Home

Welcome to Feline Nutrition

There are many things that go into keeping your cat healthy and happy. Genetics and environment play a part. But, there is one thing that has a huge effect on your cat's health, and that is diet. Cats are predators that evolved to eat a diet of raw meat. It is only over the past 70 years or so that we have tried to feed cats a diet based on foods unsuitable for a strict carnivore. Grains, vegetable and plant matter and highly processed and cooked meat products. It's no wonder cats suffer from so many diet-related diseases. We're out to change that.
 
You are here because you want to learn more about how to keep your cat healthy. Diet is the most important change you can make in your cat's life. We hear over and over again from pet parents who have changed their cats' diet and now wish they had done it sooner. They can't imagine feeding their cats any other way. Not only do they see improvements in their cats' health, but they feel a great sense of relief knowing they control what goes into their cat. No more mystery ingredients. Contemplating a diet change for your cat can be a bit overwhelming at first. We remember what it was like in the beginning. We were used to leaving our cats' nutrition in the hands of others. But, leaving it to others didn't work out so well, did it? Cat nutrition is complicated, right? Well, not really. It's actually pretty easy.

Read More

Answers: One More Reason to Ditch Dry Food

I'm new to cat ownership. Recently I adopted two orphan kittens from a local shelter. I took them in for a complete check-up. The veterinarian encouraged me to feed my cats a raw meat diet because of the possibility that dry kibble may contain a substance called aflatoxin, which could be harmful to my kitties. Is this correct? Can you explain to me what aflatoxins are?
 
The information this doctor gave to you is correct and it demonstrates she is very concerned about the health of your kittens. The word "aflatoxin" is never mentioned on TV commercials for kibble nor is it uttered by veterinarians who promote and sell commercial pet foods; maybe because it is a sensitive subject pet food companies don't want you to know about.
 
Aflatoxins are one of the major groups of mycotoxins that can affect crops. Mycotoxins are the by-products of the metabolism of molds. Aspergillus flavus and Aspergillus parasiticus grow on corn, peanuts, cottonseed and other types of grain used in human and animal consumption.

Learn More

Your Kitty May Need to Go to Chunk School

I frequently get asked "How do I get my cat to eat meat chunks and raw meaty bones?" I'm glad to hear this question because it means people understand how important it is for a cat's dental health to do some chewing. It's also important for their psychological health. Imagine if you only ever got to eat soft foods. Cats evolved powerful jaws that can slice through meat, skin, tendons and bones, yet we have mostly taken away any opportunity for them to actually use their teeth. This can't be healthy physically or mentally.
 
Some of my cats dove right in to eating chunks and meaty bones. Others had to be, in essence, taught. In the wild, a mother cat would bring prey to her kittens to teach them these essential life skills. Kittens have the instinct to hunt, but aren't very skilled at actually putting those instincts into practice. All that kitten play behavior is a lot more serious than the word "play" suggests. It's not frivolous. It is life and death learning. Before humans came along, a kitten that didn't learn to kill didn't live very long. It's not surprising that our indoor-raised cats are sometimes clueless when it comes to a piece of meat. They never got those early prey lessons.

Read More

"Natural" vs. "Grain-Free" Cat Food

The natural pet food sector has been recognised as a rapidly growing category of pet food. With grain-free products continuing to drive the natural category, it is worth examining the terms "natural" and "grain-free" in relation to our cat's diet.
 
The term "natural" has been defined by the Association of American Feed Control Officials, known as AAFCO, and requires, at minimum, that the pet food be preserved with natural preservatives. And that's it – no further definition. However, the purchaser's perception of natural focuses not only on the exclusion of preservatives, but also on the inclusion of whole ingredients, meats, fruits and vegetables, avoiding refined grains and by-products and feeding according to ancestral or instinctual nutritional philosophies. Natural also implies no nasty additives; but, this is not included in the AAFCO definition.
 
The term "grains" refers to cereal grains. Wheat is one of the most consumed cereal grains worldwide and makes up a substantial part of the human diet.

Learn More

Answers: Raw Diet for My Cat's Mystery Allergy?

My vet told me that my cat is showing allergic symptoms, but he can't tell me what she is allergic to. We don’t know if it is environmental or a food allergy. A friend told me that feeding a raw meat diet could help. How would a raw diet be beneficial if we haven't figured out what is causing the allergy?
 
Our aim is to rebalance the immune system by switching off the cat's tendency to "overreact." Cats should be able to tolerate pollens, grasses, fleas and dust mites. So why is it that so many of them are diagnosed as being allergic to these common, everyday environmental triggers? A healthy and normal immune system reacts to harmful threats by producing antibodies. These antibodies bind to the threat and are cleared from the body by a specialised system called the reticuloendothelial system. When this system is overloaded, the clearance no longer occurs. The antibodies are bound up with the threatening substance and continue to circulate in the blood stream. These circulating immune complexes start to cause trouble; they are deposited in the skin, the gut, the kidneys and the joints. They then trigger local and generalised inflammation.

Learn More

Are Cats Clandestine Consumers?

I once met with a representative from a meat producer trade group. I thought they might be interested in the work Feline Nutrition was doing to educate people on feeding raw meat diets to pets. One of the questions I asked was whether they had any figures on the percentages of human-grade meat that was being purchased for pets by consumers. The rep looked genuinely surprised by the question, like it had never occurred to them to ask this particular question. It turned out that it was something they didn't track at all.
 
Maybe the rep from the meat industry wasn't surprised by the question, but only surprised that someone was asking it. They may be very aware that this is going on, even if they don't actually track the figures. Maybe they don't want to track this particular aspect of meat consumption. There is likely a lot of meat that is going directly to pets. One trade publication lists the average amount of meat eaten by a woman in the US as 4.5 ounces a day. Interestingly, that is almost the exact amount eaten by the average cat per day. So, for every cat that is switched to a raw meat diet, it is like adding a new human consumer to the equation.

Read More

Don't Let Your Senior Cat Become a Skinny Old Kitty

I've received a number of inquiries both from veterinarians and cat owners asking about the daily protein requirements for cats. How about protein requirements for clinically normal geriatric cats or senior cats with a nonthyroidal illness? These are excellent questions, given the fact that all cats will need higher amounts of protein as they age to prevent a loss in lean body mass and associated muscle wasting.
 
The dogma that all older cats be fed reduced energy "senior" diets must be questioned based on what is now known about the increasing energy requirements and nutritional needs of older cats. The higher maintenance energy requirements of geriatric cats, in combination with their impaired ability to digest protein, will lead to loss of muscle mass if their overall energy and protein needs are not met. In addition to an increased caloric intake, older cats also require higher amounts of protein to maintain protein reserves compared with younger adult cats. As cats age, they absorb and metabolize protein less efficiently. Therefore, it's extremely important to feed aging cats high-quality protein.

Learn More

Dry Cat Food - The Big Easy

The hook that gets most people snagged into feeding cats dry food: it's easy. Okay, it's extremely easy. You can feed the cat in under five seconds. The cat seems to like it, too. It's hard to fight against that. We are all busy, some of us ridiculously so. Easy is a big deal.
 
Once you do get it through to people that dry food is not what cats should be eating, one of the first worries that people have – whether they admit it or not – is that feeding the cat will become a lot of work. Almost everyone who is at this stage has already realized that their cat can't stay on dry food, no matter how convenient it is. When we outline transitioning a cat to a raw meat diet from a dry kibble diet, we always recommend an intermediate step of going to a canned diet first. This helps to get the cat accustomed to mealtimes and used to a diet with a completely different consistency. But, there is an ulterior motive to this step. We want to get the human used to the new diet, too. Get the human used to spending a little more time dealing with feeding. They soon realize that it isn't really time consuming at all. Feeding ground raw diets is almost as easy as canned food. Just thaw and serve.

Read More

Answers: What Dry Food Does to Your Cat's Teeth

For years I've been feeding my cat the commercial dry diet my vet recommended. In the last visit to the clinic, however, he told me my cat was developing tartar on her teeth and her gums were very inflamed and she needed to go under anesthesia for a dental cleaning. How can this be? I've followed his instructions verbatim. I feel there's something missing here.
 
The fact that we humans have taken the cat with us to live under a roof doesn't modify a bit their marvelous biology and evolution as true carnivores. In fact, what we have taken home is a miniature tiger, or lion or leopard. You name it. Domestic cats have kept the carnivore instincts they evolved with intact as they moved in with humans. Humans are the ones who are making a mistake when we stray away from what evolution and nature has provided for the cat. During my veterinary internship, one of the rotations I was required to do was at the zoo working specifically with big cats such as pumas, lions and tigers of different ages. I never encountered a single big cat with tartar built up on its teeth. This was in sharp contrast to the great number of domestic cats I saw who did.

Learn More

Answers: Flaxseed Oil for Kitty?

I know cats need omega-3 fatty acids, as we humans do. I take flaxseed oil supplements myself for the fatty acids they contain. Can I give flaxseed oil to my cats?
 
The quick answer is yes, but it's not a good idea. Fatty acids are one of the most common supplements given to cats and dogs. Omega-3 fatty acids tend to reduce inflammation, while omega-6 fatty acids tend to increase inflammation.¹ There are also omega-7 and omega-9 fatty acids, but, they are not considered essential, at least for humans.
 
Fatty acids are abundant in the oil from fish, but are also found in many plant sources such as the oil from flax and soybeans. Some nuts and green vegetables also contain omega fatty acids, such as walnuts, Brussel sprouts, kale, spinach and some salad greens. But, the form these fatty acids take is the crucial difference when it comes to cats. Cats evolved eating prey diets rich in animal fat, which contained omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in the pre-formed state. The prey animals had already converted plant-sourced ALA into EPA and DHA for them, so cats lost the ability…

Learn More

Answers: Lysine and Raw Meat Diets

What is lysine? I have a friend who gives it to her cat as a treatment for herpes, but should it be supplemented in every cat's diet?
 
Lysine is an essential amino acid for cats. This means that the cat's body cannot synthesize or make this amino acid so it must be consumed in the diet. Lysine is present in all meats, but fish contain higher amounts than other types of meat. For many years in human medicine lysine has been used to help suppress herpes flare ups and several studies exist to support this.¹ It is suspected that the mechanism by which lysine is able to suppress herpesvirus is by competing with arginine. Studies have indicated that arginine is necessary to signal and initiate replication of certain viruses including all herpesviruses. It is thought that lysine displaces arginine and thus interferes with this process. Several studies indicate that lysine may be effective at suppressing feline herpesvirus, a common cause of upper respiratory and eye problems in cats.² Since arginine is also an essential amino acid for the cat, there has been some concern that too much lysine may result in an arginine deficiency. Arginine deficiency can make cats very sick.

Learn More

Eight Cat Curiosities

I have had cats my whole life. Except for a brief period in my younger days in a no-pets apartment, they have always been there. There are pictures of me as a baby snuggled up to a kitty bigger than I was. As a child, my father insisted that the cats go outside at night - sigh - it was a different era. But, I kept the window open in my room to let them back in.
 
One of the most heartbreaking experiences I ever had as a child was leaving a house we stayed in for the summer without one of our cats. Tigger, at the time less than a year old and not neutered yet, ran away or got lost in the woods days before we had to leave. We searched valiantly, but could not find him. We hoped a nearby farmer had taken him in, but we never knew what became of him. In the following summers though, we did see feral cats around the area that looked suspiciously similar to him. We had not seen strays around before, so we hoped this was a sign that he'd survived and had even found some lady friends. You would think that having spent my life around cats, nothing about them would surprise me. But, that is wrong.

Read More

Nutrition is Vital for FeLV Cats

The feline leukemia virus, generally referred to as FeLV, is classified by virologists as a retrovirus. A retrovirus uses an enzyme called reverse transcriptase to insert copies of its own genetic material into the cells it has infected in order to produce a new copy of a whole virus. Infected cats can be found everywhere, but the prevalence varies depending on many factors: age, health, reproductive status, concurrent disease, environment, lifestyle, etc. The worldwide prevalence is about 5% of free-roaming cats. In the United States, approximately 2 to 3% of all cats are infected with FeLV. The rates rise significantly, above 10%, in sick cats, youngsters, or cats otherwise at high risk of infection.¹
 
Cats with persistent FeLV infection serve as sources for the spread of the disease. Virus is shed in large amounts through bodily fluids: saliva and nasal secretions, urine, feces and milk. Cat-to-cat transfer of the virus may occur from a bite wound, during mutual grooming and less often by sharing litter boxes and feeding dishes. In utero transmission can also take place from infected queens or while they are nursing.

Learn More

Recipe: Feline Nutrition's Easy Raw Cat Food

Making raw cat food at home isn't hard to do at all, anyone can do it. Once you make your own, you will realize that raw cat food isn't complicated. It helps to know how ground raw diets are made, because commercially made frozen foods are made in much the same way, just on a larger scale. Taking the mystery out of what you feed your cats is important. While your cats benefit from the nutritionally better food, the benefit to you in terms of peace of mind shouldn't be overlooked.
 
What does a homemade ground raw meat diet consist of? Most importantly, it is more than just meat. Ground raw meat diets for cats consist of meat, organs, bone, fat, egg yolks, water and supplements. All are necessary to make the diet balanced. The goal is to mimic the natural prey-based diet of cats. Notice the lack of any carbohydrate-based ingredients. These are not needed in the diet of an obligate carnivore. Making your own raw meat diet gives you control over what goes into the food, allowing you to select the meats and supplements you use.

Learn More

No Bull, Taurine Is a Must for Kitty

I am sure that you have all heard about the importance of taurine in a cat's diet. Taurine is a naturally occurring amino acid mostly found in muscle meat and organs like heart, kidney and liver and in seafood. In muscles, taurine gets more concentrated the harder the muscle works. Dark meat has more than light meat because it comes from parts of the body that work harder, legs as opposed to breast. Heart is another great example. Although it is termed an organ, it is really the hardest working muscle in the body and it has one of the highest concentrations of taurine. Shellfish such as mussels and clams also have a lot of taurine. They are constantly filtering and they follow the same "hard-working" scenario, concentrating taurine to a high degree in their tissues. Small amounts of taurine are found in dairy products. Plant products contain either low or undetectable amounts taurine. Despite meat being a good source of taurine, there is a significant amount of variability within meat samples according to a published study.¹ Taurine content of meat was not only affected by diet, breed and environment, but also by the freshness of the meat. Cats, unlike some other carnivores and unlike herbivores or omnivores, are not able to synthesize all the taurine they need.

Learn More

Constipation: Real Help for Your Cat

One of the immediate results when feeding a raw meat diet is less cat poop, and cat poop that smells less. While some cat owners welcome this change, some are concerned that their cats might be constipated.
 
Feeding a raw diet can closely resemble nutritionally what cats would eat if living wild in their native habitat, but, despite our best efforts, it is not a truly natural diet. The natural diet can only be replicated by feeding small whole prey. One of the biggest differences between feeding raw diets and the natural prey diet is: fur. Fur, ingested with prey, has no nutritional function, but serves two key mechanical functions which we lack when feeding a home-made raw diet. First, by action of the cat biting down on small prey, the fur of the prey is brushing against the teeth, helping to wipe away plaque and preventing accumulation of tartar. Second, fur has an important role as a non-irritating stool bulker. Unfortunately, fur is next to impossible to substitute in the raw meat diet, because adding hair or fur to a recipe would be difficult. Instead, people resort to a number of ingredients from plant origin to fulfill this need.

Learn More

Don't Let Calcium/Phosphorous Ratios Scare You

It is widely known that cats have a dietary need for both calcium and phosphorous. Calcium is required by the body, not only for bones, but also for muscle control and ion balance. Phosphorous is important in the formation of bones and teeth, and also plays vital roles in cell membranes and energy processes. Phosphorus is a structural part of cells; this is why meat tissue has high levels of it. Phosphorus is attracted to calcium, forming calcium phosphate, which is what gives bones and teeth their strength.
 
Just as important, and possibly even more so, is the ratio of calcium to phosphorous in the diet. Like big cats, the domestic cat's ancestral diet of whole prey would serve to provide the proper amounts of both of these minerals in the ideal ratio. This is because by weight, the cat's typical prey consist of about 7-10% bone.
 
What is the ideal ratio and how can you ensure that your cats are getting proper amounts? Calcium to phosphorus ratios are typically written like this: 1.1:1, with the first number representing calcium and the second phosphorus.

Learn More

Answers: Kittens Go Through Teething, Too

I am getting two new kittens soon. I plan on feeding them a raw meat diet, but should I wait until they are older and have their permanent teeth to start them on small meaty bone cuts? Can their baby teeth tackle chicken wings or necks?
 
We are often asked about the special dietary requirements of kittens. Ideally, your kittens should be weaned directly to a raw meat diet. We suggest that as soon as your kittens arrive they should be introduced to raw meaty bones. Get those little critters gnawing and chewing as soon as possible. It is so much easier than trying to transition them later. Raw meaty bones provide a natural, highly digestible source of calcium. Calcium in raw bones can be up to four times more digestible than any supplement. Because the high levels of phosphorous in fresh meat need to be balanced by plenty of calcium, nature has perfected the balance already. Raw meaty bones supply calcium and phosphorous in perfect combination – no need for guess work and formulations. The young kitten, when supplied with an adequate amount of raw meaty bones, will use exactly what it needs for growth and development, and excrete any excess.

Learn More

Cats and Cantaloupe: A Method in their Madness

One of the things that we hear about all of the time is the strange things that cats will eat. If you've had cats for any length of time you have undoubtedly experienced this. Not just the odd items in the meat category, such as grasshoppers and frogs, but also things like broccoli and string beans. However, the single food item that seems to come up again and again is cantaloupe. Having a cat that wants to eat something unusual now and then doesn't seem that implausible. They are individuals and subject to the variations in behavior that entails.
 
But to have cats from all different parts of the world, in the past and the present, seemingly unable to resist cantaloupe, has to be more than just coincidence. Something is going on.
 
Being naturally curious – okay, I confess, maybe irrationally curious – I decided to investigate what's up with cantaloupe. When I looked around, there was lots of speculation: it's the texture, the taste, the moisture. I remember as a kid, we had a cantaloupe-obsessed cat. She was not allowed on the dining table. In fact, she never jumped on it, ever.

Read More

Answers: Plant vs. Meat — The Protein Feud

I have read that plant proteins are inferior for cats, that they need meat protein. What's the difference? Why does it matter where the protein came from?
 
Not all proteins are equal. Proteins are made up of amino acid chains and there are a myriad of different combinations that serve many functions in the body. Proteins are structural and tissue components in the body, enzymes and antibodies and serve messenger and transport functions. Ingested proteins will vary considerably in how well they are utilised by the body. Plant-based proteins do not have the same amino acid profile as meat-based proteins and these differences are crucial to cats. The natural diet of cats in the wild is a meat-based diet of rodents and birds. Cats are metabolically adapted to preferentially use protein and fat as an energy source, not carbohydrates. There is a substantial difference in protein requirements between our cats as obligate carnivores and other carnivorous species, such as the dog. Adult cats require two to three times more protein than adults of any omnivorous species, such as humans.

Learn More

The Myth of the Finicky Cat

One of the questions I get asked most frequently is what to do about a cat that doesn't want to eat the new raw meat diet you are offering. I hear words like "stubborn" and "finicky." While that may describe what's going on, it is from a decidedly human perspective. I think it's time to delve into a little cat psychology to help us understand what's happening in that little kitty brain.
 
People like to say that cats are creatures of habit. I would agree, but habit isn't quite the right word. Cats stick with what works. That kind of behavior makes a lot of sense for them and they learn what works pretty early in their lives. It's especially true when it comes to food. Notice I say "learn." While cats are predators and have a hunter's natural instincts, those instincts are basic. They learn the nuances and details as they grow up. All that cat play behavior is essentially practice for the hunt. They may look like they are just having fun, but don't be deceived, this is How-to-Be-a-Cat 101 for them. They are practicing the skills they will need to survive. In the wild, a mother cat would bring prey – either already dead or close to it – back to her kittens.

Read More

Feline Pancreatitis: Signs of Trouble

Pancreatitis can be a frustrating disease in cats. The cause in most cases can't be definitively determined and the symptoms can be vague. Pancreatitis can range from low-grade with mild symptoms to severe, which can be fatal. Most often, the treatment is supportive, alleviating symptoms and keeping the cat comfortable.
 
The pancreas is a lobulated gland located along a portion of the small intestine in mammals. The pancreas has two types of tissue, each one of them synthesizing a different type of secretion. The exocrine portion, or acinar cells, produce enzymes utilized in the digestion of food and the endocrine portion, or islets of Langerhans, produce vital hormones such as insulin. Insulin is involved in the absorption and metabolism of glucose.
 
There are several diseases that can affect the normal functioning of the pancreas. In this article we're going to talk about inflammation of the pancreas, which is called pancreatitis. Pancreatitis happens when the enzymes produced and stored in the exocrine portion of the organ get activated inside it.

Learn More

Feline Nutrition is now the largest feline diet membership organization in the world, with more than 5600 members in over 80 countries. And growing all the time. We are thrilled that interest in bio-appropriate nutrition for cats has global appeal, but it also tells us something important. Bad diets for cats are everywhere. That means that the health consequences of those bad diets are everywhere, too. But, people all over the world are waking up to the realization that they can take control of their cat's diet. That it isn't hard at all.
 
Cats are cats. Large or small, all cats evolved to eat a diet of raw flesh. As strict carnivores, they should not be eating plant-based, high carbohydrate diets. We believe every cat, everywhere, should be fed a healthy, bio-appropriate diet.
 
Join Feline Nutrition today. Encourage your friends, family, co-workers and customers to join. Membership is free. Add your voice to the thousands that think it's time that cats are fed diets fit for the carnivores they are. Your membership encourages people new to the idea to make that change. Join now and help cats get food that makes them thrive, not just survive.
FelineNutrition Did you know that older cats need more protein than younger cats? Dr Mark Peterson's great article http://t.co/7vMqnWSdFZ
12hreplyretweetfavorite
FelineNutrition What do "natural" and "grain-free" mean when it comes to cat food? Not what you think! http://t.co/M0Weh1zWHC
14hreplyretweetfavorite
FelineNutrition One more reason to ditch dry food: aflatoxins. Read Dr Diaz's new Answer at Feline Nutrition. http://t.co/OfxwMuNLzV
16hreplyretweetfavorite
FelineNutrition Raw diet recipes call for different supplements and raw diet premixes vary. Is that a problem? http://t.co/1UxWufWhpC

Home

Nutrition

Health

Answers

One Page Guides

Features

Blogs

Membership

Feline Nutrition Foundation

Media/Press

About

Resource Center