Cat and Cat Foods

Cat enjoying a mix of wet (canned) and dry cat food

Cat food is formulated to address the specific nutritional requirements of Cats. Although cats are obligate carnivores, most commercial cat food contains both animal and plant material, supplemented with Vitamins, Minerals and other Nutrients. An important nutrient is the Amino acid derivative Taurine, as cats cannot synthesize the compound. Cats fed a taurine-deficient dog food may develop retinal degeneration and go blind, for example.


Commercial cat foodRectify

Kattenkorrels op dierenmarkt Istanbul

Cat food for sale at an Istanbul animal market

Most store-bought cat food comes in either dry form, also known as kibble, or wet canned form. Some manufacturers sell frozen raw diets and premix products to cater to owners who feed raw.prefer dry cat food due to the convenience and price. Besides usually being significantly cheaper, dry cat food can also be left out for the cat to eat at will over the course of several days; whereas, canned or raw cat food spoils or becomes unappetizing after several hours. It should be noted, however, that even dry food, since it is sprayed with fats as noted above, becomes rancid and stale as it oxidizes. Using a free feeding practice can also contribute to overeating, and ultimately obesity.

Dry food is recommended by some based on the idea that cats break apart dry foods with their teeth, which causes the food to scrape off Calculus (dental). The degree of benefit this provides has been disputed in recent years.

Many dry foods use meals as protein source, such as meat meal, Chicken meal, Fish meal, or Corn gluten meal. This allows manufacturers to produce cheaper foods. Since the occurrence of BSE infection through contaminated Meat and bone meal, the use of meat meal in pet foods has been prohibited in parts of the world (e.g. Japan and France) but is still common practice in other parts (e.g. USA). Comparative studies conducted by Japanese researchers have shown that meat meal is superior to the other protein meal sources in terms of dry-matter digestibility and nutritional value for cats, while corn gluten meal is the least nutritional.

The same studies showed that cats fed with these dry food diets excreted alkaline urine. Urine PH has been implicated in the formation of Struvite crystals in feline Urolithiasis, and many dry food manufacturers address this by adding urine-acidifying ingredients to their food. However, this practice may lead to the formation of Calcium stones, therefore water intake rather than urine pH appears to be the most crucial factor for the prevention and treatment of feline stones.

Wet food Rectify

Canned Cat Food1

Wet (Canned) cat food example (Fish flakes in jelly)

Canned or wet food generally comes in common can sizes of 3 oz (85 g), 5.5 oz (156 g), and 13 oz (369 g). It is also sold in foil pouch form by some manufacturers.

Owners and veterinarians who recommend a diet consisting largely or entirely of canned, homemade or raw cat food point to higher water content of such food and the increased total water consumption in comparison to a dry food diet as an important health benefit. Wet food also generally contains significantly less grain and other carbohydrate material, although many are made with fish ingredients. Excessive consumption of fish (which contains high levels of unsaturated fatty acids) can cause yellow fat disease. In comparison to dry food, canned food is thought to either help treat or noticeably reduce the likelihood of numerous health issues including urinary tract disorders, diabetes, Chronic renal failure, Constipation (sometimes leading to Megacolon), and Obesity.

Canned cat foods in pop-top containers may play a role in the development of Hyperthyroidism in cats. This may be due to Bisphenol A used in the pop-top can coating leaching into the food.

Homemade food Rectify

Many pet owners feed cats homemade diets. These diets generally consist of some form of cooked meat or raw meat, ground bone, pureed vegetables, Taurine supplements, and other multivitamin supplements. Although cats are naturally resistant to many of the bacteria that raw meats contain, meat can sometimes also contain parasites and other harmful organisms and for this reason raw meat is sometimes frozen for periods of time before being used. Some pet owners use human vitamin supplements, and others use vitamin supplements specifically engineered for cats. Veterinarians sometimes recommend including digestive enzyme supplements in a homemade diet. Some pet food manufacturers offer packaged versions of a raw food diet that closely resembles such homemade diets. These packaged versions are generally kept frozen, with individual portions being thawed in advance.

Caution must be exercised in preparing homemade cat food. Some food additives are not suitable for cats. For instance, the emulsifying agent Propylene glycol (PG) which is added to many human foods

can be deadly for cats. PG was once a common ingredient in moist commercial cat food, but it was found to induce Heinz bodies and oxidative damage.  Subsequently, the FDA prohibited the use of PG in or on cat food.

PG is a problematic for homemade cat food preparers because under certain circumstances PG can be added to fresh meat and poultry intended for human consumption without listing it on the product label. The USDA allows lauramide arginine dissolved in propylene glycol to be added to fresh meat and poultry, and it may be listed on the label as just plain lauric arginate. Also, in solutions intended as antimicrobials, PG can be added to fresh meat and poultry with no labeling requirement at all. Consequently, the consumer does not know how much PG may be in any given product.

Vegetarian or vegan food Rectify

Vegetarian or vegan cat food has been available for many years, and is targeted primarily at vegan and vegetarian pet owners. Cats are obligate carnivores and require nutrients (including Arginine, Taurine, Arachidonic acid, Vitamin, Vitamin and Niacin) found in meat sources that cannot be obtained in sufficient amount in plant sources. According to the National Research Council, "unsupplemented vegetarian diets can results in harmful deficiencies of certain essential amino acids, fatty acids, and vitamins."

Organizations that advocate vegan or vegetarian diets for people have split opinions regarding vegetarian or vegan cat food. The International Vegetarian Union, the Vegan Society and Peta are some of the organizations that support a vegan or vegetarian diet for cats. On the other hand, the Vegetarian Society suggests people "consider carefully" and that many cats will not adjust to a vegetarian diet. They provide a list of necessary nutrients that will need to be supplemented with a recommendation to consult a veterinarian or animal nutritionist for those who want to try. The Animal Protection Institute also does not recommend a vegetarian diet for cats and cautions that dietary deficiencies may take months or years to develop and may be untreatable. They do not recommend relying on supplements because they may not contain necessary co-factors and enzymes and have not been studied for long term implications. The animal welfare organization American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, although suggesting a supplemented vegetarian diet for dogs, recommends against a vegetarian and vegan diets for cats. Purina, the pet food company, unequivocally says, "never feed your cat an exclusively vegetarian diet."

One study evaluated cats whose owners were knowledgeable about vegetarian cat diets and had self-selected to feed commercial and/or homemade vegetarian diets. The study found that all the cats had serum cobalamin (vitamin B12) levels within the reference range but 3 of 17 cats had serum taurine values below the reference range. Even when adequately supplemented, vegetarian diets present other risks, such as urine acidity problems.

A few vegetarian cat food brands are labeled by their manufacturers as meeting AAFCO's Cat Food Nutrient Profile while other manufacturers recommend their products to be supplemented and not used as a standalone. Pet owners can cause their cats to become malnourished when they do not follow dietary recommendations and mistakenly assume that their food is nutritionally complete . A 2004 study evaluated two commercial pet foods for nutritional adequacy;Vegecat KibbleMix supplement and Evolution canned diet for adult cats. The study concluded that these two foods, counter to labeling claims, had multiple nutritional inadequacies when compared against the AAFCO minimal nutrient profile for cat diets. The authors recommended that these vegan diets should not be used as a sole source of nutrition for cats.

In response, Evolution Diet denied that their product is nutritionally inadequate, citing the "ten to twenty thousand healthy and long living dogs, cats and ferrets living on the Evolution Diet" as an example. They attribute the discrepancy as a likely formulation error. In an apologetic reply, the manufacturer of Vegecat attributes the test results as caused by human error during the mixing process.

Labeling Rectify

In the United States, cat foods labeled as "complete and balanced" must meet standards established by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) either by meeting a nutrient profile or by passing a feeding trial. Cat Food Nutrient Profiles were established in 1992 and updated in 1995 by the AAFCO's Feline Nutrition Expert Subcommittee. The updated profiles replaced the previous recommendations set by the National Research Council(NRC).

Critics argue that due to the limitations of the trial and the gaps in knowledge within animal nutrition science, the term "complete and balanced" are inaccurate and even deceptive. An AAFCO panel expert has stated that "although the AAFCO profiles are better than nothing, they provide false securities. "

Certain manufacturers label their products with terms such as premium, ultra premium, natural and holistic. Such terms currently have no legal definitions.

Nutrients and functionsRectify

Vitamins are organic compounds that take part in a wide range of metabolic activities. Vitamin deficiencies can lead to widely ranging clinical abnormalities that reflect the diversity of their metabolic roles. Twelve minerals are known to be essential nutrients for cats. Calcium and phosphorus are crucial to strong bones and teeth. Cats need other minerals, such as magnesium, potassium, and sodium, for nerve impulse transmission, muscle contraction, and cell signaling. Many minerals only present in minute amounts in the body, including selenium, copper, and molybdenum, act as helpers in a wide variety of enzymatic reactions.

The Cat lists the AAFCO nutritional profiles for cat foods along with the roles of vitamins and minerals in cat nutrition according to the National Research Council.

Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) Cat Food Nutrient Profiles Cat
with Role of Vitamins & Minerals [1]
Nutrient Units
(Dry Matter Basis)
Growth and
Maximum Functions Signs of Deficiency/Excess
Protein  % 30.0 26.0
Arginine  % 1.25 1.04
Histidine  % 0.31 0.31
Isoleucine  % 0.52 0.52
Leucine  % 1.25 1.25
Lysine  % 1.20 0.83
Methionine + Cystine  % 1.10 1.10
Methionine  % 0.62 0.62 1.50
PH + Tyrosine  % 0.88 0.88
PH  % 0.42 0.42
Threonine  % 0.73 0.73
Tryptophan  % 0.25 0.16
Valine  % 0.62 0.62
FatCat  % 9.0 9.0
Linoleic acid  % 0.5 0.5
Arachidonic acid  % 0.02 0.02
Calcium  % 1.0 0.6
  • Formation of bones and teeth
  • Blood coagulation
  • Nerve impulse transmission
  • Muscle contraction
  • Cell signaling
  • Deficiency
    • Nutritional secondary hyperparathyroidism
    • loss of bone mineral content, which can lead to collapse and curvature of lumbar vertebrae and pelvic bones
    • bone pain, which can progress to pathological fractures
  • Excess
    • Depressed food intake
    • Decreased growth
    • Increased bone mineral density
    • Increased need for magnesium
PH  % 0.8 0.5
  • Skeletal structure
  • DNA and RNA structure
  • Energy metabolism
  • Locomotion
  • Acid-base balance
  • Deficiency
    • Hemolytic anemia
    • Locomotor disturbances
    • Metabolic acidosis
Potassium  % 0.6 0.6
  • Acid-base balance
  • Nerve-impulse transmission
  • Enzymatic reactions
  • Transport functions
  • Deficiency
    • Anorexia
    • Retarded growth
    • Neurological disorders, including ataxia and severe muscle weakness
Sodium  % 0.2 0.2
  • Acid-base balance
  • Regulation of osmotic pressure
  • Nerve impulse generation and transmission
  • Deficiency
    • Anorexia
    • Impaired growth
    • Excessive thirst and drinking
    • Excessive urination
Chlorine / Chloride  % 0.3 0.3
  • Acid-base balance
  • Osmolarity of extracellular fluids
  • Deficiency
    • Increased sodium concentration in renal fluid
    • Excess potassium excretion
Magnesium Cat  % 0.08 0.04
  • Enzyme functions
  • Muscle and nerve-cell membrane stability
  • Hormone secretion and function
  • Mineral structure of bones and teeth
  • Deficiency
    • Poor growth
    • Overextension of the carpal joints
    • Muscle twitching
    • Convulsions
  • Excess
    • Urinary tract stone formation in the presence of high pH
Iron Cat mg/mg 80.0 80.0
  • Hemoglobin and myoglobin synthesis
  • Energy metabolism
  • Deficiency
    • Poor growth
    • Pale mucous membranes
    • Lethargy
    • Weakness
    • Diarrhea
  • Excess
    • Vomiting and diarrhea
Copper (extruded food) Cat mg/mg 15.0 5.0
  • Connective tissue formation
  • Iron metabolism
  • Blood cell formation
  • Melanin pigment formation
  • Myelin formation
  • Defense against oxidative damage
  • Deficiency
    • Reduced weight gain
    • Longer time to conceive
Copper (canned food) Cat mg/mg 5.0 5.0
Manganese mg/mg 7.5 7.5
  • Enzyme functions
  • Bone development
  • Neurological function

No studies of deficiency in cats

Zinc mg/mg 75.0 75.0 2000.0
  • Enzyme reactions
  • Cell replication
  • Protein and carbohydrate metabolism
  • Skin function
  • Wound healing
  • Deficiency
    • Skin lesions
    • Growth retardation
    • Testicular damage
Iodine mg/mg 0.35 0.35
  • Thyroid hormone synthesis
  • Cell differentiation
  • Growth and development of puppies
  • Regulation of metabolic rate
  • Deficiency
    • Enlargement of thyroid glands
  • Excess
    • Excessive tearing, salivation, and nasal discharge
    • Dandruff
Selenium mg/mg 0.1 0.1
  • Defense against oxidative damage
  • Immune response

No studies of deficiency in cats

Vitamin IU/mg 9000.0 5000.0 750000.0
  • Vision
  • Growth
  • Immune function
  • Fetal development
  • Cellular differentiation
  • Transmembrane protein transfer
  • Deficiency
    • Conjunctivitis
    • Cataracts, retinal degeneration, and other eye problems
    • Weight loss
    • Muscle weakness
    • Reproductive and developmental disorders
  • Excess
    • Skeletal lesions in kittens, particularly outgrowths of the cervical vertebrae
    • Osteoporosis
Vitamin IU/mg 750.0 500.0 10000.0
  • Maintenance of mineral status
  • Skeletal structure
  • Muscle contraction
  • Blood clotting
  • Nerve conduction
  • Cell signaling
  • Phosphorous balance
  • Deficiency
    • Rickets
    • Abnormalities in skeletal development
    • Progressive paralysis
    • Ataxia
    • Lack of grooming
    • Reduction in body weight and food intake
  • Excess
    • Anorexia
    • Vomiting
    • Lethargy
    • Calcification of soft tissues
Vitamin Cat IU/mg 30.0 30.0
  • Defense against oxidative damage via free radical scavenging
  • Deficiency
    • Anorexia
    • Depression
    • Pain sensitivity in abdomen
    • Fat tissue pathology
Vitamin Cat mg/mg 0.1 0.1
  • Activation of clotting factors, bone proteins, and other proteins
  • Deficiency
    • Prolonged blood clotting times
    • Hemorrhaging
Vitamin / Thiamine Cat mg/mg 5.0 5.0
  • Energy and carbohydrate metabolism
  • Activation of ion channels in neural tissue
  • Deficiency
    • Neurological impairments including altered reflexes and convulsive seizures
    • Heart-rate disorders
    • Pathological changes in the central nervous system
    • Severe learning deficits
Riboflavin mg/mg 4.0 4.0
  • Enzyme functions
  • Deficiency
    • Cataracts
    • Fatty livers
    • Testicular atrophy
Pantothenic acid mg/mg 5.0 5.0
  • Energy metabolism
  • Deficiency
    • Stunted growth
    • Fatty changes in liver
    • Small bowel lesions
Niacin mg/mg 60.0 60.0
  • Enzyme functions
  • Deficiency
    • Anorexia
    • Weight loss
    • Elevated body temperature
    • Fiery red tongue, with ulceration and congestion
Vitamin / Pyridoxine mg/mg 4.0 4.0
  • Glucose generation
  • Red blood cell function
  • Niacin synthesis
  • Nervous system function
  • Immune response
  • Hormone regulation
  • Gene activation
  • Deficiency
    • Stunted growth
    • Convulsive seizures
    • Kidney lesions
Folic Acid mg/mg 0.8 0.8
  • Amino acid and nucleotide metabolism
  • Mitochondrial protein synthesis
  • Deficiency
    • Decreased growth rate
    • increased iron levels in blood
Biotin Cat mg/mg 0.07 0.07
Vitamin mg/mg 0.02 0.02
  • Enzyme functions
  • Deficiency
    • Weight loss
    • Vomiting
    • Diarrhea
    • Intestinal disorders
CholineCat mg/mg 2400.0 2400.0
Taurine (extruded food)  % 0.10 0.10
Taurine (canned food)  % 0.20 0.20
Nutrient Units
(Dry Matter Basis)
Growth and
Maximum Functions Signs of Deficiency/Excess
  1. Presumes an Energy of 4.0 kcal/g ME, based on the modified Atwater values of 3.5, 8.5, and 3.5 kcal/g for Protein, Fat, and Carbohydrate (nitrogen-free extract, NFE), respectively. Rations greater than 4.5 kcal/g should be corrected for Energy; rations less than 4.0 kcal/g should not be corrected for energy.
  2. Although a true requirement for Fat per se has not been established, the minimum level was based on recognition of Fat as a source of Essential fatty acids, as a carrier of Fat, to enhance palatability, and to supply an adequate Caloric density.
  3. If the mean Urine pH of cats fed Ad libitum is not below 6.4, the risk of Struvite increases as the Magnesium content of the diet increases.
  4. Because of very poor Bioavailability, Iron from Carbonate or Oxide sources that are added to the diet should not be considered as components in meeting the minimum nutrient level.
  5. Because of very poor Bioavailability, Copper from Oxide sources that are added to the diet should not be considered as components in meeting the minimum nutrient level.
  6. Add 10 IU Vitamin above minimum level per g of Fish oil per Kilogram of diet.
  7. Vitamin does not need to be added unless diet contains greater than 25 Percent fish on a dry matter basis.
  8. Because processing may destroy up to 90 Percent of the Thiamine in the diet, allowance in formulation should be made to ensure the minimum nutrient level is met after processing.
  9. Biotin does not need to be added unless diet contains Antimicrobial or Antivitamin compounds.
  10. Methionine may substitute Choline as Methyl donor at a rate of 3.75 parts for 1 part Choline by weight when Methionine exceeds 0.62 Percent.

Diet and diseaseRectify

Food allergyRectify

Food allergy is a non-seasonal disease with skin and/or gastrointestinal disorders. The main complaint is Pruritus, which is usually resistant to treatment by Steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. The exact prevalence of food allergy in cats remains unknown. There is no breed, sex or age predilection, although some breeds are commonly affected. Before the onset of clinical signs, the animals have been fed the offending food components for at least two years, although some animals are less than a year old. In 20 to 30% of the cases, cats have concurrent allergic diseases (Atopy / flea-allergic Dermatitis). A reliable diagnosis can only be made with Dietary elimination-challenge trials. Provocation testing is necessary for the identification of the causative food component(s). Therapy consists of avoiding the offending food component(s).


Cats fed exclusively on raw, Freshwater fish can develop a Thiamine deficiency.Those fed exclusively on liver may develop Vitamin toxicity. Malnutrition has been seen in cats fed "natural", "organic", or "vegetarian" diets produced by owners with good intentions, and most published recipes have been only crudely balanced (by computer) using nutrient averages. Because the palatability, Digestibility, and safety of these recipes have not been adequately or scientifically tested, it is difficult to characterize all of these homemade diets. Generally, most formulations contain excessive Protein and PH and are deficient in Calcium, Vitamin, and Microminerals such as Copper, Zinc, and Potassium. Also, the Energy of these diets may be unbalanced relative to the other Nutrient. Commonly used meat and carbohydrate ingredients contain more PH than Calcium. Homemade feline diets that are not actually deficient in Fat or Energy usually contain a Vegetable oil that cats do not find Palatable; therefore, less food is eaten causing a kcal. Rarely are homemade diets balanced for Microminerals or Vitamin. Owner neglect is also a frequent contributing factor in malnutrition.


The 2007 pet food recalls involved the massive recall of many brands of cat and dog foods beginning in March 2007. The recalls came in response to reports of Renal failure in pets consuming mostly wet pet foods made with Wheat gluten from a single People's Republic of China company, beginning in February 2007. After more than three weeks of complaints from consumers, the recall began voluntarily with the Canadian company Menu Foods on March 16 2007, when a company test showed sickness and death in some of the test animals. Soon after, there were numerous media reports of animal deaths as a result of kidney failure, and several other companies who received the contaminated wheat gluten also voluntarily recalled dozens of pet food brands.

By the end of March, Veterinary organizations reported more than 100 pet deaths amongst nearly 500 cases of kidney failure, with one online database self-reporting as many as 3,600 deaths as of April 11. As of April 8, Menu Foods has confirmed only about 16 deaths. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration refuses to estimate the amount of sick or dead because there is no centralized government records database of animal sickness or death in the United States as there are with humans (such as the Centers for Disease Control). As a result, many sources speculate that the actual number of affected pets may never be known and experts are concerned that the actual death toll could potentially reach into the thousands.

Overall, several major companies have recalled more than 100 brands of pet foods, with most of the recalled product coming from Menu Foods. Although there are several theories of the source of the agent causing sickness in affected animals, with extensive government and private testing and forensic research, to date, no definitive cause has been isolated. As of April 10, the most likely cause, according to the FDA, though not yet proven, is indicated by the presence of Melamine in wheat gluten in the affected foods. The Chinese company behind the contaminated wheat gluten has initially denied any involvement in the contamination, but is cooperating with Chinese and American investigators.

In the United States, there has been extensive media coverage of the recall. There has been widespread public outrage and calls for Government regulation of pet foods, which had previously been self-regulated by pet food manufacturers. The United States Senate held an oversight hearing on the matter by April 12. The economic impact on the pet food market has been extensive, with Menu Foods losing roughly $30 Million alone from the recall. The events have caused distrust of most processed pet foods in some consumers.


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