This question gives no peace to many pet owners. Willing to know are cats true carnivores or are domestic cats obligate carnivores, they peruse the internet for answers. In this blog post, we are going to set the record straight.
Yes, cats are obligate carnivores
Сats are carnivores. We refer to them as obligate because cats must eat meat to live.
Dictionaries define obligate as something “biologically essential for survival.” And it’s 100% for cats.
There’s no such a species as a vegan cat. Domestic felines became obligate carnivores due to their ancestral diets when their antecedents ate nothing but raw meat in the wild.Claudine Sievert, DVM
Such a meat-only diet led to permanent consequences in a cat’s body:
They’ve lost the ability to make some amino acids and vitamins in bodies as omnivores and herbivores do. So they need meat to get those nutrients and thrive.
Our beloved felines aren’t the only animals with such inheritance. Other mammals that are strict meat-eaters include dolphins, mink, sea lions, and tarsiers. There are also non-mammal obligate carnivores in the wild, including eagles, salmon, many snakes, hawks, and crocodilians.
Cats should eat meat to live
As already mentioned, domestic felines should thank their wild antecedents for the need for meat:
A meat-only diet provided cats with some nutrients in their pre-formed state (felines got those nutrients from preys they ate), disabling their future generations’ bodies from producing those nutrients by themselves.
For example, our felines require vitamin A, but they can’t produce it from beta-carotene as humans or omnivore animals do. Also, cats can’t form niacin, and they need taurine and arginine that are present exclusively in animal flesh.
So, next time someone asks, “Are house cats carnivores?” the answer can be one and only: Yes, and they can’t live a healthy life without meat.
- Their digestive systems have become adapted to eating flesh, so they’ve lost some metabolic abilities. That’s why grain-free and carb-free diets are better for cats: such food is more digestible.
- Cats require a significant amount of animal protein, as they meet blood glucose requirements from it. Carbs in the diet don’t provide this nutrient.
In short, no meat – no energy, no strong body muscles, and no healthy organs.
Are cats carnivores or omnivores?
Once again, cats are carnivores. But it doesn’t mean they can’t eat components of a herbivore or omnivore diet. Felines can eat and digest carbs like starch, glucose, or fructose; it’s another matter that such elements are more difficult for them to digest, and cats don’t need them to survive.
Omnivores and carnivores have different gut bacterial communities, influencing the fermentation of nutrients in a body. While herbivores (like cows or horses) and omnivores (humans or dogs) have complex guts, carnivores’ guts are simpler and with lower bacterial diversity. It makes it more challenging for cats to digest carbs or synthesize some necessary vitamins and amino acids from products other than meat.
And although felines occasionally consume cat grass to get rid of toxins in their bodies, too much plant carbs in a cat’s diet can cause digestive problems such as gas bloat, vomiting, or diarrhea. It happens because such food is too foreign to cats. Also, digestion of excessive carbs may lead to weight problems in your feline.
So, when choosing a diet for your four-legged friend, please remember about her carnivore nature and make sure she’ll get enough animal proteins and fats for a healthy life. Plant-based carbs alone can’t satisfy a cat’s nutritional needs.
Wrapping it up
Are cats carnivores? Yes, they are.
Can they live without meat? It won’t be life but survival because felines get some critical nutrients from animal proteins only. So please don’t go against your cat’s nature, making her a vegan. Even domestic cats are 100% obligate carnivores. You should pick only the best high quality cat food; Your cat’s diet should be high in proteins and low in carbs.
Don’t forget: being a carnivore does not prevent your cat from meat allergy: your cat can be allergic to poultry, fish or beef. Make sure you select a high quality hypoallergenic food and poultry-free cat food in this case.