When you walk down the cat food aisle of a pet store, the options can be overwhelming. Ever wondered what your feline friend requires for their diet?

Your cat is an obligate carnivore, meaning they must eat meat to survive. While you don’t have to throw your kitty a raw steak every night for dinner, meat products must make up the majority of their diet, whether dry kibble, canned food, or a combination. Here are three reasons why your cat needs meat in their diet.

#1: The digestive tract is shorter in cats than in most mammals

Plant eaters have longer digestive tracts because the gut bacteria take longer to break down plant material. Cats have much shorter digestive tracts since raw meat is more rapidly digested. If cats are fed a diet high in plant matter, they cannot digest these ingredients.

#2: Cats can’t produce all their own nutrients

Meat contains several vitamins and amino acids that cats need to survive, as they cannot produce them on their own. These nutrients include:

  • Vitamin A — A cat’s body does not have the enzymes necessary to properly absorb vitamin A, so supplementation is required. Without adequate vitamin A levels, your cat can become blind. Vitamin A also supports healthy skin and the immune system. 
  • Taurine — Meat is the only natural source of taurine, which is essential for the proper functioning of the eyes and heart.  
  • Arginine — Cats cannot produce arginine, an amino acid that is an essential building block for protein on their own. Arginine deficiencies can lead to excessive amounts of ammonia, which can cause drooling, lethargy, vomiting, and convulsions.

#3: Cats cannot be vegetarians

With only foods based on plant matter, a cat’s body cannot get the proper nutrients. The food is either too high in carbohydrates, which cats cannot digest, or it lacks the amino acids necessary for feline health. As an obligate carnivore, your cat gets her glucose from the protein she eats, while omnivores get glucose from breaking down carbohydrates. If your cat is fed a vegetarian-based diet, her body will begin breaking down her own muscles and organs for energy. 

Not all cats have the same dietary needs, which can vary due to life stage and health conditions. Contact us for help with choosing the best food for your cat.