Analyzing Cat Food: The Role of Fats and Carbohydrates
Dietary fats are needed in moderate amounts in the cat’s diet. For one thing, fat content in cat foods make them tastier and more satisfying for cats. But the place of fat in the cat’s diet is not just based on taste. Fats provide certain essential fatty acids necessary for the health of the brain tissue as well as the skin and coat of the cats. They are essential for the absorption of Vitamins A, D, E and K, which are fat soluble. Fats have double the calorific value of proteins and carbohydrates, and are excellent sources energy.
While moderate amounts of fats are essential in a cat’s diet, excess amounts can lead to obesity in cats. However, if fats are lacking in the diet, cats may have itchy skin and dull coats. Kittens should have moderate amounts of fat to avoid developmental problems. While very active cats also need more fat, sedentary or obese cats should have low-fat diets.
High quality cat foods generally use poultry fat to meet the requirement of this nutrient in the cat’s diet. Hydrogenated coconut oil, tallow or lard may be used by some brands, but they are not as easily digested by cats. If the cat food is stored in hot and humid conditions, it may cause these fats to become rancid, spoiling the essential fatty acids contained them.
The role of carbohydrates in the cat’s diet is always a controversial topic. Some argue that they are absolutely unnecessary as cats in the wild do not consume carbohydrates. But there are others who think that carbohydrates can be a quick source of energy for cats, and that they provide some fiber to the cat’s diet. The general consensus among veterinarians is that small amounts of carbohydrates are acceptable in cat foods as long as their percentage remains low.
Starches, sugars and fiber constitute the carbohydrates usually found in plant matter. Cats do not have the enzymes required for the digestion of these carbohydrates; hence most of them pass through their digestive tract undigested. Rice, sorghum, and wheat are the common carbohydrate sources included in cat foods. They can provide a few necessary sugars and some fiber, but they should not make up more than 5% of the cat food.
Some low-quality cat foods use carbohydrates in the form of fillers to add bulk. But this can be harmful to the cats. Those consuming high-carbohydrate diets are known to develop diabetes and Irritable Bowel Syndrome, besides becoming obese. Always choose cat foods high in animal proteins and low in carbohydrates for your feline pets.