Not all cat food is the same; some do offer the right balance of nutrients, and those nutrients are derived from quality sources; but others are made of mass-produced, poor quality ingredients that offer limited nutritional value. Feeding a cat these poor-quality foods can result in a number of health problems, including nutritional deficiencies, weight loss, and even cognitive decline.

With that in mind, it’s extremely important that you read the list of ingredients when you’re selecting a cat food. The best formulas feature lean cuts of quality protein as the first ingredients. They may also feature some carbohydrates; however, they should only be quality sources, and they should be minimal. If you’re not sure what type of food to feed your cat, speak with your veterinarian. He or she can make the best recommendations.

Want to learn more about your cat’s wellness or cat products? Check out some more Pure Bred Cats articles!

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