Today we’ll continue with the food matter. Dry food is causing more and more controversy. Vets recommend it and cats love it. Nonetheless the number of negative opinions on harmfulness of crunchy food is on the increase. Well, what’s the truth then?
A bunch of facts to start with:
- Dry food is packed with carbohydrates (20-40%). Unfortunately, cats are not used to digesting such amounts of them. Cats are complete carnivores, thus they don’t need enzymes that digest carbohydrates. Well, they eat meat. Moreover, cats’ gastrointestinal tract is fairly short, while carbohydrates need a lot of time to digest (in humans, the digestion of carbohydrates already starts in the mouth).Of course it may happen that a cat catches a rodent, which just had a huge fill of, for example, grain. If that’s the case and the cat eats a stomach filled with undigested food of the victim, nothing in particular will happen. These are small amounts (mouse’s stomach is really tiny), which cover the daily carbohydrate requirements – maximum of 5%.However, excess supply of carbohydrates is dangerous to cats. It leads to many serious illnesses, such as diabetes and food intolerances. What’s more, excess carbohydrates are stored at fat tissue, directly causing overweight and obesity. This in turn puts stress on joints and cardiovascular system. It also leads to problems with hygiene – the more fat rolls, the harder to wash every nook and cranny. A fat belly limits a range of movement and, all of a sudden, areas hard to reach develop inflammation or pressure sores…
- Another question is the amount of water in food. Cats are used to getting water from their food. That’s why they drink it less that, for example, dogs – they rarely get thirsty.While the natural cat food contains around 70-80% water, there is hardly any water in highly processed crunchy food. The amount of water in dry food is less than 10%. After eating dry-food based meal, cats are simply dehydrated! There’s no physical possibility to supplement water deficiency – they are practically never thirsty. Unfortunately, this mechanism leads to further serious illnesses, this time of the urinary system.
Why then so many vets recommend dry food? Well, it’s mainly about the following:
- lack of knowledge regarding nutrition (nutrition of cats and dogs is basically omitted during veterinary studies)
- pet food manufacturers lobby, who single out and “endorse” young veterinary trainees at the beginning of their studies – they organise competitions with prizes, sponsor conferences etc.
- profits from specialised pet food sold in veterinary practice
To make things clear – I’m not trying to accuse vets of acting in bad faith. They really want the best and are convinced that they recommend the best possible solution. The problem is with the education system which is struggling to catch up with scientific research and the changing reality. And the pet food producers take advantage of that…
It’s also not helpful for cats’ stomachs that dry food is more economical than wet food. It’s also easier to use – you don’t have to warm it up, use a spoon to put it in the bowl, keep it in the fridge… Putting dry food into your cat’s bowl takes about 5 seconds. Dry food takes much longer to go bad than wet food, which is an additional benefit for those who work a lot and spend little time at home. But is it worth to save these few minutes daily at the expense of your pet’s health?
There’s one more health issue that needs to be cleared up. There’s a common myth that dry food cleans cat’s teeth. Unfortunately, that’s not true. Cats’ jaws move only along one axis, they cut food like scissors. Thus cracking the crunchy food does nothing for cats’ teeth. It’s like humans trying to clean their teeth by eating crisps. And the residue left on cat’s teeth after eating dry food is also not helpful. Anyone who’s ever held some dry food in their hand, may remember greasy marks it left on their hands. Again – just like eating crisps.
So what can you use that will naturally clean cats’ teeth? Only chewing on meat and bones. I’m talking about raw food in particular. Raw meat, the harder it is and the more connective tissue it has, the better. When it comes to bones, I mean meaty bones of small animals, like chicken wings (or wings from smaller birds). It’s key for cats’ safety that the bones are covered in meat and that the whole thing is raw. Remember, don’t ever feed your pets with cooked bones!