We are carnivores!

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Cats are carnivores and they need to eat a meat-based diet. Certain nutrients are available in meat-based diet only and these are lost to the cat if she is fed only vegetarian diet. For healthy growth, cats need amino acids from proteins, fatty acids, vitamins, minerals and water.

Proteins

Proteins, which provide the much needed energy, should form part of a cat’s daily diet. The protein requirement of cats is very high when compared to dogs and humans. Cats require at least two grams of protein per pound of body weight per day. Cats derive most of their proteins from animal-based products. Meat, fish and eggs are good sources of proteins. Taurine is an essential amino acid that cats cannot manufacture on their own but can only obtain it from other animal proteins. Depriving a cat of taurine may lead to blindness, deafness, heart failure, neurological abnormalities and poor reproductive functions. Arginine is another essential amino acid in the cat and is essential for removal of ammonia from urine. Lack of this amino acid results in kidney failure and death.
Fatty acids
Cats derive fats from animal-based and plant products. Fats provide more energy than proteins. Also, fats obtained from animal-based products supply important fatty acids and are also carriers of fat-soluble vitamins. Cats need primarily two fatty acids: linoleic and arachidonic. These are found in animal-based food. Fatty acids play an important role in new cell production, reproduction, blood clotting and keeping your cat’s coat healthy.
Vitamins
Vitamins are essential for the healthy growth of cats, but they cannot synthesize some vitamins. Cats need both fat-soluble (vitamins A, K, D and E) and water-soluble vitamins (B vitamins and vitamin C), as part of their daily diet. Vitamin A can be obtained by cats only directly by eating meat. They lack the ability to convert beta carotene to vitamin A. Deficiency of vitamin A can lead to night blindness, retarded growth and poor quality skin and coat. Unlike dogs, cats can get niacin, a vitamin B, only directly from the food they eat. Niacin deficiencies can lead to loss of appetite and weight, inflamed gums and diarrhea.
Minerals
Minerals are beneficial for your cat’s bones and muscles, strong teeth and efficient metabolism. Calcium and Phosphorous are needed the most. Other minerals that cats need are Magnesium, Potassium, Sodium Chloride, Copper, Iron, Iodine, Manganese, Selenium and Zinc. These may be found in the majority of cat foods or in meats, fish and eggs.
Water
Don’t forget to keep a clean bowl of water for your cat daily.
Fresh water is needed to keep organ tissues hydrated, as dehydration will lead to death.

(Sudhersena is volunteer at the Blue Cross since 1998 and an avid animal lover, owns nine cats and three dogs. She is associated with a number of animal welfare campaigns and programmes)

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