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I'm not a carnivore but my cats are...

09/02/2009

I was just reading a blog where the topic of vegetarian cats was being discussed. There was some misinformation that reminded me about the importance of understanding how unique feline physiology is.

Dogs and humans are omnivores; we are very nutritionally flexible and can adjust to a variety of diets. Cats are different! Their nutritional requirements are very strict and unforgiving. If you vary from what a cat's body needs, you can get in trouble rather quickly and cause severe effects on the cat's health and well being. Most people now know about taurine, an amino acid found in meat that dogs and humans can manufacture in their bodies but cats need to eat (they can't make it). But I think an even more striking example is vitamin A. This vitamin occurs naturally only in animal tissue. Humans can either eat vitamin A, or they can eat beta-carotene in veggies and then convert it to vitamin A. Cats? Nope, you got it - they can't convert beta carotene to vitamin A; they have to eat it in animal products.

There are lots of similar examples regarding feline nutritional needs, which are summed up beautifully in this article. If you have a cat, you should read it! It also talks about the risks of feeding cats carbs (i.e. dry food) and has tons of pretty fascinating info.

Look, if you love cats, you gotta love everything about them - including their inescapably carnivorous physiology. Sure, I wince every time I open a can of cat food, or cook my cat his (balanced!) homemade organic chicken diet. But if you wanna live with cats, you need to face that fact that you're living with a predator. Granted, a predator who loves to cuddle and is scared of strange noises and cries like a baby when he doesn't get enough attention...but inside that cute little body lies the metabolism of a tiger.

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