The Importance Of Grain Free Cat Foods

Baggy Face CatCats are carnivores and are more susceptible to suffer from health complications if they are not fed a high protein grain free food. The actual term is “Obligate Carnivore” which means they are biologically designed to eat meat and organs. There should be No grains in their diet.

Cats Are Strict Carnivores

What your cat eats is the key to their health. Cats have evolved as carnivores so they need meat to obtain or maintain optimal health. A grain free cat food is closer to a prey model (species appropriate) diet that would be ideal for your cat to thrive instead of just survive.

When we think about our cats food we need to think of what they would eat in the wild. If they were hunting they would catch rabbits, mice and birds. And they would eat the whole thing…ALL of it. That includes the heart, liver, bones and the intestines including the little amount of stomach contents.

So if your look at the stomach size of a mouse or bird there’s not much grain in there, a small fraction, maybe only 1% of a cats diet. So grains (or carbohydrates) are not a normal part of a cats diet and should not be in their food.

Should I Feed Dry Kibble Or Canned Food

So if your have read any of my other posts your know that I am not a fan of most commercial pet foods. The problems with them are more than just low quality ingredients. For cats most of the dry kibble on the market are loaded with grains or carbohydrates sometimes even up to 50%. Manufactures often times use grains and carbohydrates as “fillers” meaning they put them in to add bulk to the food.

Dry kibble is usually processed using high heat which kills the natural vitamins, enzymes and amino acids so vitamins and minerals need to be added back in but they are usually synthetic forms. And they contain too many carbohydrates effecting your cats overall health and leaving your cat in a constant state of dehydration.

Wet or canned food may have more moisture per serving but is still a processed unnatural food source that most likely still contains synthetic vitamins and minerals and too many carbohydrates.

The Problem With Grains And Carbohydrates

Cats do not have the enzymes to digest carbohydrates therefore they have no need for them and including them in their diet can actually be harmful for their health.

Carbohydrates in dry kibble like potatoes, rice, corn, soy, wheat and oats are not a natural part of a cats diet and feeding them can lead to health problems like diabetes, urinary tract problems, kidney failure, bladder inflammation, irritable bowel syndrome and even cancer.

What Protein Is Best For Your Cat

Like I mentioned earlier your cats are obligate (strict) carnivores their nutritional needs are not the same as dogs. This means that your cat is biologically built to get their nutritional needs met by consuming a high quantity of animal based proteins meaning muscle meat and organ meat. It will not get the same nutritional or health benefit from eating plant proteins such as grains and vegetables.

Animal proteins contain complete amino acids (the building blocks of protein). Plant proteins do not have the amino acids that an obligate carnivore requires.

The most well-known nutrient that cats require is taurine which is found naturally in meat. It is not found in plants of any sort. As I mentioned in an earlier post taurine deficiency can lead to blindness and heart problems. (See my post “Raw Diet For Cats“)

High heat processing of the meats kills the naturally accuring taurine so pet food manufacturers add chemically processed synthetic taurine in the hopes to rebalance the nutrients to meet your cats needs.

When we burden our cats by feeding highly processed foods with synthetic additives our poor cats start to suffer from illness and disease just the same way humans do when we eat a highly processed nutrient deficient diet. It may not be noticeable right away but after years of neglect we will inevitably see our cats health decline.

Fresh Is Best

The best diet for your cat is a fresh raw meat diet, the one closest to what they would be eating in the wild.

With that in mind there are circumstances that make it hard to feed a raw meat diet. When I had 21 foster cats at one time there was no way I could possibly afford to feed them a raw meat diet.

So in situations where it is not possible to feed a raw diet the next best choices would be to find a pet food that has very few ingredients, preferably a meat based diet with zero (or very little) carbohydrates. The ones with a real meat source listed as the first, second and even third ingredients.

Look for “Human-Grade” products, this means that they have chosen quality products to use in their pet foods.

Try to avoid the foods that use grains or other carbohydrates listed as their first ingredients and contain a long list of ingredients that your can’t even pronounce. If your can’t pronounce it or know what it is it’s probably not a good idea to have your pet eat it.

A wet or canned food would be a good choice as cats do not normally have a high drive to drink water, a natural raw diet would provide them with plenty of moisture. But look for foods that meet the same criteria as what to look for in the dry foods. Real meat as the first ingredients, very low carbohydrates and a very short list of ingredients without words that you can’t pronounce.

And as always it is wise to check with your veterinarian before switching your cats food. Your cat may already have health concerns and your vet would be the best judge to determine the correct diet according to your cats individual health status and help avoid or prevent any decline in their health.






12 thoughts on “The Importance Of Grain Free Cat Foods

  1. This is something that I have been interested in. I have been looking around at cat food in the store and was surprised by all of the grains and plants that they had in them.
    I guess that it is not common knowledge that cats are carnivores and companies totally take advantage of that (maybe because the cost of grains is less than meat).

    If you switch a cat over to a raw meat diet, what are some common issues that you would experience? What if the cat doesn’t like the taste?

    1. Thank You for reading my article and you are correct, manufacturers use grains and carbohydrates as fillers to bulk up the products so they don’t have to use so much of the more costly meats. I do believe that raw is better but there are some precautions to take. Be sure to buy high quality meats that are intended for human consumption this will cut down on any risks of bacterial contamination such as salmonella and always freeze the meat for a few days first then thaw in the refrigerator before serving. It is best to start with a small amount of raw mixed with your cats kibble. They may not eat it at first, it’s ok to let it sit for a little while (no more than an hour)they may check it out and leave but they may go back. I only have one cat that really likes raw, the rest will eat slightly cooked rare meat. Be sure to check with your vet and get their opinion on what would be best for your cat. I hope this answered your question, Pam

  2. Hello Pam,
    First I tell you that I am also a lover of dogs, cats, horses, rabbits, I surely forget all are very important. My wife also loves the animals, we have a cat at home that is fed with grains, we also had others that were fed in the same way. How wrong we are. A word I want to tell you is, Thank you, you opened my eyes I will tell my lady. Regards!

    1. You are very welcome, I have researched pet foods for many years working closely with my vet. I am so glad you found the article helpful. Pam

  3. I was aware of this information and tried some of the top brands of grain-free diets in sold in specialty pet stores. My cats had a love-hate relationship with it. Unfortunately, I had to take them off of it when one developed a bladder stone problem and had to go on a veterinary diet. Is there a more natural diet for this type of condition I could feed? The cat had the kind of stones that do not dissolve and she had to have surgery to remove them. I am so afraid to put her on anything else but I notice she does not seem to digest the veterinary diet well as she has very large stools and eats a ton of it without gaining weight. It does have the dreaded “grains” in it. Any advice would be appreciated, thanks.

    1. Thank you for reading my article. I’m sorry to hear about the problems your kitty is having. Dr Becker has a fabulous article about bladder stones and she gives some suggestions on diet requirements. I would discuss her suggestions with your vet so he is aware of the changes you want to make to your cats diet and the two of you can come up with an appropriate diet choice. I hope you can find a healthy alternative for your furbaby.

      Wishing you and your pets health and happiness


  4. You can spend hours reading the labels in the pet store food aisle and find out that most mainstream WELLKNOWN products do include grains. Some brands that never used to include heavy carbs will shift to start using them, and sometimes without even letting the costumer know. It is always challenging but the good news is that there are brands that are known for sticking to a higher standard of quality. Great article! Thanks! Feeding a cat is like feeding a harcore vegan sometimes.

    1. Thank you for reading my article and you are so right. I did spend hours reading labels and researching to see what the best foods are. It’s nice to see that more and more companies are offering grain free options although some have included legumes as a carbohydrate source.

      It’s nice that some of the higher end pet foods are holding themselves to strict standards to ensure our pets are getting the best human grade ingredients available.

      And YES – it’s very much the same as feeding a hardcore vegan human! My Husband has been vegan for 4 years now and it does have it’s challenges.

      I wish you and your pets the best


  5. Thank you for putting out this article. I do my best to get what my two kitties will not only like, but stuff that will be best for their obligate carnivore needs is surprisingly hard to come by.

    The information provided here definitely will change how I feed my cats. More meaty treats are in their future!

    1. Thank you for reading my post, you are already making good strides to a great diet for your cats. Good for you.

      I wish you and your kitties the best


  6. Honestly, I had no idea that cats are obligate carnivores. I always thought that they simply eat anything that you give them. This should wake up a lot of vegans out there. Some animals are genetically designed to eat meat.

    I think the reason behind this is that cats are hunters. They naturally hunt for their food like the rabbits and mice out there. Eating their organs might sound weird but it has a lot of nutrients. The liver tends to have a lot of vitamins.

    There’s this pharmacy that I go to all the time. Their cat was ridiculously fat. I was wondering what is wrong with him. I guess the reason is because that cat simply ate too many grains. Cat food is simply grains in a can, because it is used to bulk it up.

    Making a cat eat grains is like making a human eat grass. We don’t have the enzyme to break it down. In the end, the cat can starve to death, lead to diabetes or blindness. That is just sad. Well, now I know. By the way, do plants offer taurine? I am just curious.

    1. Hi thank you for reading my article, it sounds like you found it interesting. The statistics for our pets developing diabetes is on the rise just like in the human population. 

      Grains stimulate a quick insulin response and insulin is known as the “fat storage” hormone so yes our pets are getting too many grains and it’s causing them to live shorter lives and develop diseases that are not normally found in wild animals.

      I am not currently aware of any plant sources of taurine it appears naturally in dark meat chicken and organ meats such as liver or heart. These are natural sources of taurine and should be the main focus to supply your cat with this essential amino acid.

      Wishing you the best wfor you and your pets



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