What are cats?
In our second article, we covered the underlying impawtance of proper nutrition. But all those talking points only seemed to make things less clear. So, what exactly does proper nutrition look like for our pets?
To paint that picture, we start by studying healthy examples of the subject species in its ideal environment, so in this case various members of the felinus family, and of course – in their natural environment!
How well do you know felines? Cats are part of the feline family, which most of us know. But did you know that all felines respect the same basic physiology, regardless of subspecies? So, let’s study some wild cats!
Enter American Bobcat (Lynx rufus) – For me, this was the animal that set the standard for domestic cat health. It’s pawsible to find them in the mountains just an hour up the highway from where I live, they are small enough to have a comparable diet to what a cat might find in the fields, and they have a similar life span as that of feral cats that live off the prey the catch. It was the purrfect subject. And for years, anytime I traveled to the mountains near San Diego, I would take time to study any traces of the local wildlife, specifically looking for any aspects that may be related to or in some way impacted by the local wild bob cats.
Before we get into the specifics, it’s important to understand the difference between anatomical-biology and physiology? Anatomy is the study of the body, including all its various parts. Physiology is the study of how those parts work together to make the body function, maintain, propagate, and die. Ok, so… now that the sciency stuff is out of the way, back to cats.
House panthers and jungle panthers have the same basic physiology, while their anatomy may differ greatly. Leopards. Lions. Lynxes. These feline subspecies all live entirely different lives and hunt in very different ways, but they each share the same basic needs. The cat stalking your living room at night is no different.
So, what are felines?
They are carnivores. They prefer fresh prey, require meat to thrive, and should have a diet consisting of 75-95% meat by weight. Cat’s are not scavengers either, and will only resort to scavenging carcasses when starved or unable to hunt a fresh kill on their own (i.e. sickness, injury, old age, etc.).
But wait, aren’t dogs also carnivores?
Not really – dogs (and all canidae, including wolves and wild dogs) are actually omnivorous scavengers. They eat a multitude of foods, including non-meats (plants), and will scavenge decaying carcasses as opportunities for a free meal.
Don’t buy it? Bite on this!:
Wolves and other canidae, are what’s called facultative-carnivores (also known as a scavenging carnivores), which are carnivores that also eat non-meats as food. Because there is no recognized distinction between a facultative-carnivore and an omnivore, they are technically one and the same. This makes wolves omnivores by definition, while felines are classified as Obligate-Carnivores, which means they need a primarily meat-based diet in order to thrive. We’ll come back to this topic a little later, in future blog entries.
Felines are one of only 2 obligate-carnivores in the mammalian tetrapod kingdom – otariidae are the other ones (seals and sea lions). LOL!.. lions of the sea… they’re felines that live in the ocean! I love nature, she’s pawesome! So, every other land based mammalian predator is therefore technically an omnivore. All of them. They can all eat other foods like fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, grains, berries, & roots between bouts of meat, and most of these mammals of all different sizes (like bears, dogs, raccoons, and mice) do well with a 30-80% meat by weight diet, which often includes arthropods in addition to the rare (but pawsible) freshwater fish, and the usual multitude of tetrapods.
This means that cats NEED meat. In a way that not even wolves do. They will suffer from nutritional deficiency without a primarily raw-meat based diet, and imposing a non-meat based diet on a cat (or any feline) is equal to forcing an herbivore (or vegan) to eat a primarily meat-based diet. It can be done, but it shouldn’t be. The animal will live, but for how long and at what cost? Feeding plant-based foods as the primary meal-source for cats is cruelty, and is not fair to the cat. Regardless of them eating it, plant-based foods are not an adequate food source for cats. Would you want to live off of synthetic food your whole life? If you’re reading this article, odds are that’s a resounding “NO!”.