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Dogs used to be the most popular pets in the United States, which probably explains why we have historically paid a greater amount of attention to their health and nutritional needs. But times are changing. More cats than dogs now live in U.S. households. Following are 7 reasons why cats need to eat a high quality, well-balanced food that is formulated especially for them.
Cats are categorized as “obligate” carnivores, a term that indicates that cats must eat some animal-derived protein to remain healthy, or receive dietary supplements to supply them with these crucial nutrients. Approximately one-third of a healthy, adult cat’s diet should consist of protein, although not all of it needs to be supplied in the form of meat.
Proteins are made from only 22 building blocks called amino acids. Cats can make some of these amino acids themselves; these are called the non-essential amino acids. Conversely, essential amino acids must be supplied by the diet. Cats have 12 essential amino acids, while dogs only have 11.
One of the most crucial of the essential amino acids is taurine. Cats that don’t get enough taurine in their diets can eventually become blind, deaf and develop heart failure. Because cats cannot produce their own taurine, they require good sources of taurine. Beef, eggs, fish and milk are all good sources, but the easiest way to ensure that your cat does not develop a taurine deficiency is through a quality food.
Another of the essential amino acids is arginine, which is converted into the amino acid ornithine, which is itself crucial to binding the ammonia that is produced by the breaking down of food proteins. Lack of arginine in the diet can be severe, usually showing symptom mere hours after a meal. Loss of coordination, crying, spasms and excess salivation are some of the signs of arginine deficiency.
Vitamin A plays a very important role in maintaining the health of the eyes, skin and other tissues within the body. Cats cannot convert beta carotene into vitamin A. Therefore, cats require a preformed source of vitamin A – like liver, an excellent source of vitamin A – in their diets. Vitamin A can be added to a cat’s food in the form of a supplement.
Cats require five times more thiamine in their diets than dogs do. Thiamine deficiency typically results in a poor quality coat, loss of appetite, hunched posture, and neurologic problems including seizures. Thiamine deficiencies can arise when cats eat a lot of uncooked, freshwater fish, because it contains an enzyme that breaks down thiamine. A balanced diet will prevent thiamine deficiency.
Understanding your cat’s special nutritional needs is essential information for keeping your cat healthy. The MyBowl tool for cats can help you to be sure that your cat is eating the right proportions of healthy ingredients in a food that has been made to promote health and longevity.