The Differences Between Cat Food and Dog Food

PetMD Editorial
Written by:
PetMD Editorial
Published: February 29, 2012
The Differences Between Cat Food and Dog Food

Cats Are Not Small Dogs

Brought to you by petMD in partnership with Hill’s® Science Diet Ideal Balance®

Dogs used to be the most popular pet in the United States, which probably explains why we have historically paid a greater amount of attention to their nutritional and health needs. But times are changing. More cats than dogs now live in U.S. households. Unfortunately, awareness of the dietary requirements of cats hasn’t kept pace with their changing status. Following are just a few of the reasons why cats need to eat a well-balanced food made from quality ingredients that is formulated especially for them.

Protein and Amino Acids for Cats

Although both dogs and cats are members of the Order Carnivora, only cats are considered “obligate” carnivores. This term indicates that cats must eat some animal-derived protein to remain healthy or receive dietary supplements to supply them with crucial nutrients. Overall, approximately one-third of a healthy, adult cat’s diet should consist of protein, although not all of it needs to be supplied in the form of meat.

Proteins are made from only 22 building blocks called amino acids. Animals can make some of these amino acids themselves; these are called the non-essential amino acids. In comparison, essential amino acids must be supplied by the diet. Cats have 12 essential amino acids while dogs only have 11.

Taurine is an amino acid that is essential for cats but non-essential for dogs. Cats that don’t get enough taurine in their diets can eventually become blind, deaf and develop heart failure. Taurine deficiency is now almost exclusively diagnosed in cats that eat something other than a well-balanced cat food.

The Feline Need for Vitamins

Vitamin A is another nutrient that exemplifies the unique dietary needs of cats. Vitamin A plays a very important role in maintaining the health of the eyes, skin and other tissues within the body. Dogs can convert beta carotene into vitamin A within their bodies. Cats cannot. Therefore, cats require a preformed source of vitamin A in their diets. Liver contains large amounts of vitamin A, or it can be added to a cat’s food in the form of a supplement.

Cats also require five times more thiamine in their diets than do dogs. Animals suffering from a thiamine deficiency typically develop a poor quality coat, loss of appetite, a hunched posture, neurologic problems including seizures and can eventually die. Thiamine deficiencies can arise when cats eat a lot of uncooked, freshwater fish because it contains an enzyme that breaks down thiamine or when they are not fed a well-balanced, nutritionally complete cat food.

Cats Need Cat Food

Understanding a feline’s special nutritional needs is essential information for any cat owner. The MyBowl tool can help ensure your cat is eating the right proportions of healthy ingredients in a food made to promote health and longevity.

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