Tuesday 29 May 2012

Cat foods that can cause health problems

We know that cats are true carnivores. They have a "unique metabolism" which means that there are some foods that should not be eaten at a quantity that is greater than 10% of a cat's overall diet in order to avoid potential health problems.

Meat and Diary Products

Despite being carnivores (meat eaters) cats cannot "survive on just lean meat"1. It has excessive amounts of phosphorus in relation to calcium and it is deficient in:
  • sodium
  • copper
  • iron
  • iodine
  • vitamins
A cat living on solely a lean meat diet may develop:
  • skeletal abnormalities
  • malformed joints
  • essential fatty acid deficiencies
  • secondary hyperparathyroidism
Liver contains levels of vitamin A that are too high and it can result in unresolvable bone deformities that are painful.

As to diary products, cats like them but cow's milk contains "large quantities of fermentable sugars". To break these down an enzyme called "lactase" is required. In adult cats the lactase levels have declined from kittenhood. If there is insufficient lactase in the cat's gut the fermentable sugars reach the colon where they cause "osmotic diarrhea". Cats drinking milk sold for people and eating human diary products can get diarrhea. There are specialist cat milk products. Assume cats are lactose intolerant.


Raw fish: contains thiaminase (an enzyme). This destroys thiamine (vitamin B1). This causes thiamin deficiency in cats  - see signs. Some more on thiamin deficiency.
Fish packed in oil: Feeding too much fish can cause pansteatitis due to vitamin E deficiency.
Cheap tinned fish (e.g tuna): this apparently can contain "preformed histamine" which causes vomiting and diarrhea.

Vegetarian Diet

Some people like to feed their cats a vegetarian diet. There are few people who do, thankfully. However some people advocate it as more healthy.  Clearly these diets are ususally supplemented with vitamins etc. (taurine, vitamin A and arachidonic acid).

The cat requires meat in his/her diet. A supplemented vegetarian diet has been found to be less healthy that a conventional well balanced meat diet2.

Baby Foods

These can be deficient in arginine. Arginine is very important to cats. It may contain onion powder. This can cause "oxidative anemia". 

Dog Food

Cats might eat dog food if it is presented to them. However it may contain insufficient quantities of:
for a cat. See: Taurine Deficiency in Cats. Stick to high quality wet cat food.

Associated: Raw Food Diet for a Cat and home made raw food diet.


1. The Welfare of Cats page 237 ISBN
2. As I but page 238.

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