Study Confirms What Cats Really Want to Eat

According to its authors, the Geometric analysis of macronutrient selection in adult domestic cats, Felis Catus is the most extensive study of macronutrient regulation ever conducted on any carnivore.

The results of this study are extremely exciting, but not surprising to those of us who understand the importance of providing species-appropriate animal food to companion animals.

The study was conducted to determine if adult domesticated cats, given a choice, deliberately select food that is biologically appropriate for them (similar to the prey they would hunt and eat if they lived in the wild).

From the study:

Most domestic cats are fed commercial pet foods by their owners. Some of these products are moist and others are based on a dry formulation.

As well as differing in water content and texture, there are macronutritional differences between wet and dry commercial foods, notably a higher carbohydrate content of dry foods (required for their manufacture).

Our results show strong nutritional regulation, reinforcing the fact that macronutrient regulation is common across trophic levels [feeding positions in a food chain] and providing important information for the design of domestic cat nutritional regimes.

Fascinating Results

  • Given the option, the cats exclusively chose high-protein food over high-carb food even when there was less of the high-protein food available.
  • Cats offered a choice of three foods with variable amounts of protein, carbs and fat mixed them to achieve a daily intake as follows:
    • 100 calories or 52 percent from protein
    • 67 calories or 35 percent from fat
    • 24 calories or 12.5 percent from carbs
  • When the cats were restricted to a high-carbohydrate food, they did not eat enough of it to get the targeted amount of protein (52 percent).
  • Experienced cats eating dry food increased protein intake and ate less carbohydrates than naÔve cats offered the same choices. This indicates, given the option, cats learn to avoid eating excessive amounts of carbs.

Research Proves It: Cats and Carbs Donít Mix!

Cats are obligate carnivores, meaning they have nutritional requirements that can only be met with a diet based on animal tissue. The macronutrient profile for cats is high in protein and fat, consistent with a meat-based diet.

According to study authors:

The carbohydrate ceiling explains many of the intake patterns seen in both dry and wet diet experiments and suggests that cats may only be able to process ingested carbohydrate up to a certain level.

The feline body is specifically designed for a low carb diet. Indicators your kitty isnít equipped by nature to process a lot of carbohydrates include:

  • No taste receptors for sweet flavors
  • Low rates of glucose uptake in the intestine
  • No salivary amylase to break down starches
  • Reduced capacity of pancreatic amylase and intestinal disaccharidases

In other words, cats donít produce the enzymes required to digest carbohydrates. The only carbs felines eat in the wild are pre-digested and are found in the stomachs of prey animals.

If your kittyís body is incapable of digesting a heavy carbohydrate load and sheís eating a cat food with high carb content, sheís on track to develop digestive disease and other serious conditions like diabetes and pancreatits related to eating a diet unfit for her species. And certainly, too many carbohydrates arenít the only problem with most processed pet foods.

What About Your Favorite Feline?

If youíre convinced itís time to transition your carnivorous kitty to a more biologically-appropriate food, there are a few different ways to approach it.

My favorite, as regular readers of my newsletter know, is to learn how to prepare your petís meals at home with ingredients you select based on balanced recipes from an expert nutritional source.

If you donít feel you have the time or resources right now to prepare homemade meals for your cat, the next best thing is to feed a commercially prepared, balanced, raw diet. These diets are usually found in the freezer section of small or upscale pet boutiques Ė not in the big box pet stores. You can also find a selection online. Unfortunately, this option is just too costly for many pet owners.

If neither of these choices works for you, try taking small steps up the pet food quality ladder. Take a look at my video 13 Pet Foods Ė Ranked From Great to Disastrous to find out where your petís food ranks, and how you can make gradual improvements to your beloved kittyís diet over time.

I also recommend you read here for some great tips on how to decipher the labels on your catís pet food like a pro. (The article is about dog food labels, but the information provided can be applied to cat food just as easily.)

Can Cats Be Vegan?
5 Human Foods Cats Can Eat
What’s Really in My Pet’s Food?


Elise Swansborough

Interesting article but I have to say one thing.
Please people reserve tuna for a rare treat for cats. It is not very good for them and too much can cause several health problems.
Sorry but I don't have the details to hand but check online and with your vet.
I know they like it but that is not always the best guide!

Sarah M.
Sarah M7 years ago

well duh

Dianne D.
Dianne D7 years ago

I've tried to cook for my cats using Doctor's recipes and they don't like my cooking. I figured the best food is what they will eat, but I never stop trying.

Kathleen D.
Kathleen D7 years ago

Marilyn; I totally agree with you! Keeping cats indoors is responsible 'parenting'. I become very upset when I see a sign tacked or taped to a post asking people to watch for 'tabby' who has been missing for days. WTF I say! It's only a matter of times before a cat goes missing when it is allowed outdoors. I've known of rare cases where a cat will not wander away from the house but, that is indeed not the norm. They are curious creatures and have a nose for getting into trouble. As you stated Marilyn, too many toxins and poisons, plus vehicles, makes for a deadly combination for kitty.

Margie Bonn
Past Member 7 years ago

Thank You

Rylisa A.
Ada P7 years ago

yup, and giving better food means cutting down on litterbox ;P

Wendye Kolles
Wendye Kolles7 years ago

Thank you. God bless KITTIES! xo xo

Ellen R7 years ago

I read this to my cat. She gave me that look that says, "I could have told you that a long time ago." Then she attacked her catnip frog.

Elena B.
Elena Belikova7 years ago

The first thing that came to my mind while I was reading the article is that it's good for vegans. Some of them go so far that try to make their pets vegan as well.
We try to give our cat fresh raw chicken. He doesn't like it unfrozen (probably he knows that frozen food loses about 70% of its nutritional value:))
The article is great! Thank you so much for posting it! I'll share it with all my friends who have cats:)

Tiffany L.
Tiffany L7 years ago

i'll never go back to feeding my animals cheap gluten laden bi-product filled crap - i read all labels now and i just suck it up when it comes to the wallet anxiety - my pets are much better off for it :)