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Necessary Nutrients for Cats

necessary-nutrients-catUnlike dogs, cats are strict carnivores that must obtain all their necessary nutrition from animal sources. In the wild, felines meet their nutritional needs by consuming prey that is high in protein, low in carbohydrates, and provides moderate amounts of fat. Without this correct balance of protein, carbohydrates, and fat, and without adequate intake of vitamins, minerals, and water, your cat’s health will suffer.

The specific type and amount of cat food your cat needs depends on his breed, age, activity level, gender, metabolism, and environment. If you have specific questions about your cat’s diet, consult your veterinarian.


Proteins are comprised of amino acids and function as the building blocks of tissue in the body. Cats are only able to manufacture 12 of the 23 amino acids necessary for protein production, which means they must obtain the rest from dietary sources. Generally, animal proteins are a better source of essential amino acids than vegetable proteins, and animal proteins are the only source of taurine in a cat’s diet. Taurine is an amino acid vital to the visual, cardiovascular, and reproductive health of cats.


Fats are necessary for several reasons: they supply energy, improve absorption of vitamin A and other fat-soluble vitamins, provide essential fatty acids, and improve skin and coat health. Too much fat in the diet, however, can lead to weight gain and associated health risks. Also, rancid fat actually destroys fat-soluble vitamins, which can cause deficiencies over time. Feeding your cat a commercial food that contains antioxidants will help prevent loss of these nutrients, according to the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine.


Carbohydrates are provided by plant sources and are made of starches, sugars, and fiber. They are an energy source and are necessary in small amounts in your cat’s diet. Most commercial cat foods contain about 30 to 35 percent carbohydrates, and this level is well tolerated by most cats. Increasing your cat’s carb intake by feeding her table food can be detrimental to her health.

Vitamins and Minerals

Just like in humans, vitamins and minerals play an important role in numerous bodily processes in cats. Specifically, cats require a dietary source of vitamin A, thiamin, and niacin, as these nutrients are needed in an amount greater than that produced naturally by the body. A complete commercial cat food should provide all the vitamins and minerals necessary for your cat’s health.


To ensure your cat’s health, you must provide her with a clean source of drinking water at all times. This is especially true if your cat eats dry food. If your cat has a weak thirst drive, switch to canned food with a water content of 75 percent or more. Make sure your cat drinks plenty of extra water during times of illness and during the hot summer months.

By feeding your cat a healthy commercial cat food, you decrease the risk of vitamin and mineral deficiencies and ensure a proper ratio of fat, protein, and carbohydrates. If your cat suffers from allergies or has other dietary restrictions, consult your veterinarian for advice.


Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine

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