Cats are carnivores, which means that they eat mostly meat or the flesh of other animals. In fact, the cat’s most natural inclination is geared toward the hunting and expelling of their primary food source, or prey. This innate inclination is something that even the tiniest kitten or cub is born with. From the moment he or she starts walking, they can usually be found inquisitively exploring every nook and cranny of their environment and can also often be found stalking, chasing, pouncing, and attacking anything that moves.
A Cat’s Carnivorous Characteristics
The following are just a few of the cat’s carnivorous characteristics:
- Superior eyesight
- Keen sense of smell
- Strong predatory instincts such as stalking, chasing and/or pouncing
- Acute heating
- Soft paw pads that are ideal for silently stalking prey during a hunt
- Sharp claws that have good traction which aids in hunting and catching prey
- Sharp teeth that come together to slice, gnaw, rip and tear the flesh of prey
- Jaws that open and close in a vertical plane only
- Strong stomach acids used for neutralizing potentially harmful bacteria on meat
- Short digestive tract which cuts down digestive time, thus also minimizing the opportunity for potentially harmful bacteria to colonize within the body
What Do Cats Eat?
Some carnivores such as the cat are technically considered to be what is referred to as obligate carnivores. What this means is that they depend only on meat for survival. Their bodies cannot digest plants properly and do not provide felines with enough nutrients.
In the wild, cats would mainly eat small rodents and birds and would consume organs, bones and hide, as well as the meat of these animals. Cats require an amino called taurine for healthy vision and heart function. This amino acid is found in meat.
Protein And Carbohydrates
Over time cats have evolved to eat a diet that is high in protein and low in carbohydrates. Protein can be found in all types of meat, fish, chicken and eggs. In addition, cats have a short digestive tract that is naturally pathogen resistant and is also very efficient in metabolizing raw meat. Interestingly enough, cats do not actually require carbohydrates in their diet and also do not have the enzymes in their saliva and liver that are required to process them. Typically, carbohydrates are what make many house cats obese.
Commercial Cat Food
Many cat foods come in some form of wet food either in cans or pouches. Dry commercial foods are also sold. For many years it was believed that dry kibble was beneficial to cats and it was rumored to help clean a cat’s teeth, however we now know that this is no more correct than expecting to clean your own teeth by eating food. In addition, we also now know that most dry foods contain excessive levels of carbohydrates because they contain ingredients such as corn, soybean and wheat. Most dry commercial cat foods contain high levels of these types of ingredients because they are cheaper to make than putting animal protein in the kibble. Wet foods are closer to a cat’s natural diet, but still are not exactly ideal and should not be left out for more than a day as they can spoil easily and make your cat ill.
An Ideal Diet
Technically the best food for your cat would be anything that mimics a natural cat diet. A good rule of thumb to ensure that your cat is getting the proper nutrients and not too many carbs etc. is to give them at least one wet meal a day even if it has dry food available all day. Buying cheap cuts like chicken necks can also help strengthen a cat’s teeth. Some owners have even gone as far as to feed their cat feeder mice every now and then.
In addition to feeding your cat well, you should also ensure that he or she always has plenty of water available. A good way to encourage your cat to drink plenty of water is to have several different bowls with different depths scattered throughout the house, readily available to kitty. Never feed your cat cooked bones as they are a choking hazard and also cannot be properly digested. If you decide to transition your cat to a more natural diet it is best to start out with 25% new food and 75% of whatever he or she is used to eating. This transition should be done over a week’s time so as to avoid any stomach issues from occurring and help kitty get used to their new food.