Debra L. Zoran and C.A. Tony Buffington
Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, Vol. 239, No. 5,
September 1, 2011
Animal Nutrition 505, Dr. Shapiro
October 13, 2011
The domestication of cats can be perilous as their nutritional changes in dietary protein and caloric intake effects their metabolism, muscle mass, water intake, urine acidity levels, and immunity against diseases, all of which effect their overall feeding behavior, well-being, and physical health. 70% protein intake is considered adequate in a cat’s daily diet, however studies show that a more accurate formula for protein intake should reflect 3.3 times the cat’s body weight in kilograms (Zoran, 2011, p. 597). Adversely, persistent insufficient protein intake results in deficiencies such as loss of muscle mass and a weakened digestive and immune system, all of which result in an increased susceptibility to disease and a shortened lifespan. In order for a cat to sustain its preferred body condition and avoid obesity, whether a cat is active versus inactive and neutered versus intact, veterinarians prefer controlled meals of 25% to 35% caloric intake versus free-feeding in order to supervise the caloric and protein intake (Zoran, 2011, p. 603). Furthermore, female neutered cats only require 60 to 70 kcals to maintain a decent body condition score whereas male neutered cats require even less (45 to 55 kcals) (Zoran, 2011, p. 598). Studies have also proven that every cat’s activity level must be taken into consideration as their dietary needs call for increased caloric intake to match their energy output. In order to maintain muscle mass, an active 4-kg cat’s protein intake was 4.3g of protein/kg of BW/d, whereas a neutered (less active) 4-kg cat’s protein consumption was 3.0g of protein/kg of BW/d, thus indoor cats require less calories (as they require less energy) and less protein than the typical cat (Zoran, 2011, p. 597). However, when studying the effect of protein intake on an obese cat, it was discovered that increased protein intakes of greater than 3.3g of protein/kg resulted in greater loss in fat mass versus decreased protein intakes (Zoran, 2011, p. 598). Other studies prove that a protein dominant (verus carbohydrate dominant) diet is a necessity with benefits for felines as it promotes optimum immunity against the development of urolithiasis in the urinary tract, inflammatory bowel disease in the gastrointestinal tract, and diabetes mellitus in domestic cats. While the feline species have changed from a feral to domesticated environment, it is important that their diets remain properly balanced and protein dominant in order for cats to efficiently function and thrive.
The domesticated feline, an obligate carnivore, continues to be challenged by the genetically required diet versus owner (human) preferred diet. While cats require a diet that is higher in proteins and lower in carbohydrates, owners are feeding diets that are adversely low in protein and high in carbohydrates, thus resulting in excess calories and obesity and nutritional deficiencies (“Cats Need High Protein, Low-Carb Diet,” 2011, p. 22). Cats are adapted to eating 10-20 small meals throughout the course of a 24 hour period, and flavor, scent, temperature, and texture are all factors that stimulate and satisfy a cat’s carnivorous habits and needs (Scherk, 2010, p. 1). While felines themselves are not evolving, veering from their normal dietary habits and requirements through domestication contributes to the feline’s dietary, behavioral, and physiological well-being (Scherk, 2010, p. 1).
The balancing of nutrients and dietary intake relative to energy output is most important when determining the amount of protein, water, and caloric values required in a feline’s diet (Scherk, 2010, p. 3). Carbohydrates