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The Basics of Feline Feeding

Many people feed their cats dry food, and it’s easy to understand why: it’s simple, clean and convenient. You can just plunk down a bowl of kitty kibble and let your cats eat as they like. But what many people don’t realize is that, while a cat will survive on a dry food diet, it is nutritionally sub-optimal compared to other available options.

When deciding what to feed your cat, you should primarily consider three key attributes: high levels of animal-based protein, low levels of carbohydrates and high water content.

Cats are strict carnivores, which means they are designed to get their protein from meat, not plants. The protein in dry food, which is often heavily plant-based, is not equal in quality to the protein in canned food, which is largely meat-based. Cats have no dietary need for carbohydrates, which can be detrimental to their health, as they can wreak havoc on many cats’ blood sugar/insulin balance. The non-protein elements of dry foods act as little more than filler.

In the wild, your cat would be hunting and killing prey, eating a meat-based diet high in protein and moisture with carbohydrates levels as low as 3% to 5% of the total meal. The average dry cat food contains 35% to 50% carbohydrates, while many of the better canned foods contain the appropriate amount of carbohydrates (3% to 5%) as well as a substantial amount of water.

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percentage of carbohydrates in a cat's wild diet

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percentage of carbohydrates in a kibble diet

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percentage of carbohydrates in a cat's wet food diet

Water is such an important ingredient for cat food because cats are not naturally water-seeking animals. A cat consuming a predominantly dry-food diet will drink more water than a cat consuming a canned food diet, but the dry food diet cat will still only be consuming about half the water compared with a cat eating canned food. Many experts believe that the commonness of kidney and bladder problems among cats is due in large part to dry food diets. In a sense, wet food essentially flushes out your cat’s bladder and kidneys, which may help keep kidney and bladder problems in check.

Dry foods only contain 7% to 10% water, whereas canned foods contain approximately 78% water. Canned foods therefore more closely approximate the natural diet of the cat and are better suited to meet the cat’s water needs (a cat’s normal prey is approximately 70% to 75% water). The cat’s lack of a strong thirst drive can lead to low-level, chronic dehydration when dry food makes up the bulk of their diet.

Transitioning to canned foods can take time if your cat is used to eating kibble. It’s best to introduce any new food slowly, a little at a time, mixed in with the regular food until you can remove the old food and only feed the new food. Also, adding tuna water or shaved Bonita flakes can make a new food smell and taste more appealing to cats.

Despite these facts, there are many reasons why someone would choose to continue feeding a kibble-based diet to their cat such as convenience, lack of mess and price. Should you decide to continue feeding your cat a dry diet, we at Petagogy stock dry cat foods with some of the highest protein contents on the market, ensuring that your cat is getting as much protein as possible. And if you’re interested in learning about other options for your cat that fit your lifestyle and budget, we can show you many different options that will make both you and your cat as happy as possible.

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water content in kibble

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water content in can food