How to Choose the Best Protein Source for Your Cat The cheaper the brand, the cheaper the quality of ingredients

BY | April 06 | COMMENTS PUBLISHED BY
How to Choose the Best Protein Source for Your Cat Impact Photography / Shutterstock.com

While it’s true that cats require a lot of protein in order to be healthy, consuming large amounts of this essential nutrient can translate to stomach issues, especially in cats that already have food sensitivity problems. Of course, the fact that most of the proteins that brands include in their products aren’t exactly the best quality doesn’t make things better either.

Generally speaking, the cheaper the brand, the cheaper the quality of ingredients. That’s why most experts recommend purchasing the highest quality brand that you can afford. Your cat’s overall health and quality of life are both largely dependent on the food that you feed it. Why settle for anything less than the best? If you feed your cat low-quality food, chances are that your lovable little furball will develop some problematic health issues further on down the road. 

In order to make sure that your cat is as healthy as possible, it’s recommended to feed them cat food that contains high-quality protein (e.g. Fancy Feast shredded far collection). Foods that contain only one source of protein (that’s been naturally sourced) are a lot more digestible for your kitty than foods that contain multiple protein sources (that originate from low-quality sources).

Protein sources that come from “byproducts,” “meals,” and similar types of “filler ingredients” have a much lower quality level than protein sourced from high-quality animal sources (e.g. shredded white meat chicken). The important thing to focus on here is that amino acids (which are an essential nutrient for your cat) aren’t broken down as much in whole food ingredients (directly opposite of what happens in “byproduct” ingredients - where the amino acids are broken down so much they essentially become unabsorbable).

Making sure that your cat is fed high-quality, digestible protein sources is very important for its GI health (and health in general). Below we cover some of the details behind digestibility, as well as provide some examples of what exactly “high-quality protein” means (in regards to your cat’s diet).

The Importance of Easily Digestible Protein

The main thing to keep in mind regarding your cat’s diet is that it’s only as good as its absorption rate. That is if you feed your cat “high-quality” nutrients, but they don’t get absorbed, you might as well not feed them at all. Most healthy cats don’t have any issues with absorption, it’s only with terminally-ill felines that absorption becomes an issue. 

With that being said, low-quality proteins are typically absorbed at a much lower rate than those that originate from high-quality sources. Finding out the exact level of absorption for specific cat food is a lot easier said than done. Most brands don’t include this information directly on the label (because they aren’t required to do so). However, the following list provides an overview of some of the more digestible proteins sold in commercial cat food products:

  • Egg whites

  • Organ meat from naturally-sourced animals

  • Muscle meat from naturally-sourced animals

  • Fish meat and/or tissue

Tips for Choosing a High-Quality Cat Food

Feeding your cat high-quality protein (contained within a high-quality cat food product) is very important in terms of making sure that your cat is able to absorb and digest its required level of nutrients. But what exactly does “high-quality” mean? 

The easiest way to determine whether or not a product is high-quality is to take a look at its ingredients list. If you see that the protein mainly comes from something labeled as “meal” or “byproduct” - you’re looking at the subpar cat food. High-quality cat foods will list their protein sources as:

  • Chicken

  • Lamb

  • Organ meat

  • Fish

Those are just some examples, but you’ll notice that they don’t contain “meal” or “byproduct.” Avoiding those two types of protein sources will solve a lot of your problems right away. If you’re wondering what exactly “meal” means (in regards to protein), you’re not alone. 

If you see something labeled as “meal” (e.g. chicken meal), that means that this specific ingredient was processed to such a point that it can’t be considered a whole protein source anymore (such as “chicken breast”). These types of ingredients are far less nutrient-dense and digestible than their whole counterparts, which is exactly why you should avoid them at all costs. 

To summarize, always go with the most natural ingredients list that you can find. Avoid by-products, meals, and other filler products. Feeding your cat high-quality food that contains naturally-sourced protein should be one of your main priorities as a pet owner.

Why Cats Have Higher Protein Needs

Anybody who’s studied science in school knows how important protein is to the human body. Well, protein is important is necessary for most other animals as well, especially cats. In fact, cats require way more protein than their natural-born enemies, dogs. In this blog, we’re going to look at why protein is necessary for your cat and what kind of diet would be ideal for him/her. But, before that, let’s recollect a few things about protein.

What’s Protein

Proteins are nutrients basically required to rebuild tissues and organs. In fact, they are commonly referred to as the building blocks of the human/animal body. Everything from hair to your blood is basically built on proteins. Other than that, proteins also serve as hormones, enzymes, and antibodies. On the whole, protein is necessary for nutrition, but, too much or too little can be very bad. In the case of cats, protein functions are no different. The cat’s body absorbs the amino acids that makeup proteins and use them to aid other processes and also synthesize newer proteins. However, all this gets disturbed if there aren’t enough amino acids for the cat’s body to work with. In fact, one particular type of amino acid called taurine is very important for cats. A deficiency of taurine can lead to serious medical issues. So, as a cat owner, you need to make sure your cat is getting all the essential amino acids via a protein-rich diet. Another thing is that cats come from the feline species that also includes lions and tigers. Therefore, they are genetically predisposed to needing more protein than dogs, which come from the canine family, which are relatively smaller and heavily domesticated. Cats’ bodies have also specifically evolved to consume more protein due to their carnivorous heritage. They even lack certain enzymes found in other omnivores.

Sources of Protein

It so happens that most of the commercially manufactured cat foods out there source proteins from vegetables and grains. Unfortunately, cats cannot process such proteins and therefore, require animal proteins almost exclusively. So, canned meats for cats would be a good option instead of anything that is dry. However, there are options out there that add animal proteins as supplements. So, some research might be required before you go shopping. Another thing is that dry cat foods are stored in damp or moist locations for months together which makes them vulnerable to bacterial or fungal infestations. So, stick to canned food as they are far less susceptible to such infestations. Canned foods also have more protein content than their dry counterparts. To know more about protein requirements for your cat, talk to your veterinarian.

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