Analyzing Cat Food: The Importance of Protein and Water
Water is inarguably the most essential part of cat’s diet because 80% of its body is made up of water. Digestion, circulation, and the metabolic functions in the body cannot take place without water. The elimination of metabolic byproducts from the body in the form of urine also requires large amounts of water.
Cats are generally reluctant to drink water as their body is programmed to derive most of their moisture requirement from their food.
In fact, wild cats do manage with the moisture obtained from the blood and flesh of their prey. But cats fed the commercial dry cat foods are at risk of developing dehydration, unless extra water is consumed. Heart problems, liver and kidney diseases and urinary tract infections can result from dehydration. It can even be fatal.
Canned food is a great choice for cats that are at risk of dehydration as it usually has 75% water content. That is one reason why many veterinarians recommend canned food for cats. Dry cat food typically has a moisture content of not more than 10%, so it should not be the main source of nutrition for cats as far as possible. Whether you’re feeding the cat wet food or dry food, water should always be available. Cats can manage with normal tap water; but if it has high chemical content, filtered water should be given. Regular cleaning of the drinking bowl is essential to prevent bacterial contamination of the water.
Proteins are almost equally important as water in the dog’s diet. If this essential nutrient is not present in sufficient quantities in the cat’s diet, their heart health, eyes, and reproductive capacity will be most adversely affected. Unlike us, cats just cannot get the essential amino acids from plant matter. That is why they need high amounts of animal proteins to function properly. For example, taurine is an amino acid found in animal tissues, and cats can only get it from the animal protein in their diet. Deficiency of this substance can cause heart disorders and retinal degeneration leading to blindness in cats.
It is necessary to check the ingredients list on the pack of cat foods to determine the amount of protein in them. High quality cat foods should have animal proteins at the very top of the ingredients list. Chicken, fish, beef or lamb are excellent sources of animal protein. Some brands contain substitute protein sources like corn meal or soy protein instead of meat as these are cheaper. But they have no nutritional value due to their indigestibility.
The protein requirement of cats may vary according to the age of the cat, its activity level, health status etc. As a general rule, an adult cat should have up to 30% protein content in its diet, but rapidly growing kittens need up to 35%. The protein requirements of pregnant and lactating cats are high too. Low-protein diets are sometimes prescribed for cats with certain health problems.