Dangers of a Grain-Free Diet for Your Cat

By: Talin Seta Shahinian

Cats tend to be very food-motivated as they love a good meal, snack, or treat. Some cats may be very demanding when it comes to mealtimes. You may not need an alarm clock if you have a cat that will stand on your chest and sing for their supper or their breakfast in this case. Sometimes they’re fussy with their tastes, so it can take a bit of experimentation to find the right food for them. It’s important to get advice from your veterinarian on the proper nutrition for your cat, but here’s some information to help you get started.

What Do Cats Need to Eat?

Cats are essentially carnivores. Their diet predominantly consists of meat from animals they’ve hunted in the wild. However, they may eat some grains in the wild and some grasses. Domesticating cats doesn’t change their underlying wild nature or specific nutritional needs. There are just as many dietary fads for cats as humans, with people advocating for one over the other. So how can you know what’s best for them to eat? Some cat owners think that putting their cats on a grain-free diet is the way to go, but is it the healthiest choice for cats?

What Is a Grain-Free Diet?

Grain-free cat food omits commonly used grains found in cat food such as wheat, oats, rice, corn, and barley. Grain-free cat food may also skip grain by-products such as flour, starch, gluten, and bran. Unless your cat has a specific health issue, and it’s explicitly been recommended by your vet, there’s no reason to put your cat on a grain-free diet. While avoiding gluten is essential for people with Celiac disease, there’s no evidence to support a cat needing a gluten-free diet. Grain-free food doesn’t mean low carb as potato starches or legumes replace grains.

What Are the Dangers of a Grain-Free Diet?

Due to the trend toward low-carb diets for people, some cat owners have been duped into thinking that a grain-free diet is somehow healthier for their cats. Studies have found a link between dilated cardiomyopathy and a grain-free diet in dogs. Unfortunately, we don’t know if this link exists for cats, but it’s not worth taking the chance. Grains are also a good source of fiber and fatty acids, which are healthy for your cat.

Cats are classified as obligate carnivores, meaning they need quality animal-sourced protein. At least 50% of their daily intake of calories should come from meat. The rest of their daily intake should contain a moderate amount of fat, along with a smaller amount of vitamins, minerals, and carbs. Grains contain all of those nutrients, including protein. Therefore, it’s a mistake to think that removing grain from your cat’s diet will lead to better health. They’ll be missing some needed vital nutrients.

No conclusive studies show any benefits of a grain-free diet, and there are drawbacks to removing all grains from your cat’s diet. Therefore, it’s best to stick to foods with ample animal proteins balanced with grains to keep them healthy.

If you live in NW Wisconsin, Purple Cat Mobile Vet Clinic is here to help you keep your cat healthy and happy. We’re a high-quality, high-volume, low-cost spay/neuter clinic. We see cats exclusively. Scheduling information is available on our www.purplecatvet.com website. You can also check out our Facebook page for more helpful information on all things feline!


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