The Vet’s Office: Grain-free feline or not
By Dr. Elizabeth Knabe, DVM
Wildwood Animal Hospital and Clinic LLC
We all want our cats to live long and healthy lives, and good nutrition plays a big part in making that happen. Based on science, commercial foods have been developed that provide proper nutrients that are in correct balance for your cat. This is not an easy process, and companies go to great lengths to create tasty foods your cats will eat, as well as be the nutritious foods they need to stay healthy.
Our domestic cats still retain a lot of behaviors from their wild ancestors, and that makes them so irresistible and unique among our pet friends. And, like their ancestors, they are carnivores that need meat to thrive; but, unlike the wild cats that live fairly short lives, our house cats can live comfortably well into their teens and even twenties for some. A diet for a short-lived wild cat cannot be used as the model diet for our feline companions. Pet food companies have figured out the right balance of proteins, fats, carbohydrates, and vitamins and minerals to help our cats thrive into old age.
Fast forward to today, and we see that there are now many more companies making pet foods, and specifically feline diets in the grain-free sector. These grain-free diets seem to send the message that they are better because they provide a diet based on what wild cats eat. They still provide carbohydrates, but instead of grains they add potatoes, peas, tapioca, or other starches. Those diets are grain-free, but they are not carbohydrate-free.
Those starches won’t have certain fatty acids and fiber that grains provide. Those starches can raise the blood sugar faster than grains would. These foods are also often more calorie-dense, so our cats can get heavier on them more easily.
The bottom line is that pet owners should look at foods from reputable manufacturers and not focus on trying to avoid certain ingredients. If grain is listed on the ingredient list of a quality cat food, you can feel confident that it is a proper food for your cat.