Should I consider grain-free foods for my cat?

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Grains are carbohydrates and cats cannot digest carbohydrates. Cats are carvivores, strict meat-eaters and need protein from animal sources and moderate amounts of fat. About 20 to 30 percent of an adult cat’s daily caloric intake should come from meat, poultry or fish. Another 15 to 20 percent should come from fat. This is a pretty similar nutritional profile of the mouse, the wild cats’ primary food.

While cats need some carbohydrates in their diets, to provide energy and fiber, cats lack the enzymes to deal efficiently with the high carb content of grains and most dry food brands; in fact, some experts say that cats do not burn excess carbohydrates as energy but store them as fat.

Everything in the cat’s diet revolves around her need for taurine, an essential amino acid. Essential amino acids cannot be synthesized in the body and are thus required to be taken in through diet. Taurine is one of these types of amino acids, and has been found to play an essential role in the diet of cats. Lack of this amino acid results in severe health repercussions, such as blindness and tooth decay, among other things. For this reason, all cat foods are supplemented with taurine to avoid nutritional deficiency so that the condition is rare in regards to nutritional deprivation.

Taurine is only found in meat and seafood. While grains, vegetables and other plant foods do contain protein, they are considered to be incomplete proteins because they are low or lacking in one or more of the amino acids needed to build cells—and they don’t have any taurine.

Increased carbohydrate intake in cats can result in health problems, including allergies. Grain allergy symptoms include itching skin and other skin problems. Food intolerance symptoms in cats cause diarrhea and vomiting. Many cat foods contain grains, even the meaty-looking moist foods in cans. The good news is that grain allergies in cats can be treated by feeding cats only foods that are free of grains.

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