Dogs and cats are similar in many ways, but when it comes to their nutritional needs, there are some big differences. While they are both carnivores – meaning they should get most of their protein from meat-based sources – cats are obligate/strict carnivores, meaning they require an almost entirely meat-based diet. In fact, most “wild” cats would only eat plants in the form of stomach contents of smaller prey that they’d eat whole. Since cats do not have an adequate amount of the enzyme in their body (amalyse) that can break down carbohydrates, they have to get nearly all of their nutrition, including the vital amino acid taurine, from meat. Dogs can adapt and survive (but not thrive) by consuming mostly plant-based proteins like grains and vegetables, but cats can’t.
Cats do not have much of an urge to drink water, therefore, they get their water requirement from the foods they eat. This is why cats aren’t at the water bowl nearly as often as dogs. Interestingly, MIT did a study on how cats drink and found that they cannot scoop up water like a dog. Basically, they dip their tongue in the water and slurp it into their mouth in very small amounts. It’s a lot of work for little water. It’s much easier for them to absorb moisture as they’re digesting food, which is why a diet naturally high in moisture is crucial.
Most cats are fed canned food which provides the high moisture, high protein and low carbohydrate diet that they need. However, it’s important to pay attention to the ingredients in canned food and make sure it does not contain grains, gluten, wheat, soy, preservatives, hormones, or other processed ingredients. Most brands include additives such as tapioca starch, carrageenan, guar gum or xantham gum, which are used to give the product a certain texture and consistency, but they may be unsafe and cause health issues.
So, what kind of food can provide everything a cat needs, naturally? Raw food! Raw food is the closest thing to a dog or cat’s natural diet and maintains as much of the naturally occurring nutritional value as possible since heat and other processing can destroy important vital nutrients and healthy digestive enzymes. Commercial raw companies like Steve’s Real Food does nothing more than grind the raw ingredients together, shape them into nuggets or patties, and freeze them so the food is an imitation of nature – with all the amino acids, fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, and enzymes intact. And raw foods are chock-full of naturally occurring moisture, so their moisture needs are met.
Eating real, whole, minimally processed foods is a cornerstone of good health for both humans and pets. Cats and dogs are biologically designed to eat what they have eaten for centuries – meat, bones, and tripe (the fruits and vegetables digesting in the stomachs of their prey). Many believe that raw fed cats suffer from fewer diseases, live longer, and even look better than cats fed canned or other processed foods.