The nutritional needs of cats and dogs differ dramatically, which is why feeding dog food to a cat can be detrimental to a cat’s health. Cats are obligate carnivores. As a result, they have specific characteristics:
- Jaws made for cutting, not chewing
- No digestive enzymes in their saliva
- Strong stomach acid to help digest prey swallowed whole.
Cats prefer to eat their food in small portions throughout the day.
Unlike dogs, cats will preferentially draw their energy from protein. Therefore feeding poorly balanced home-cooked foods or dog food to cats can cause a protein deficiency. Inadequate protein in the diet can lead to hair loss, slower hair growth and poor muscle mass.
Taurine is an essential amino acid that is required in a cat’s diet, and is naturally found in meat. Taurine is critical to heart, eye and reproductive function in cats. Prolonged taurine deficiency can cause:
- Retina damage in the eye leading to blindness in a few months
- Cardiac disease causing dilation of the major heart cavities
- Low fertility, abortions, foetal malformations of newborn kittens, and growth problems in kittens.
Taurine is found in cat food but not in dog food. It is required at a minimum of 1g per kg of dry matter for dry food and double this amount in wet food. Taurine deficiency is diagnosed by a blood test that measures the amount of taurine in the blood.
Cats are increasingly kept indoors and minimising the unpleasant odour from their faeces is important. A high protein diet naturally results in an unpleasant and strong stool odour. The cause of the smell is typically undigested protein in the faeces. Therefore it is important to feed foods that are high in digestible proteins and low in non-digestible proteins.
Some examples of highly digestible proteins include chicken meal, egg, soy protein isolate and corn gluten.
- Cats are obligate carnivores
- Cats should not be fed dog food as it can lead to protein deficiency
- Taurine is an essential amino acid in cats that is required for sustaining good health
- Minimising the quantity of non-digestible proteins in the diet can reduce unpleasant faecal odour.