Vital nutrients are present mainly in meat products
Both human and feline body produce most of the nutrients they need. However, there are crucial nutrients for the proper development that they can’t synthesize by themselves in the necessary amounts, so the human and feline bodies must get these nutrients from a variety of foodstuffs.
Along with the basic nutrients, we must mention the importance of having constant access to clean water. Regardless of the type of food cats eat, they must be enabled to maintain hydration their body needs.
Proteins are the irreplaceable basis the complete feline diet steps on. They are one of the key building blocks of the animal cell and carry out a number of biological functions. Taking in the proteins as nutrients, the feline body can’t use them as they are, but breaks them down into their building blocks – the amino acids to synthesize the nutrients it needs by itself.
The feline body can synthesize amino acids by itself, but far from all of them it needs to properly work. 11 amino acids out of more than 20 that build up proteins, are irreplaceable – they cannot be independently synthesized in the needed quantities and are being taken in through food. Two of these amino acids, taurine and arginine, are present only in foodstuffs of animal origin, which directly shows that cats aren’t vegetarians and must certainly eat meat.
Taurine is a beta-amino sulfonic acid that is unique in the feline body. Its deficiency results in reduced vision and adversely affects the cardiovascular, reproductive and nervous systems. It is contained in veal, beef and poultry meat, fish and eggs and dairy products in smaller quantities.
Another essential amino acid is arginine that is necessary for the protein synthesis and plays a key role in cat metabolism. The deficiency of arginine affects the feline body instantly – within 24 hours after intake of food with no arginine content cats develop hyperammonemia, which symptoms are vomiting, muscle cramps, abnormal coordination and seizures, which may result in coma and/or death. The required average daily arginine intake is ca. 0,003 oz per 1 pound (190 mg per 1 kg) of cat’s body weight. Proteins of animal origin and some plant foodstuffs like meat and fish contain enough of that.
The needful amount of fats in the cat diet depends on the individual energy needs and the diet should be balanced in respect of all components. We cannot speak of absolute quantitative levels, but the fat content is crucial due to the needful fatty acids, degradation of fat-soluble vitamins and food flavor attributes.
The most important for cats are linoleic and alpha-linoleic acids, also called omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, and arachidonic, eicosapentaeonic and docosahexaenoic acids that are derived from them. They play a key role in the immune and circulatory systems and care for intact healthy skin and fur too.
Arachidonic acid is crucial for the cat immune system and mastering inflammatory processes and allergic reactions. Naturally it’s exclusively present in animal fats.
The shortage of fatty acids causes deterioration of the skin and fur condition, hair loss, difficult healing wounds, increased risks of infection, and at an early age – abnormal growth, liver and renal mis-development.
All substances we mentioned so far are primarily present in meat and animal products, which means that if you basically feed your cat with meat, it will have the needful nutrients. Vegetable food in turn facilitates the function of the stomach, but it doesn’t get completely absorbed by the body and its nutritional value isn’t high enough for cats.
With a few exceptions, vitamins are not being synthesized by the body and are supposed to be taken with the food. Generally, there are two types: fat- and water-soluble vitamins. A, D, E and K are among the basic fat-soluble vitamins and vitamin C and the B-group vitamins belong to the water-soluble type.
A, D, E and K
Vitamin А includes a group of chemical substances, which functions are related to eyesight, bone growth, reproductive functions and epithelial tissue maintaining. In the event of vitamin A deficiency eyes become very sensitive to light changes and in some cases result in night blindness, growth problems, reproductive hindrances, epithelial tissue failure, dermatosis etc. On the other hand, excess amounts of this vitamin could lead to skeletal malformations and hyperesthesia (increased sensitivity to irritations). Vitamin A is present in milk, liver (including fish oils from liver) and egg yolk.
Vitamin D regulates calcium and phosphorus metabolism in the body and takes part in building up and keeping the bone structure in good condition. Its deficiency is related to developing rickets and other bone system troubles. Cats can get vitamin D from liver, some types of fish, egg yolk and sunshine.
Vitamin Е performs mainly antioxidant functions and takes part in keeping the feline reproductive system healthy and fat tissue, and its deficiency could bring on bowel and cardiovascular system problems. It is present in vegetable oils, liver and animal fats.
Vitamin K also includes a group of chemically active substances that cares especially for blood clotting. Cats get a large portion, even almost the whole amount of vitamin K thanks to bacteria in their colon. That’s why extra intake is necessary only when this synthesis is hindered, like for example when taking antibiotics or bacteria synthesized vitamin K absorption disorders. In case of vitamin K deficiency longer blood clotting time and hemorrhages are observed. It’s present in green leafy vegetables, liver and some fish species.
B and C
B-group vitamins are water-soluble compounds that takes part in metabolism of nutrients and energy synthesis in the body.
Vitamin B deficiency can arise from an imbalanced diet. It’s expressed in central nervous system dysfunction, anorexia, weight loss, dermatitis, stomach disorders, fur problems, appetite loss and anemia.
Normally, excessive quantities of B-group vitamins isn’t toxic and could cause diarrhea on rare occasions. B-group vitamins are present in meat, liver, dairy products, green leaf vegetables and pulses.
Unlike humans, cats can synthesize vitamin C their own in case of a well-balanced diet.
Milk And Dairy Products
Usually, cats gladly eat milk and dairy products that are rich in calcium, proteins, phosphorus and vitamins, but you should bear in mind that they can cause stomach complaints and diarrhea. The body ability to break down lactose decreases with age and some individuals have low ability of lactose digestion at a very early age. You should follow the intake of milk and dairy products and if they are well assimilated by your cat’s body, they should be given in small amounts and over longer time intervals.
The necessity of sodium chloride in the feline body is insignificant and is provided by the intake of a well-balanced diet. The salt intake is counter-indicative and brings on renal function disorders and in some cases can cause increased blood pressure.
Although glucose plays a unique role in feline metabolism, easy-to-assimilate carbohydrates are not a key ingredient of the cat diet. Cats can synthesize by themselves the glucose their body needs.
Cats must not eat sugar, as they don’t have sweet taste receptors and sugar could cause dental problems, obesity and diabetes.
Leighann Daristotle, Linda P. Case, Michael G. Hayek, Melody Foess Raasch (2011) Canine and Feline Nutrition: A Resource for Companion Animal Professionals, 3 – 73, 57, 81 – 117
National Research Council, Division on Earth and Life Studies, Board on Agriculture and Natural Resources, Committee on Animal Nutrition, Subcommittee on Dog and Cat Nutrition (2006) Nutrient Requirements of Dogs and Cats, 49 – 250
Elisa Katz, DVM, Arginine: Essential and Abundant for Cat Nutrition, https://feline-nutrition.org/nutrition/what-is-arginine-and-is-it-essential
Kymythy R. Schultze, CN, Your Cat’s Nutritional Needs: The Basics, https://feline-nutrition.org/nutrition/your-cats-nutritional-needs-the-basics
C.A. Tony Buffington, Dry foods and risk of disease in cats, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2387258/