As a cat owner, you want to make sure your furry friend is getting all the nutrients they need to stay healthy and happy. One important nutrient for cats is protein, which helps support their muscles, skin, and coat. High protein cat food can provide your feline companion with the necessary protein they need to thrive. Learn more about the benefits of high protein cat food and how to choose the right one for your cat.
Why do cats need protein in their diets?
As a result of their evolutionary adaptations as obligate carnivores, cats have developed a dependence on specific amino acids found in meat sources. This reliance is due to their bodies' limited ability to produce these amino acids on their own, making it necessary for cats to obtain them from their diet.
Cats have specific dietary requirements compared to many other species, as they need to acquire two additional essential amino acids: taurine and arginine. These amino acids are essential for various aspects of a cat's health, including eye and heart health, reproduction, and overall development. Cats acquire taurine and arginine by consuming animal tissues.
In addition to amino acids, cats also have a limited ability to synthesise certain vitamins that are crucial for their well-being, such as niacin, vitamin A, and vitamin D. Consequently, cats must obtain these vitamins from animal tissues in their diet to ensure optimal health. This further emphasises the importance of including animal-based sources in a cat's diet to meet their specific nutritional needs.
Without enough protein in their diet, cats may experience muscle wasting, poor coat quality, and other health issues. Therefore, it's important to choose a cat food that provides high-quality protein sources to ensure your feline friend stays healthy and happy.
What is taurine and why is taurine important for cats?
Taurine is an amino acid that is crucial for several key functions in the feline body. It is important for maintaining normal heart function, supporting eye health, and supporting the reproductive system. Taurine is also necessary for the formation of bile acids, which help cats digest fats and absorb fat-soluble vitamins.pmental abnormalities of the central nervous system.
What is arginine and why is arginine important for cats?
Arginine is an essential amino acid that plays a vital role in the health and well-being of cats. It is necessary for various physiological processes and has specific importance for feline metabolism. Some key functions of arginine included detoxification of ammonia, nitric oxide production and maintaining proper neurological function.
What are the most common sources of protein in commercial cat food?
There are three main sources of protein used in cat food: animal protein, plant protein and more recently, insect protein. Although vegetarian diets and alternative protein sources may appeal to us as humans because of the environmental impact of eating meat, cats are not able to meet their nutritional needs with plant sources alone so you must never feed them a vegetarian or vegan diet.
What are the best sources of protein for cats?
Animal proteins are generally the best source of protein for cats as they will also contain essential amino acids such as Arginine and Taurine, as well as other nutrients that will be beneficial for cats. Plant proteins are also good for cats, if given as part of a mixed diet with animal protein.
Which animal proteins can be found in cat food?
You’ll be familiar with the common animal proteins in cat food. Anything from turkey, fish, chicken, beef or lamb are usual recipe ingredients.
Particularly in dry food, you will see various forms of ‘meat’ or ‘fish’ included in recipes. These could be fresh meat, dehydrated meat, meat meal, meat by-products and other sources of animal protein. We won’t go into the details of these here, but you can read more in our article on dry cat food.
Which plant proteins can be found in cat food?
Soybeans, lentils, peas, corn and rice are common sources of plant protein in cat food. It’s important to note that these won’t contain taurine so should not be fed to cats alone. They should be fed alongside animal protein.
What are the benefits of high protein food for cats?
High protein cat food offers many benefits for your furry companion. Firstly, it helps support their muscle growth and maintenance, which is essential for their overall health and wellbeing. Additionally, high protein cat food can improve skin health and coat shine, making your cat look and feel their best. It can also help with weight management, as protein is more satiating than carbohydrates and can help your cat feel fuller for longer. Finally, high protein cat food can support your cat's immune system, helping them fight off infections and stay healthy.
How much protein does my cat need?
You may be surprised to learn that adult cats need more protein as a percentage of their overall diet than either humans or dogs do. Up until recently the industry has followed traditional guidelines from organisations such as AAFCO (The Association of American Feed Control Officials) or FEDIAF (European Pet Food Industry Federation). As an example, AAFCO (recommends a minimum of 30% protein in their diet on a dry matter basis for growing cats. More recently this has been challenged and more studies are emerging to say that cats actually require at least 40% protein as measured in dry matter. In fact a recent study showed that cats that were fed a diet of only 30-38% protein experience a loss of muscle mass over time. It also suggested that poor quality protein also had the same effect.
At this point, we will digress slightly to explain what this 40% means as this is very different from the percentages you read on a food label.
What does the percentage of protein on a cat food label mean?
Commercial cat foods generally talk about percentage of protein in two ways:
- The percentage of protein that went into a recipe before cooking e.g. at Tippaws, we know 70% of our recipes’ ingredients consist of real meat or fish and therefore we say 70% protein
- The crude protein percentage. When a dry food is cooked and made, a piece of kibble is sent off to the laboratory to find out the crude protein in that piece of kibble. E.g. at Tippaws, in neutered recipes this percentage of protein is ~44% and normal adult and recipes are ~40%
Whereas organisations like AAFCO and FEDIAF talk about dry matter percentage of protein. Here, you have to take the crude protein level and discount the moisture content in the food. For example, take Tippaws Chicken, Tuna and Salmon recipe. Disregarding the 5% moisture in the kibble, 46% of the remaining 95% dry matter in the kibble is animal protein.
How much protein is in cat food?
This can be anything between 4% and 70% in commercial cat food. Always check the label to see how much protein is in your cat food.
Do cats at different life stages need different amounts of protein?
The answer is yes.
Kittens and young cats in their growth phases require more protein than an adult cat. This is due to growth and development of bodily and cognitive functions.
Adult cats and neutered adult cats require a little less protein as they are no longer growing and if neutered, likely to be moving less.
Senior or older cats require more protein than adult cats. This is because they are likely unable to digest food as well so need to eat a higher percentage protein to compensate for this.
Is there such a thing as too much animal protein in a cat’s diet?
Cats with kidney disease may require a specialist diet and depending on what your vet recommends, they may suggest you reduce the level of animal protein in your cat’s diet.
Does protein help with weight loss in cats?
Overweight cats have a higher risk of developing various health issues such as diabetes, cancer, skin problems, oral cavity disease, and urinary problems.
When it comes to helping cats lose weight, traditional weight loss programmes typically involve restricting their calorie intake and providing them with a specially formulated diet. However, these programmes often yield disappointing results, especially for severely obese cats who may give up before reaching their target weight. To improve outcomes, it's important for vets to tailor the weight loss programme to each individual cat, including setting appropriate target weights.
Increasing the protein content in a cat's diet can be beneficial for achieving and maintaining weight loss. Most weight loss diets for cats are less energy-dense and contain higher amounts of good quality protein and essential nutrients to prevent deficiencies and preserve lean body mass during calorie restriction. Studies have shown that feeding cats a diet with 40% crude protein during weight loss leads to greater fat loss and better retention of lean body tissue compared to a diet with 30% crude protein.
How you can help your cat achieve long-term weight loss?
If you want to help your cat reach its ideal weight, it's important to focus not only on the technical aspects of the weight loss programme like calorie counting. Try to think of the bigger picture and improve your cat’s overall wellbeing. Are they active? Are they happy? Are they stimulated and occupied? Or are they bored and eating? The ultimate goal should be to maintain any weight loss achieved so that the health benefits can be sustained. Just like humans, without these lasting changes and breaking bad habits, weight management efforts are likely to fail in the long run.
High protein diets in cats can help satisfy your cat's hunting instincts
In a recent study, scientists conducted a controlled trial to test different interventions that aim to reduce cat predation while considering the well-being of the cats. They found that providing high-meat-protein food and engaging cats in daily object play both led to a decrease in the number of animals captured and brought home by the cats. The study suggests that non-invasive interventions focused on improving cat nutrition and behavior can reduce cat hunting without completely inhibiting their natural instincts.
Conclusion: the importance of cat food with high protein
In conclusion, high protein cat food plays a crucial role in supporting your cat's muscle development, skin health, weight management, and immune system. Understanding your cat's specific nutritional needs and providing them with a balanced diet that includes appropriate animal protein sources can help ensure their long-term health and happiness.
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