There’s been a lot of buzz about grain free diets lately. The rise of celiac disease and gluten intolerance among humans has sparked the rise of grain free eating. People aren’t the only ones who are ditching grains; many pet parents are, too.
If you’ve been shopping for cat food lately, you’ve probably noticed that a lot of varieties that are marked “grain free”. But what does it really mean, and is this type of diet actually good for your feline friend? Read on to learn more about the grain free diet to decide if it’s the best option for your cat.
The (Proposed) Problem with Grains
Grains, such as corn, rice, and wheat, are a primary ingredient found in many types of cat foods. Not only do they serve as a source of carbohydrates, which are a vital nutrient for felines, but they’re also easy to produce and inexpensive. However, for many cats, these forms of grains can be problematic.
Corn, rice, and wheat contain gluten, which, like humans, felines can be allergic to. Cats that are allergic to grains can experience symptoms that are similar to those of celiac disease; weight loss, gas, watery bowel movements, constipation, bloating, and irritated skin, just to name a few. Cats can also have a difficult time digesting grains because, as some scientists have pointed out, felines are natural carnivores, so they do not produce the amylase, a digestive enzyme in the saliva that is breaks down grains like rice, corn, and wheat before they enter the stomach. In nature, the feline diet consists primarily of protein; the only grains they consume are those that they obtain from the meat they eat; in other words, they only ingest grains if they animals they eat ingested them.
What is Grain Free Cat Food?
Grain free cat food, as the name suggests, does not contain any grains. The goal of this type of food is to offer felines food that is more similar to what they would eat in the wild, thereby preventing the issues that many cats experience when they eat corn, wheat, and rice; gluten-based ingredients.
Don’t assume, however, that grain free cat food is completely free of carbohydrates. While yes, it may be free of grains, these recipes usually do still feature carbohydrates; but the carbs are complex instead of simple (corn, wheat, and rice are simple carbohydrates). For example, they may contain millet, quinoa, buckwheat, and brown or wild rice (which do not contain gluten). While felines may eat mainly meat in the wild, animal nutritionists report that they do benefit from plant-based ingredients.
Pros and Cons of Grain Free Cat Food
Grain free cat food can be beneficial, but there are some downsides, as well.
- Typically, grain free cat food is more similar to what felines would eat in the wild. For example, they contain more proteins, such as beef, chicken, and salmon; foods that felines eat in abundance in the wild.
- Cats that are allergic or sensitive to gluten-based ingredients will experience fewer – if any – symptoms that are associated with gluten allergies and sensitivities.
- High-quality grain free cat food has a lower content of carbohydrates. Cats eat very few carbs in the wild, which means that the diet of domesticated cats should contain very little carbs, too.
- Since grain free cat food often contains more protein, it can have a high fat content, which can lead to excessive weight gain and obesity, which can have several adverse effects on feline health.
- Lower quality grain free cat food may not contain grains, but it usually contains more carbohydrates, like brown rice, brewers rice, and sweet potatoes, which can cause adverse effects in some felines.
- It’s more expensive; especially higher quality grain free cat food.
Which Should You Choose?
It really depends on the specific needs of your cat. While cats that are allergic to or sensitive to grains can certainly benefit from a grain free diet, it may not be the case for every feline. If you’re considering going grain free, speak to your veterinarian before making the switch. Together, you can discuss the benefits and disadvantages; your vet can also give you pointers to help you select the best grain free – or non-grain free food – for your purr-fect friend.
Want to learn more about your cat’s wellness or cat products? Check out some more Pure Bred Cats articles!