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Cats: nutrition and lifestyle choices

Zoran DL and Buffington CAT. Effects of nutrition choices and lifestyle changes on the well-being of cats, a carnivore that has moved indoors. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2011; 239: 596-606.
Cats have lived on the outer edges of human society for many thousands of years. However, domestication has changed cats relatively little. Diet options for cats in the wild have included consumption of small mammals, birds, and insects. These are meat or protein-based diets that contain little carbohydrate. Cats, as a species, are strictly carnivorous. In many societies, they have been removed from their former free-roaming, active existence to a captive, indoor, sedentary one. They have also gone from consuming frequent, small meals of animals they could catch and kill to consuming prepared diets of human choosing.

Cats have specific requirements for certain nutrients, such as arachidonic acid, vitamins A and D and many B vitamins (niacin in particular), and the amino acids taurine, and arginine, which cannot be endogenously synthesized in large enough amounts to meet their needs. They have a very distinct need for large amounts of dietary protein that sets them apart from other mammals. This need becomes very important when cats are not eating well, are consuming diets containing poor-quality protein, or not consuming a sufficient amount of dietary protein to meet their needs. Too long a time period with inadequate protein intake can result in various abnormalities. These abnormalities include loss of muscle mass, abnormal energy metabolism, and reduced or poor immune function, reduced protein available for structural repair, and abnormal function of critical metabolic pathways.

Protein intake is being looked at closely in the composition of diets fed to achieve weight loss. The amount of protein intake in relationship to carbohydrate and fat intake is also being studied in other conditions such as urolithiasis, inflammatory bowel disease, and diabetes mellitus. It is important to note that although meeting basic nutritional needs is necessary for maintenance of health and well-being of cats, it may not be sufficient in itself to assure a healthy existence. [VT]

Related articles: Zoran D. The carnivore connection to nutrition in cats. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2002; 221: 1559-67.

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