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Cats are true carnivores; therefore, a meat-based diet might suit them best. A healthy diet for your cat is low in carbohydrates and rich in proteins and fats. Such a diet will improve your cat’s health and strengthen their immune system, which is their natural defense against cancer. The fundamental role of different nutrients are as follows:

    • Proteins – Being true carnivores, cats need more protein than other domestic animals such as dogs. After digestion, proteins break down into amino acids, which are the building blocks of proteins. The development and functioning of organs, tissues, and body systems requires amino acids. These protein building-blocks are either essential or non-essential. Non-essential amino acids are produced naturally in the body, whereas essential amino acids cannot be synthesized and must be obtained through diet. Cats require 22 amino acids, but they can only synthesize 11. The remaining must be part of their diet. The deficiency of essential amino acids in cats can affect the synthesis of proteins, thus significantly affecting their health. A portion of balanced cat food can include animal protein from different sources, such as eggs and meats from turkey, chicken, beef, or fish.
    • Fats – Fats are an efficient energy source, with more than twice as many calories per gram as proteins and carbohydrates. Dietary fats supply essential fatty acids such as omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Fatty acids help maintain body temperature, provide energy, and absorb vitamins such as A, D, E and K. Furthermore, fatty acids help maintain healthy skin and contribute to wound healing. A deficiency of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids can affect kidneys, vision, nervous system, and metabolism. Cats cannot efficiently use plant sources of fatty acids; therefore, they must use meat as the primary source. Some important sources of essential fatty acids include salmon, chicken, liver, and beef.
    • Carbohydrates – While most animals depend on carbohydrates for their energy requirements, cats do not. As previously discussed, cats have evolved to fulfill most of their energy needs from meat-based diets rich in proteins and fats. Because cats don’t have an adequate level of the enzymes required for digesting carbohydrates, they cannot process carbohydrates as efficiently as other animals. The type and amount of carbohydrate determine how efficiently a cat can digest it. For instance, cats cannot tolerate sucrose (present in chocolate, sweet sauces, cookies, cake crumbs, and flavored drinks), but they can digest a cooked form of starch (present in flour, rice, corn, sorghum, pea, and lentils). A high carbohydrate diet can cause complications such as diabetes, obesity, and irritable bowel syndrome. The consensus among feline nutrition experts is that carbohydrates are not essential nutrients for cats. However, they can help digestion, provide readily available energy when given in limited amounts, and can be an important diet component for pregnant cats.

Maintaining a healthy diet is a great way to reduce your cat’s risk of disease, including cancer. If you would like to change your cat’s diet to improve it, check in with your vet for recommendations that work best for you and your pet.

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Last Updated: June 20, 2022

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The following sources were referenced to write the content on this page: 

de-Oliveira, LD, Carciofi, AC, Oliveira, MCC, Vasconcellos, RS, Bazolli, RS, Pereira, GT & Prada, F 2008, ‘Effects of six carbohydrate sources on diet digestibility and postprandial glucose and insulin responses in cats’, J Anim Sci, vol. 86, no. 9, pp. 2237-2246.

Dierenfeld, ES, Alcorn, HL & Jacobsen, KL 2002, Nutrient composition of whole vertebrate prey (excluding fish) fed in zoos, National Agricultural Library, USDA.

Swanson, KS, Carter, RA, Yount, TP, Aretz, J & Buff, PR 2013, ‘Nutritional sustainability of pet foods’, Adv Nutr, vol. 4, no. 2, pp. 141-150.

Verbrugghe, A & Hesta, M 2017, ‘Cats and carbohydrates: the carnivore fantasy?’, Vet Sci, vol. 4, no. 4, pp. 55-77.

The Pet Cancer Foundation’s medical resource for pet owners is protected by copyright.

For reprint requests, please see our Content Usage Policy.