Cat Nutrition Requirements Guide

  • By:

    Dr. Sara Ochoa
    Dr. Sara Ochoa

    Author: Dr. Sara Ochoa

    Dr. Sara Redding Ochoa is a veterinarian with many years of experience and higher education. During her time in veterinary school she was able to learn form some of the most well-known veterinarians from all over the world. Sara lives happily with her husband Greg and her babies Ruby the schnoodle, and Bam-Bam her bunny. Dr. Sara Redding Ochoa has a passion and love for animals that makes her a wonderful asset to our team.

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  • Updated on: 01/11/2021

When looking for food for your cat, there are many different options that you have.  When you walk into the pet store, there are many rows of various brands and diets that you can feed your cat. This can at first be very overwhelming.  With a little bit of time, you can find the perfect cat food for your cat.  

cats-nutrition-guide@freepik / Freepik

Many people may think that all cat foods are the same, yet they can be very different.  Cats do need certain ingredients in their diets that you need to look for in the cat food that you are feeding.  This article will explain what you need to look for when picking out food for your cat.

Do Cats need Carbs?

Cats do not need carbs in their diets as people and dogs do.  Carbs are not an essential part that your cat needs in their diet.  They do play an important role in nutrition and should be included in your cat’s diet.  Carbohydrates give your cat a very easily digestible and available source of energy.  

When your cat digests their food, the carbs are broken down into glucose.  This glucose is the main source of energy that is needed by cells in your cat’s body.  By offering your cat carbs, you are helping their bodies save proteins to be used for energy for their muscles and other tissues.   The carbs can be used to produce energy for other cells in the body.  

Carbs are needed to make your cat’s food and used to help balance the fats and proteins in your cat’s diets.  Some cats need to eat a high protein or low-fat diet by increasing or decreasing the number of carbs in the food will help change these ratios.  Carbs are also used to help hold your cats kibble together and maintain the palatability of the food.

How much Protein does a Cat need?

Your cat will need a high amount of protein in their diet.  Proteins are needed to provide energy for every organ in their body.  While protein is a good part of your cat’s nutrition, not all proteins are the same.  A high-quality protein is needed to help maintain good health.  

READ MORE: Best Auto Cat Feeder

how much protein does cat need@freepic.diller / Freepik

When looking at the ingredient list, make sure that the listed proteins come from high-quality sources. Things such as chicken or fish will come from better sources than meat by-products or meat meal. These come from the unwanted parts of the animal.

The proteins in your cat’s diets when digested are broken down into amino acids.  These are needed for your cat’s body to function correctly. Some amino acids, such as taurine is found in proteins that must be in your cat’s diet. Many amino acids your cat’s body can make taurine cannot be made by your cat and must be in their diet. Without taurine, a cat can be blind or have heart and reproductive problems.

What Ingredients Should I look for in Cat Food?

There are two main locations that you can get information from on the bag of cat food.  These are the Ingredient list and the Guaranteed Analysis. These will give you all the information that you need to know about that bag of cat food.

ingredients for cat food@rihaij / Pixabay

Ingredient list

When looking at the ingredient list, make sure that the first ingredient is an animal protein.  Many common proteins are chicken or fish. Things such as fish meal or chicken by-products are a lower quality protein and not as good for your cat.

After that, look at the other ingredients.  Make sure that there is not a lot of carbs and other fillers.  Things such as cornmeal is a filler that is used to hold the other ingredients together.  It is best to look for carbs, such as peas or potatoes.

Also, look at the fat that is mentioned in their list.  You should see a named fat source such as chicken fat or sunflower oil.  

Guaranteed Analysis:

The Guaranteed Analysis will show the percentage of fats, carb, proteins, fiber, and vitamins and minerals.

What does crude Protein mean in Cat Food?

Crude protein is the percentage of protein found in the diet.  This is usually liked on the Guaranteed Analysis that is found on the back of the bag of food.  If the analysis read Crude Protein (max): 35%, then this food would have at least 35% of protein or more.  It would never have less than 35% of protein.  

protein mean in cat food@Gellinger / Pixabay

When looking for how much protein is in your cat’s food, this is where you would look.  You want to find a food that has a high protein level. Many people will use this number to compare protein contents in different cat foods easily.  This is not the only number you need to look at but does need to be considered when buying cat food.

What percentage of a Cat’s diet should be Protein?

The amount of protein that your cat needs depends on their age and lifestyle.

  • Kittens: A young kitten will need more protein because it is growing.  Kittens should be fed around 40% protein or higher.
  • Adults: Adult cats can stay a little on the lower end of the range at 35% to 40% protein. Adult cats tend to not be active and do not need as much protein as kittens.
  • Seniors: Senior cats can vary in range depending on if they have any medical problems.  If your older cat has kidney disease, a high protein diet is not recommended as the high levels of protein can damage your cat’s kidney’s even more.  Older cats also have problems keeping a high muscle mass and need a higher protein diet. It is advised to have yearly bloodwork to assess your older cat’s kidney values and adjust their protein levels.

While the rows of cat food may be daunting at first, with a little time, you can pick out the best food for your cat.  Make sure that you are getting a cat food with high-quality protein and a great balance of carbs and fats. By finding your cat the best food, you will help keep them healthy for years to come.

ThePets is an informational website that features articles written by qualified veterinarians and professional writers. You can learn more about our editorial process. When selecting food for your pet, use Pet Food Finder, and search for the clinic to treat your pet using Vet Clinics Locator.

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