Unlike dogs, who are omnivores (eat meat and plants), cats are true carnivores (meat eaters). Their bodies have evolved to provide both energy for metabolism and the building blocks for growth and repair from animal proteins. Carbohydrates play a very small role in the nutritional needs of cats. Because of this, cats need a different feeding strategy than dogs.
- cats require at least 35-40% protein in their diets
- cats have a special requirement for some amino acids (taurine) that dogs do not
- cats have a very low thirst drive
- normal prey diet for wild cats is 70-75% water; dry food is 7-10% water
- normal prey diet for wild cats is 3-5% carbohydrate; dry food is often 25% carbohydrate or more
- in the wild, cats consume their food in small meals throughout the day
- cats learn what is food at a very early age by watching their mothers; once this is learned it is often very hard to change
- cats on a mostly or entirely canned food diet have a lower risk of lower urinary tract disease, diabetes, obesity, and intestinal disease
While many cats will do fine on a dry-only diet, in general they do much better on a diet that is mostly or entirely wet food. Dry diets do have some benefits (mostly convenience, although there is merit to dental diets for exercising the dental ligaments and helping to prevent dental disease). All kittens should be fed at least 50% or more of their diet based on a high quality protein canned food, and they should be introduced to this early on in their lives. Dry food is best given as treats in small amounts.