YOUR CAT’S NUTRITIONAL NEEDS A Science-Based Guide For Pet Owners

YOUR CAT’S NUTRITIONAL NEEDS A Science-Based Guide For Pet Owners

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  YOUR CAT’S NUTRITIONAL NEEDS A Science-Based Guide For Pet Owners 37491_Cat_P01_16 07/24/06 4:53 PM Page 1  1  CONTENTS Introduction1Proteins and Amino Acids2Fats and Fatty Acids3Energy Needs4Vitamins6Minerals8Feeding Practices10Food Choices12 INTRODUCTION  How much should I feed my cat? Does the food I’m providing meet my cat’snutritional needs? As our knowledge of the relationship between diet andhealth continues to advance and as the range of foods available for cats con-tinues to expand, it’s more important than ever to base feeding choices ongood information. The information in this pamphlet is based on Nutrient Requirements of Dogs and Cats  , a technical report issued by the National Research Council as partof its Animal Nutrition Series. The Food and Drug Administration relies oninformation in the report to regulate and ensure the safety of pet foods. Otherreports in the series address the nutritional needs of horses, dairy cattle, beefcattle, nonhuman primates, swine, poultry, fish, and small ruminants.Scientists who study the nutritional needs of animals use the Animal NutritionSeries to guide future research. The series is also used by animal owners,caretakers, and veterinarians to develop specialized diets for individual ani-mals. Links to reports in the series can be found at . 37491_Cat_P01_16x1 07/26/06 5:27 PM Page 1  2  C ats need several different kinds of nutrients to survive: amino acidsfrom protein, fatty acids and carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, andwater. The tables in this pamphlet provide recommended dailyallowances for nutrients based on the amount required to maintaingood health in normal cats. Your cat’s unique nutritional requirementswill depend on its size and its stage in life, among other factors. A better under-standing of how cats use the various nutrients in food and how much of themthey need can help you choose a healthy diet for your pet. PROTEINS AND AMINO ACIDS As carnivorous animals, cats derive most of their protein from meat, fish,and other animal products. Some animal-based protein is easier todigest than plant-based protein and is better suited to the cat’sdigestive system. Dietary protein contains 10 specific amino acids thatneither cats nor dogs can make on their own.Known as essential amino acids, they provide thebuilding blocks for many important biologicallyactive compounds and proteins. In addition,they provide the carbon chains needed tomake glucose for energy. High-quality pro-teins have a good balance of all of theessential amino acids.Deficiencies of single essential aminoacids can lead to serious health problems.Arginine, for example, is critical to theremoval of ammonia from the bodythrough urine. Without sufficient argininein the diet, cats may suffer from a toxicbuildup of ammonia in the bloodstream.Although not the case for dogs, the aminoacid taurine is a dietary essential for cats.Taurine deficiency in cats causes a host of meta-bolic and clinical problems, including feline centralretinal degeneration and blindness, deafness, car-diomyopathy and heart failure, inadequate immuneresponse, poor neonatal growth, reproductive failure, andcongenital defects. Found abundantly in many fish, birds, andsmall rodents, taurine is either absent or present only in traceamounts in plants. Strict vegetarian diets are not appropriate for catsunless supplemented with nutrients essential for cats that are not found in plants. 37491_Cat_P01_16 07/24/06 4:53 PM Page 2  3 FATS AND FATTY ACIDS Dietary fats, mainly derived from animal fats and the seed oils of various plants,provide the most concentrated source of energy in the diet. Fats contain more thantwice as much energy as protein and carbohydrates per gram. Dietary fats supplyessential fatty acids that cannot be synthesized in the body and serve as carriersfor important fat-soluble vitamins. Fatty acids play an important role in cell struc-ture and function. Additionally, food fats tend to enhance the taste and texture ofa cat’s food.The maximum amount of fat in the cat’s diet can be reasonably high without anyknown adverse effects. In many cat foods, 50% or more of the energy comes fromfat. Studies indicate that cat foods containing even higher amounts of fat are safe.At a minimum, cat foods should have a fat content of about 9% of dry matter.Essential fatty acids are necessary to keep your cat’s skin and coat healthy. Deficienciesin the so-called omega-3 family of essential fatty acids can lead to a host abnor-malities of the nervous system, ranging from vision problems to impaired learningability. Another family of essential fatty acids, known as omega-6, has been shownto have important physiological effects in the body. Tissues that perform such func-tions as storage (fat), metabolism (liver), mechanical work (muscle), and excretion(kidney) tend to have cell membranes in which omega-6 fatty acids predominate.  DAILYRECOMMENDED ALLOWANCESFOR PROTEIN ANDFATS KITTENSADULT CATNURSING CATS Weighing1.8 lbWeighing 9 lb,Weighing9 lb with 4 kittensconsuming 250 Calories Crude Protein10 g12.5 g41 gTotal Fat4 g5.5 g12 g Determining Grams of Essential Nutrients from Petfood LabelsPetfood labels do not generally list amounts of essential nutrients in grams.However, all pet food labels must state guarantees for the minimum percentages of crude* protein and crude fat, and the maximum percentages of crude fiber andmoisture. To convert these percentages to grams, simply multiply the crude per-centages times the weight of your cat’s daily portion. For example, if you feed yourcat one 6-oz (170-gram) can of food per day, and the food contains 8% crude pro-tein, the grams of protein would be 0.08 x 170 =13.6 grams. *”Crude” refers to the specific method of testing the product, not to the quality of the nutrient itself. 37491_Cat_P01_16x1 07/26/06 5:28 PM Page 3
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