Kitty Is a Carnivore


Mother Nature never intended cats to live without meat. To start with, cats are adapted to using protein for energy, rather than carbohydrates. They have evolved so that their liver makes glucose (the major energy source for every mammal body) primarily out of the amino acids in protein. In the process, they have lost the ability to adapt to a low-protein diet. If we eat a diet that’s low in protein, we simply stop metabolizing it. But your cat can’t do that, and will begin to metabolize her own muscles. This really is as bad as it sounds.

Of course, there is protein in some plants (think about tofu), but not in high concentrations. And the proteins are incomplete. In addition, there are nutrients in meat that can’t be found in plants, or that most mammals can synthesize in their bodies from incomplete proteins, but that cats can’t synthesize. Cats cannot live without these nutrients, and they need to get them from their diet.

For example, taurine, an essential amino acid, is found only in animal proteins. Without enough taurine, cats develop vision and heart problems. Arginine is an amino acid that is found most abundantly in animal proteins. This nutrient clears the blood of ammonia, which is a by-product of protein metabolism. Since cats use so much protein, just one meal without arginine is enough to drive ammonia in the blood to toxic levels. Choline and the other B vitamins, many of which are important to protein metabolism, are also found in the highest concentrations in meat, and your carnivore cat needs lots of those vitamins.

As efficient as cats are at metabolizing protein, they can’t metabolize vitamin A from the betacarotene in plants like carrots, and need vitamin A in a different form that is found only in meat. There are a variety of fatty acids found only in meat that cats need for proper function of the immune system, healthy skin, control of inflammation and other body processes-your cat can’t synthesize these nutrients either. And while we can sit in the sun and convert the 7-dehydrocholesterol in our skin into vitamin D, cats cannot.

Face it: Kitty is a little tiger. If she were bigger, she’d be out hunting antelopes. In your house, maybe she hunts mice. Maybe she just hunts cat food. No problem, as long as it’s meat.

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