Cats and Carbohydrates!

Many years ago, I had a cat who was crazy about jelly donuts and angel food cake.  Her desire for them was so intense she would have knocked me down to get to them if she could have.  While I allowed her minimal access to sweets, her diet consisted largely of kibble. Little did I know that cats not only do not have a nutritional need for carbs, but also lack the enzymes to process and digest carbohydrates properly.  

In the wild, carbohydrates compose less than 2% of a cat’s diet by weight. Dry diets require relatively high levels of carbohydrates to maintain their shape, so this level can typically only be met in wet foods.    Additionally, dry diets consist of only 6% water, so many cats on dry food diets are dehydrated as well. A feline nutritionist that I follow states that adding water to dry food is not recommended because dry foods have high levels of mold and bacteria that flourish in moist conditions.

Ideally, cats should get less than 10% of their calories from carbohydrates and primarily from plant matter. High carbohydrate diets in cats can lead to health challenges.  Additionally, cats on high carb diets tend to overeat because they are not getting the level of protein and fats their bodies need. A high carb diet can result in high glucose levels and predispose a cat to obesity, diabetes and kidney disease.  A link to inflammatory bowel disease is being researched as well.

This is not to say that dry food should be banned from a cat’s diet completely.  I give my cat, Althea, a little dry food because she enjoys the crunch and taste, but in limited quantities.  Using a gradual approach can make the transition easier for your fur-baby.  You can start by mixing the dry food with small quantities of wet, then increasing the proportions. Grain free is best.  Adding some animal protein or fruits or veggies on top of the dry food can be helpful as well.