It is hardly surprising that high protein cat food is gaining more and more attention. In a world where protein is sprinkled into every human food product imaginable, from cereal bars and noodles, to naturally protein-rich foods like yoghurt, it’s only natural that the trend has started to rub off on the feline world. Of course, protein is a nutrient needed by nearly all living things, but most cat owners will be aware that their furry purry friends have an especially high requirement. But what really is high protein cat food, and why is it so important for cats?
What is high protein cat food?
High protein cat food is somewhat of a loose term, as to date there is no standardised classification for what qualifies certain cat foods as high protein or not. Some brands use the term to refer to a certain product that has a higher protein content compared to their others, or in comparison to the market standard. Visually, high protein cat food won’t look much different to the food you’re already feeding your kitty, coming in either wet or dry forms. Therefore to understand the protein level of the food you will have to peruse through the ingredients and analytical composition lists.
- The Ingredients List: ingredients are the raw materials, which must be listed in descending order by weight. So what you want to look for is that the first ingredients are of animal derivatives e.g chicken or salmon. Ideally this animal protein will also make up at least half of the total ingredients too.
- The Analytical Composition list: the analytical composition list shows the nutrients level of the food, and nutrients are what the body uses to support life. An adult cat requires around 30-40% protein in their diet, so the protein composition of the food should be within or above this to meet your cats needs.
It is also worth remembering that the quantity you feed your cat, and the water content of the food will also impact how much protein your cat is actually consuming too.
Why do cats need more protein?
Cats need protein for many of the same reasons we do. They act as the building blocks of muscles, organs, and more, and they play a role in your cats’ immune system, metabolism and endocrine (hormone) system. However, unlike us omnivores, your cute kitty is a cold-hearted carnivore. Often referred to as an obligate carnivore because they cannot easily digest vegetable matter, much like their larger tiger and lion relatives. Unlike other animals, cats also can’t adjust their metabolisms in response to the amount of protein they ingest. Therefor they are always working to a high protein diet level. This means cats are more reliant on protein compared to doggies.
Essential amino acids for cats
Now let’s be a little more specific. What cats are actually reliant on are the smaller units of amino acids that proteins are broken down to. So, when we talk about cats needing a high protein diet, we really mean they need a high amino acid diet. There are 20 amino acids used in your kitty’s body, 11 of which are considered essential amino acids, so having an insufficient level of any one of these can have serious health problems. For example taurine, which is an essential amino acid needed for heart muscle function, normal eye sight and fetal development is exclusively found in animal-based proteins.
So is high protein cat food the solution?
So with that all cleared up, you’re probably thinking your cat needs all the protein it can get its’ prickly paws on right? Not quite. You’ve probably heard of the saying ‘quality over quantity’ haven’t you, well it’s definitely applicable to your cat’s protein intake too. Many of the mass-produced cat foods that market themselves as ‘high protein’ are actually packed with soy and corn proteins. ‘Hold up, soy and corn proteins? But you’ve just said cats can’t easily digest vegetable matter’ is probably what you’re thinking, and you’re right. This is why it’s really important to look at both the ingredients and nutritional information like we previously mentioned, because even if the nutritional protein level is high, if it doesn’t derive from animal proteins, it’s not such good news for your kitty. So remember, always focus on quality over quantity!
Choosing which cat food is best
Finally whilst deciding how much protein your cat needs there are some other considerations you need to make. Firstly what life stage your cat is at. Kittens are little bundles of fun, but exerting all that energy means they need lots of protein to stay fuelled up, as well as to enable their growth. Once matured, a cats guideline protein level will change depending on whether your cat is an outdoor adventurer or stay-at-home kind of feline. You’ll need to make another reassessment when your cat reaches the wise age of 7, as the chances of complications such as kidney disease increases, which might mean a lower protein diet becomes necessary. Secondly if your kitty is expecting, as you can imagine, it will require a higher amount of calories and protein to help with the fetal development, so switching to a higher protein diet might be necessary at this point.