Do you know what’s in your cat’s food? And more importantly, do you know how those nutrients affect your cat’s health, including their muscles, skin, coat and nails, digestion, bone growth and so much more?
As the old adage goes, “You are what you eat,” so it stands to reason that by feeding your cat high-quality ingredients, their overall health will be positively impacted.
So, what’s in your cat’s food? Simply put, cat food nutrients are divided into four subcategories: protein, carbohydrates, fats, and vitamins and minerals. Learn more about each of these — and how they can affect your cat’s health.
Protein in Cat Food
Protein is best known for supplying amino acids, or protein subunits, to build hair, skin, nails, muscles, tendons, ligaments and cartilage.
Common cat food protein sources include meat, chicken, fish and some plant ingredients like corn gluten and soybean meal.
Cats and kittens are true carnivores and need essential amino acids. One of these, taurine, is not found in plant protein sources such as soybean meal — which means your cat needs a protein source from meat to stay healthy.
Nutrition tip: Feed your cat IAMS™ PROACTIVE HEALTH™ Healthy Adult with Chicken, which has chicken as the No. 1 ingredient, to keep them ready to pounce.
Carbohydrates in Cat Food
Carbohydrates (also known as starches [sugars]) and fibers provide energy and bulk, respectively. Plants and grains like wheat and corn are common carbohydrate sources.
Starches are made up of various types of sugar, such as glucose or fructose. Through digestion, cats can easily convert sugar into usable energy.
Fiber provides bulk to move food through your cat’s gastrointestinal tract, aiding in healthy digestion. Some types of fiber, such as vegetable gums and beet pulp, are fermented by bacteria in your cat’s intestines, creating short-chain fatty acids that serve as an important source of energy for the cells lining your cat’s intestinal tract.
Nutrition tip: The beet pulp and cellulose found in IAMS™ PROACTIVE HEALTH™ Hairball Care have been shown to reduce hairballs in cats.
Fat in Cat Food
Though it sometimes gets a bad rap, fat fulfills many vital bodily functions. Fat helps your cat maintain their body temperature, control inflammation and more. It is the primary form of stored energy in the body, providing twice as much energy as carbohydrates or proteins.
Fats are found in meats, fish and plant oils, such as flax and vegetable oils.
Fats also provide omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids, which are important fat subunits. Omega-6 fatty acids are essential for skin and coat maintenance and proper membrane structure. Omega-3 fatty acids have also been shown to affect coat quality and skin health.
Nutrition tip: All IAMS™ wet and dry foods contain an optimal ratio of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids to help support a healthy skin and coat.
Vitamins and Minerals in Cat Food
Vitamins are responsible for promoting bone growth, blood clotting, energy production and oxidant protection in your cat.
Vitamins A, D, E and K require fat for absorption into the body, while vitamins such as the B-complex vitamins and vitamin C need water to be absorbed into the body.
Minerals provide skeletal support and aid in nerve transmission and muscle contractions.
Nutrition tip: Learn more about why antioxidants are good for your cat.
Feeding your cat a high-quality, nutritionally complete diet is crucial. When choosing a cat food, make sure to read the label and look for optimal sources of protein, carbohydrates, fat, and vitamins and minerals. These building blocks will help ensure your cat lives a long and healthy life.
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This article is part of a series on how to spot signs of a healthy cat. You can learn more about the key signs here.
Cats don’t lack personality; that’s for sure. They can be shy, outgoing, snuggly, independent, energetic, relaxed and everything in between. Yet some breeds tend to exhibit certain traits more strongly than others. Here are our picks for what we’re calling the Cat Personality Awards.
The friendliest cat breed:
This larger cat has a big heart to match. They’re often very social and happy to chat with you, whether they’re curled up on your lap or following you around the house. They make excellent family pets because more family members means more people to snuggle and play with.
Also outgoing: Ragdoll, Siamese, Burmese
The most laid-back cat breed:
Gentle and calm, this soft and silky-furred feline is friendly without being demanding. Ragdolls are usually totally cool sharing a house with other pets and kids. They don’t stress much about routine changes or even being carried around. Their motto? It’s all good.
Other cool kitties: Scottish fold, Birman, British shorthair
The most playful cat breed:
Making up around 90% of cats in the U.S., with more than 80 colors and patterns, domestic shorthairs are a melting pot of different breeds. They were originally working cats used to hunt mice and other critters on farms. They still love to stalk, hunt and pounce on toys and play games with their owners — so expect to spend lots of energetic playtime together.
Also ready to play: Siamese, Maine coon, Manx
The most independent cat breed:
This popular breed has been around humans since the 1600s, but is satisfied doing its own thing. Gentle, docile and quiet, Persian cats don’t insist on a lot of attention. They’re just as content sitting on your lap or observing what’s going on by themselves from a sunny perch across the room. They can be discerning in who they give their affection to, but you’ll be on their good side once you earn their trust.
Also fine on their own: Russian blue, American shorthair, Norwegian Forest cat
The most trainable cat breed:
The idea of training a cat may seem hilarious, but the curiosity and intelligence of Abyssinians make them highly trainable. Some can even be taught tricks or to walk on a leash and harness. Training and playing games are perfect ways to direct their affectionate energy.
Also eager to learn: Bengal, Siamese, American shorthair
The cleanest cat breed:
Owning this affectionate, hairless breed means you can spend more time cuddling and less time lint-rolling your clothes. They do require regular baths, but that just means more time to hang out together.
Other neat freaks: Siamese, Russian blue
The best cat for first-time owners:
it’s a toss-up!
Thinking of getting your first kitty? It’s hard to pick just one breed, so we’ve got three:
- Maine coons are super friendly and charming, and adapt well in a variety of living situations.
- Siamese are clean, love to talk and are very loyal.
- American shorthairs are smart, playful and independent.
Remember, most cats — especially those found in shelters — are a mix of breeds, which just means they often combine the best of all cat personality traits! Whatever personality you’re looking for in a cat, you’ll know it when you find your fuzzy soulmate.
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