A cat requires a balance of proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals and water. If you feed your cat at regular times and offer a range of foods, following the guidelines, it should get all of those.
Proteins are made up of amino acids which are the building blocks for the body, they are used for energy. As a cat becomes less active, they need less protein. In addition, their livers and kidneys have reduced efficiency and are less able to flush out the toxic products produced from breaking down proteins. But a kitten because it is growing needs 50% of protein in its diet where as a young adult cat only needs 30%. The cats’ digestive system processes proteins so efficiently that only 5% of the total protein absorbed is lost through waste products. The cat must get regular proteins or it will loose weight and condition. All nutritional needs are covered in widely available scientifically formulated cat foods.
Fats are the second major source of energy for cats. A cat can digest up to 95% of the fat it consumes; any excess is stored beneath the skin. However, an imbalance in fat consumption and exercise can lead to obesity.
For most animals carbohydrates are the major energy source, but cats can survive with out them. A cats natural food source are low in carbohydrates. However, carbohydrates are cheaper than protein rich fish and meat so they are normally incorporated in most cat foods.
Carbohydrates can provide a boost of energy when a cat needs it most, for example if a cat is pregnant. Fibre is also good for your cat, although they can’t actually digest fibre, it provides good bulk for its faeces, a wild cat would get fibre from feathers, but cat food provides it in the form of plant fibre.
Carbohydrate should not be more than 40% of your cats diet.
Proteins, fats and carbohydrates are macronutrients, whereas vitamins and minerals are micronutrients, they are only required in small quantities. A cat makes its own Vitamin C, therefore there is no need to add any extra. Vitamins A, D, E and K work together to keep bodily functions working, a cat should get all it needs from healthy diet. Vitamin B should also be present. An excess of vitamins can harm your cat, for example too much liver will cause an overdose of vitamin A, this can lead to arthritic problems in the legs and spine.
Minerals need to be available in the right amounts, which have to be right in relation to each other. The daily requirements of macro minerals are measured in milligrams. Trace or micro minerals are also necessary but are measured in micrograms. A cat that has a balanced diet should receive the right amount of these.
Calcium and phosphorus, for example, are both found in milk, and is important for growing kittens. Kittens fed on an all-meat diet and do not get enough milk in their diet will develop bone problems, because they will be getting too much phosphorus and not enough calcium.
You can supplement your cats diet, for a bit of variety, with leftovers and scraps, which will introduce different textures and tastes. But you should have an idea of the benefits and draw backs of different foods. If you want to feed your cat only on home-prepared foods you should talk to your vet first, with regards to types, variety and amounts.
Traditionally house cats have been fed on the odd bits of meat, fish and table scraps which can provide for its nutritional needs. A feral cat will eat whole rodents including bones and innards and will benefit from all the nutrients these contain.
You can feed your cat on raw meat, but it must be supplemented with other foods like pasta and vegetables, for carbohydrates, minerals and fibre, to provide the equivalent of bones and intestines of the naturally caught rodent.
The best meat will have a protein content of 20%. It’s best served raw, or lightly cooked, as vitamins and minerals can be destroyed in cooking. As the cuts become cheaper fat increases and protein decreases.
Poultry can be served with giblets but make sure you remove the bones, as they become brittle with cooking and can be dangerous. Lamb and pork bones are fine, as the cat gnaw, developing the jaw muscles and keeping the teeth clean. Avoid any meat with additives such as ham, bacon and sausages.
Uncooked fish has a protein level of 10%, but raw fish should only be given as a rare treat as it contains enzymes that destroy essential vitamin B. Lack of vitamin B can cause symptoms affecting the nervous and gastro-intestinal systems and skin.
Oily fish, such as herrings or sardines are highly nutritious, and is higher in fat making it a better choice. Vegetables also provide a cheap source of protein and fibre.
Milk has fat and protein, as well as lactose, which can be beneficial during periods of growth, pregnancy, lactation and stress. Cheese and milk also provide minerals but are not part of the cats natural diet and should only be given as an occasional treat. Too much can cause diarrhoea. Eggs mashed or scrambled are full of protein and vitamin A, but should never be given raw as they contain an enzyme that destroys vitamin B.