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Food serves many purposes. It contains essential nutrients – amino acids, fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, etc. – that the body needs to function. Food is also fuel, providing the energy that cats need to grow, maintain their bodies, reproduce, stay warm, and be active. All of the energy in a cat’s diet comes from one of three nutrient categories: fats/oils, protein and carbohydrates.
Using the MyBowl tool is an excellent way for cat owners to learn about the importance of balanced feline nutrition and the proper way to incorporate the precise amounts of the right ingredients into their cat’s diet. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the role fats/oils, proteins and carbohydrates all play as sources of energy.
Fats and oils are the most concentrated sources of energy. On the basis of weight, they provide twice as much energy (in other words, calories) as do proteins and carbohydrates. Too much fat in a cat’s food increases the likelihood of weight gain and obesity, but enough is still needed to provide essential nutrients as well as make the food taste good to finicky felines. Cats with poor appetites or high metabolic rates may have trouble maintaining their weight on a low-fat diet.
When a cat eats a meal, the digestive tract breaks down large protein molecules into their amino acid subunits. These are then absorbed and recombined to form the exact types of protein that the cat needs at that time. Once a cat’s body has all the amino acids it needs, the excess is converted into energy, stored as fat or eliminated as waste.
Too little protein in their diet puts cats at risk for metabolic disorders, muscle wasting and weakness. Too much protein can worsen preexisting kidney disease, the organ primarily responsible for excreting the waste generated by protein metabolism. Kidney disease is very common in cats, and using standard diagnostic tools it can only be diagnosed after two-thirds to three-quarters of kidney function has already been lost.
Cats are carnivores and as such do not have a dietary requirement for carbohydrates. However, research shows that healthy cats can effectively use carbohydrates as a source of energy.1-3 Incorporating moderate amounts of carbohydrate into a food allows the diet to contain healthy proportions of fat and protein – not too little, but also not too much. Ingredients like whole grains and potatoes also contain important nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, phytonutrients and fiber that all help maintain health.
Use the MyBowl tool to determine whether or not your cat’s food is made from a healthy balance of fat, protein and carbohydrates – the sources of energy that fuel his or her day.
1 Kienzle E. Carbohydrate metabolism of the cat - 2. Digestion of starch. J Anim Physiol Anim Nutr 1993;69:102–114.
2 Morris JG, Trudell J, Pencovic T. Carbohydrate digestion by the domestic cat (Felis catus). Brit J Nutr 1977;37:365–373.
3 de-Oliveira LD, Carciofi AC, Oliveira MC, et al. Effects of six carbohydrate sources on cat diet digestibility and postprandial glucose and insulin response. J Anim Sci 2008;86:2237–2246.
The group of processes that involve the use of nutrients by the body
Occurs after eating
A hormone created by the pancreas that helps to regulate the flow of glucose
The whole system involved in digestion from mouth to anus
How easily a substance can be turned into an appropriate digestible form
Organic substances that aid in the creation of proteins; also the end product of the decomposition of certain proteins.