By Kymythy R. Schultze, CN
So, what's the big deal about food? Why does it have such a huge influence on a body's health? Well, simply put, food is body-fuel. It nourishes each and every cell in the body and creates the energy necessary for life to happen. It's an overly simplified analogy, but food is to living beings like gas is to cars. If you put the wrong type of gas in a car, it won't run well. But if you put in the correct fuel for that car, it runs better.
Next to air, food is the substance our cats take into their bodies most often. How long they live, their quality of life, the health of their immune system, and their behavior all depend greatly on the food they eat. Food is the foundation for health. It's really no different than what we hear today about human health. The experts keep telling us that if we wish to live a long healthy life, we need to eat more fresh real food and cut out the processed food products. It seems that every day brings new research to support this advice. As both humans and felines have strayed from eating fresh foods, both our species have suffered a huge increase in disease; obesity, diabetes, allergies, cancer, behavior problems, and more.
These days, there are so many bottles of nutritional "supplements" on the market and so many processed fake foods that perhaps we've forgotten that real fresh food is the original and best source of all those vitamins, minerals, enzymes, antioxidants, and other important nutrients necessary for good health. Even in our modern day, malnutrition is still a very real issue for cats (and humans). Malnutrition puts a great deal of stress on the body and lowers the energy needed to maintain good health. Malnutrition may be caused by lack of food, poor quality food, or food cats cannot utilize if it's not appropriate for their species Felis domesticus.
Food Fit for a Cat
To understand what food is best for our cats, we need to know what type of food their anatomy is designed to best utilize. Dr. Bruce Cauble, D.V.M., puts it very succinctly when he says "Animals, just like people, are still using digestive systems that evolved thousands of years ago, systems designed to provide them with nutrients derived from whole foods. You need only look at the digestive system of an organism to determine its appropriate diet." Simply put, we need to consider the physiological structure of the cat.
When you have the chance, take a good look at your cat. It has needle-sharp teeth and claws meant to catch, hold, and tear flesh. It has ears that face forward and eyes in the front of its head to better focus on that mouse or bird it wants to chase. That mouse or bird is built differently, being a prey animal, they usually have eyes more to the side of their heads to better see who's trying to make them into lunch! Your cat's digestive system is brilliantly designed to eat specific foods. It's short and acidic; proper foods are utilized swiftly and efficiently. That snuggly-wuggly kitty in your house is a well-developed predator.
Officially, the cat is a carnivore. In fact, your cat is actually an obligatory carnivore, which means it must eat meat. Just because it resides in your home and enjoys your company doesn't change its physical make-up and its nature. Obviously, it should not eat the same food as a cow or a chicken because that's not how its body is designed. Cows and chickens are herbivores and are structurally quite different from your cat.
Now, I'm not saying that you must place a live mouse in your cat's dinner bowl (although some cats would love it), but we do need to feed our cats as closely as we can to what they were built to eat. That's the responsible thing to do when you've chosen to live with a carnivore. Your feline friend's health will benefit greatly if you keep its natural dietary needs in mind when reading product labels or choosing what type of food to put in its dish.
About the author: Kymythy Schultze has been a trailblazer in animal nutrition for over two decades. She is also a human nutritionist and has helped thousands of people and their pets live happier, healthier lives. To learn how to easily prepare healthy meals for dogs, cats, and humans, check out her best-selling books: Natural Nutrition for Dog and Cats: The Ultimate Diet, The Natural Nutrition No-Cook Book: Delicious Food for You and Your Pets! and her new book Natural Nutrition for Cats: The Path to Purr-fect Health. Visit her website at www.kymythy.com.