By Jennifer Copley (Last Updated 6 December 2011)
- Increase energy
- Promote weight loss
- Reduce arthritis symptoms
- Cure constipation
- Improve coat quality
- Prevent diabetes and other health problems
High-protein diets not only help to prevent diabetes in cats, they can also be used to manage the condition. Switching to a high-protein diet will often dramatically improve the health of a diabetic cat. Some owners have even been able to stop giving their diabetic cats insulin injections after switching to a high-protein wet food diet.
Meat Should Be the First Ingredient Listed on a Cat Food Label
When reading the ingredients list on cat foods, make sure that meat – not meat by-product, corn, or wheat – is the first ingredient listed. Be sure to check the second, third, and fourth ingredients as well because some manufacturers use three different corn products. This allows them to get away with listing meat as the first ingredient when the bulk of the food is actually made up of corn.
How to Calculate Protein in Cat Food
Protein should comprise at least 30% of a cat’s food, and preferably a much higher proportion. Protein contents in wet foods can be calculated using the following formula:
- % of protein divided by % of dry matter x 100
If the analysis on the label says that the food is 80% moisture, then the dry matter will be the remaining 20%. If the protein is listed as 10%, this number will be divided by the dry matter percentage:
- 10 divided by 20 x 100
This gives a protein content of 50% for the dry matter.
Best Sources of Protein for Cats
When providing a high-protein diet, it’s important to take protein quality as well as quantity into account, as some proteins are better than others. Biological value, or the usability of amino acids by the body, varies from one protein source to the next. According to Drs. Foster and Smith, biological values for common proteins include:
- 100 – egg
- 92 – fish meal, milk
- 78 – beef
- 67 – soybean meal
- 50 – bone or meat meal, wheat
- 45 – corn
Proteins with high biological values are best, with the exception of cow’s milk, because many cats suffer digestive upsets after consuming it. Also, if making pet food yourself, eggs should be cooked because regularly consuming raw egg whites can trigger a biotin deficiency in cats.
Estimates provided by various holistic cat food manufacturers put the biological value of chicken and turkey somewhere between beef and fish meal at around 85. Overall, estimates for biological values vary somewhat from one source to the next, but are always ranked in the same order – eggs at the top, followed by fish meal, chicken, beef, and then non-meat sources.
Cheap Cat Foods Are Not a Bargain in the Long Run
Cat foods that are made up of predominantly high-quality protein are more digestible than high-carbohydrate, grain- or vegetable-based foods. This means that buying cheaper pet foods doesn’t really save money in the long run, because most of the lower quality food ends up in the litter box. Also, a cat fed cheap food will need to eat more of it to feel satisfied, which can cause him to become simultaneously obese and malnourished.
Low-quality, high-carbohydrate cat foods may be only 60% digestible or less, compared to 70-80% or more for high-quality foods. This means that with cat foods, owners get what they pay for. Spending more on higher-quality cat foods saves on cat litter costs in the short run and veterinary bills in the long run, as poor diet is implicated in a number of common feline health problems.
This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for veterinary consultation and care.
- Drs. Foster & Smith, Veterinary & Aquatic services Department. (2009). “Protein Requirements for Good Nutrition.” PetEducation.com.
- Fox, M.W.; Hodgkins, E.; & Smart, M.E. (2008). Not Fit for a Dog! The Truth About Manufactured Dog and Cat Food. Linden Publishing.