This article is the result of long-term observation of their animals, basic knowledge of the anatomy and physiology of cats, the study of a large number of Internet articles. One of the most controversial topics in felinology is the topic of rational nutrition. Do you lack drive, emotion, and communication? Ask the question: what do you prefer to feed your cats? Better yet, categorically declare your adherence to ready-made feeds or a natural diet, this is not important, the main thing is to express the irreconcilability of the position.
I do not want to take either side in this protracted conflict, I want to talk only about facts, nothing more. And perhaps we will be able to look at the topic of cat nutrition from a new angle.
Fact 1: Cats are obligate predators. Their jaws and teeth are designed to kill and tear the victim to pieces. Cats do not chew, they swallow food in rather large pieces. And before they eat, they must first track down and catch this very victim.
Fact 2: Cats have almost no taste in food compared to humans. We have about 9000 taste buds on our tongue, less than 500 in cats (about 2000 in dogs). But the sense of smell is almost 14 times more sensitive than that of humans, and the special vomeronasal organ of Jacobson, located on the palate behind the incisors, is much better developed (remember how funny cats open their mouths, sniffing at a cat in heat). The sense of touch in cats is much more important in eating food than in humans, so the consistency of the food is important. The lips and nose are very susceptible to heat. Contrary to popular belief, a cat’s sweet taste is determined, albeit worse than bitter, salty, or sour.
Fact 3: The normal acidity of the gastric juice of a cat is approximately pH 1-1.5, it is a very concentrated hydrochloric acid capable of dissolving bones and bacteria, preventing the penetration of protozoa. Eggs of helminths and cysts of protozoa can survive, because they have a sufficiently dense shell, and for their death, a long exposure (exposure) in an acidic environment is needed, and the advancement of the food lump in predators occurs rather quickly.
Fact 4: Cats have very short intestines. The ratio of intestinal length to body length is only 3: 1, 4: 1. For comparison: in dogs 6: 1, in humans 10: 1, in herbivores 20: 1 or more. The intestinal absorption capacity of cats is also lower. According to various authors, about 10% less than in dogs. The movement of the food bolus along the gastrointestinal tract in obligate predators occurs much faster than in herbivores since it is much more difficult to obtain nutrients from plant food. The digestion process in a cat takes about 12 hours, in cows a few days.
Fact 5: Cats are not adapted to the consumption of plant and carbohydrate foods: short intestines, relatively high speed of passage of the food bolus, nuances of the exocrine function of the pancreas. A cat’s salivary glands do not produce amylase. * Amylase is the main enzyme that breaks down carbohydrates. Cats get glucose not from carbohydrates, but from proteins. Cat cells have an increased insulin tolerance, so the intake of rapidly digestible carbohydrates, an increase in the proportion of carbohydrate foods in the diet is fraught with problems, in particular, the development of diabetes
Fact 6: Metabolic problems with a high content of plant foods in the cat’s diet are not only due to the relatively high content of carbohydrates. Amino acid composition and their relationship to each other are a big problem.
For cats, 11 amino acids are essential, that is, they cannot be synthesized by the body and must be supplied with food: taurine, arginine, histidine, leucine, lysine, phenylalanine, threonine, isoleucine, methionine, tryptophan, and valine. When synthesizing proteins, each type of body tissue requires a strictly specific set of amino acids.
For example, in the composition of tissue protein, valine, arginine, and tryptophan are contained in equal amounts (1: 1: 1), but if their ratio in the diet is 1: 1: 0.5, then the assimilation of all these amino acids is determined by the amino acid contained in minimum quantity.
Lysine can only work in the body when another amino acid, arginine, is present. Products that combine both substances are cheeses and dairy products.
Adequate dietary intake and the ratio of the three amino acids to each other: valine, leucine, and isoleucine are critical. These three amino acids work only together and have their own abbreviation: BCAA (from the English branched-chain amino acid, branched-chain amino acid). BCAAs reduce cortisol levels and increase blood serotonin levels, providing a sense of peace and tranquility; maintain insulin synthesis at the proper level; stimulate the synthesis of growth hormone, ensuring the growth and development of young animals and the maintenance of muscle mass in adults. Adequate intake of these amino acids in the correct ratio has almost the same anti-obesity effect as fasting. The best sources of BCAAs are chicken meat and chicken hearts, and beef is also rich in these amino acids.
Taurine is a vital amino acid, the deficiency of which very quickly causes pathological changes in the cat’s body. Two target organs are affected in the first place: the eyes and the heart. Since the discovery of the effect of taurine on the heart muscle of cats, and it began to be added to ready-made diets without fail, the number of animals with dilated cardiomyopathy has decreased significantly. Taurine is also essential for the adequate functioning of immunocompetent cells. In neutrophils, the percentage of taurine among all free amino acids of the cytoplasm is 76%, in lymphocytes 44%. Taurine deficiency causes a decrease in the activity of the cellular link of immunity: phagocytosis is inhibited, the activity of neutrophils decreases, the degree of damage to one’s own cells by oxidants and free radicals increases. Moreover, it is the cellular link that is the basis of the immune defense of cats. A natural source of taurine is meat, most of all it is found in the heart muscle.
The rational selection of proteins from different products, taking into account their mutual complementarity, is very important when drawing up a diet.
Fact 7: In addition to essential amino acids, cats need food and other substances that the body cannot synthesize. Among them, niacin, or vitamin B3 (niacin is the general name for nicotinic acid, nicotinamide, and their metabolic products). Deficiency of niacin leads to loss of appetite and weight, gum disease, and hemorrhagic diarrhea. The source of the vitamin for cats is eggs, meat, fish, wheat bran and yeast.
Cats cannot absorb beta-carotene from plant foods, they need active vitamin A, which they can only get from animal products, primarily the liver and egg yolk. This circumstance should be taken into account when choosing food supplements (retinal palmitate is needed). With hypovitaminosis, night vision, and the condition of the skin and coat deteriorate, babies lag behind in development. It should be remembered that an excess of vitamins can be more dangerous than hypovitaminosis, especially you should not get carried away with food additives. Chronic A-hypervitaminosis in predators (cats and dogs), arising, for example, due to prolonged feeding of their raw liver, causes a disease of the spine, which is characterized by bone growths along the edges of the vertebral bodies and is accompanied by limited mobility of the joints of the cervical spine.
The cat’s body is unable to convert linolenic fatty acid to arachidonic acid. Therefore, the diet should contain ready-made arachidonic acid. Gamma-Linolenic Acid is an Omega-6 unsaturated fatty acid and is considered the most important fatty acid for dogs and cats. It plays a key role in maintaining animal skin health. Found in most vegetable and animal fats, including chicken fat. Arachidonic acid also belongs to Omega-6 PUFA, which is in the body a source of a number of highly active biological substances that take part in the processes of maintaining hemostasis, blood clotting, the transmission of nerve impulses, and many others. Lack of arachidonic acid leads to impaired blood clotting, prolonged wound healing, slowed tissue regeneration, impaired vascular permeability, pathologies in the contractile activity of the muscular wall of the bronchi, veins, arteries, the development of dermatitis, a decrease in local and general immunity. Contained in red meat, liver, eggs, especially in milk fat, as well as in salmon, salmon oil. Omega-3s – Unsaturated fatty acids are equally important for the normal metabolism and optimal health of cats, the main sources are fish oil, animal fats, and egg yolk, as well as flaxseed oil and seaweed. The most important omega-3 acids for dogs and cats: Omega-3s – Unsaturated fatty acids are equally important for the normal metabolism and optimal health of cats, the main sources are fish oil, animal fats, and egg yolk, as well as flaxseed oil and seaweed. The most important omega-3 acids for dogs and cats: Omega-3s – Unsaturated fatty acids are equally important for the normal metabolism and optimal health of cats, the main sources are fish oil, animal fats, and egg yolk, as well as flaxseed oil and seaweed. The most important omega-3 acids for dogs and cats:
- Alpha linolenic acid (ALA);
- Eicose Pentaenoic Acid (EPA);
- Docosa Hexaenoic Acid (DHA).
Alpha linoleic acid (ALA) is considered an essential fatty acid for dogs and cats. It has been experimentally proven that the absence of essential fatty acids in the diet of experimental animals leads to problems with the skin and hair, and negatively affects the reproductive function and excretory system. The introduction of alpha-linolenic acid into the diet eliminates these pathologies if the processes have not become irreversible. The main natural sources of α-linolenic acid are various vegetable oils (linseed, sea buckthorn). Cats can synthesize EPA and DHA from ALA, although conversion rates will below. Docosa Hexaenoic Acid (DHA) is important for the development of the brain and immune system, as well as maintaining vision in young animals.
The ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3 PUFA is extremely important. The normal ratio for a cat is 1 / 1.3, while in ready-made feeds the ratio is 10/1, which causes a bias in reactions towards activating the production of ATs to its own cells and contributes to the formation of chronic inflammatory processes. Too low a ratio of Omega 6 / Omega 3 PUFA increases the risk of developing arthritis and allergic reactions, disorders of digestion and higher nervous activity, contributes to a protracted course of inflammatory processes, and impaired development of young animals. The inclusion of Omega-3 PUFAs in the diet, primarily fish oil or preparations based on it in the treatment of pruritic dermatoses, can significantly reduce the dose of hormones and antihistamines, and shorten the duration of treatment.
Fact 8: The ducts of the pancreas and liver are always connected in cats into a common duct that flows into the duodenum. Therefore, the inflammatory process always spreads from one organ to another, it is only a matter of time.
Fact 9: Exocrine cells of the pancreas of adult cats that produce digestive juices have an extremely low ability to adapt to dietary changes. The enzymatic composition is stable and relatively poor, primarily due to a decrease in the production of enzymes that break down carbohydrates. At a young age, the adaptive capacity of the pancreas is higher. If you do not know what your kitten will eat in the future, introduce him to both ready-made diets and natural foods, this will reduce the risk of digestive problems in the future.
Fact 10: The gut is one of the main organs of the mammalian immune system, and cats are no exception. The end segment of the thin section (ileum) is rich in lymphoid elements that lie in the mucous membrane and are represented by both single (solitary) follicles and their clusters in the form of Peyer’s patches. In fact, the intestine is the main organ that triggers the circulation of immunocompetent cells and the synthesis of immunoglobulins, forms sensitivity to foreign substances, and provides all mucous membranes with local defense factors. I would like to note that keeping young animals in conditions close to sterile significantly impairs the development of Peyer’s patches with all the ensuing consequences.