Look, I completely understand the desire to eat well-rounded meals. It’s great that we’re ever concerned with eating more fruits and vegetables, reducing white starches, increasing our sources of protein. But I’m here to tell you: Your pets don’t need it.
A few weeks ago, I was struck by the increasingly needless crap manufacturers are putting in cat food. I was looking for a high protein food for my two cats, because, even though we limit the amount of dry food we feed them, I have one 17lbs flabby fuzz-ball, and the smaller 10lbs cat is beginning to gaining weight. The second ingredient in almost every dry cat food is cornmeal, so I figured that the cats were gaining weight because almost a third of what they eat is carbohydrates–and cats need no carbs, ever. Instead of finding higher protein dry foods in premium brands, I found ingredients like brown rice, carrots, and even fruit.
The only time a cat would ever naturally eat a piece of fruit is if it were in the digestive system of a small animal that became kitty’s din-din.
Don’t buy these premium “natural” or “holistic” cat foods. I think it’s great for humans to eat natural foods. I’m not even opposed to the word “holistic” if it’s applied correctly and not attached to chiropractic nonsense. But a cat’s body doesn’t do anything useful with fruits or grains. Cats need milligrams of fiber, normally supplied by the undigestible bits of their prey, so a pot of cat grass is more than enough if their food doesn’t supply it. But cats and humans share one digestion issue–unused carbs are stored as fat. Since cats’ digestive systems don’t readily break down sugar for energy, however, almost all carbs are stored as fat.
At any rate, after looking at the protein levels in dry foods, I checked the moist food labels, assuming that having recognizable chunks of meat would mean more protein, but I was surprised by what I saw. Moist food usually has around 10–15% protein, and 4–6% of fat. (Not a big concern for cats. Cats cannot get high cholesterol or suffer heart problems from diets rich in fat. Fats do have more calories, so there is potential for a cat to gain weight on a high fat diet, but it’s not an issue in and of itself.) Cat foods often have ash and other questionable undigestible bits, but dry food lists around 30% protein. Even with cornmeal or brown rice the bulk filler in most dry cat food, the dry seems to have over double the amount of protein.
Recommended human intake is 20–25% of total calories, and cats should have well over double this amount. Their whole metabolism is based around high protein diets. This would make dry food look like the ideal choice, except that ounce per ounce, the wet food actually far higher in protein. The dry food labels are stating what each kibble contains, but the wet food labels are showing the percentage of the entire can, which contains far more water. The hyperbole on the dry food packaging explains how well-rounded the cat food is because it has wholesome grains. But the grains are just filler; the cats don’t want it, although it does fill them up faster. And parsley or sweet potatoes or blueberries? Useless. Beyond useless. Wastes of money and food. Again, any carbs that are not passed as fiber are broken down into fat, rather than energy, cats gain weight quicker on dry food, and are susceptible to kidney disease and diabetes.
Cats can’t even taste sugar. How can they get diabetes? We’re basically poisoning cats by thinking that they need or desire a “well-rounded” diet. Cats aren’t gourmets; they are carnivores, and unlike humans or canines, they can’t live on plant proteins or even an exclusively seafood diet.