Are Cats Carnivores? And Answers to Others Cat Nutrition Questions

Cat eating balanced food

Most people feed their dogs and cats a simple diet that usually involves kibble from a bag. But is this the best diet for our pets?

A common question people ask, “Are cats carnivores?” Today we’ll answer that questions and other common nutrition questions.

Are Cats Carnivores?

The short answer is yes. Cats are what’s called an “obligate” carnivore. What that means is that cats are carnivores out of necessity. This applies to domestic cats, but the same is true of big cats too. Lions and tigers need to eat meat, as do a host of other non-cat species. Dolphins, eagles, most lizards, and even rainbow trout survive off the flesh of other animals.

While humans have the luxury of deciding if eating meat is right, these obligate carnivores need to eat meat to survive. Most of these animals have actually lost the ability to create specific amino acids. This means that the food they consume is the only source. If you remove the source, the animal will not be as healthy. All this is to say that cats must eat meat to survive.

Can Cats Be Vegan?

Recently, there have been people trying to put their cats on a vegan diet. Whether for health reasons or moral reasons, people may push this diet on their cat. It should be known that cats should never be given a vegan diet.

There are biological reasons why cats can’t have a vegan diet. One reason was stated above, cats need the minerals and amino acids that can only be found in flesh. Cats also have a digestive tract that has evolved to digest animal meat.

Many dog foods might have rice or barley as a filler. These grains don’t offer very much in the way of nutrition, but it helps a dog feel full. Dogs can also digest grains, so they do gain the calories that grains have. This is not the case for cats. Cats actually have the shortest digestive tracts of any mammal. This means they need their nutrition to be highly accessible, as it is with flesh. The cat’s short digestive tract means that any plant-based, fibrous foods don’t spend enough time in their system to be digested.

In this end, feeding your cat a vegan diet can make them incredibly malnourished.

Do Cats Like Vegetables?

While cats cannot be vegan, there is nothing wrong with checking to see if they’ll eat some veggies, within reason of course. Some vegetables are toxic to cats, so you should obviously avoid those. These foods are toxic to cats:

  • Cherries
  • Grapes and raisins
  • Citrus fruits
  • Garlic
  • Onion
  • Rhubarb
  • Wild mushrooms

If you want to start incorporating fruits and veggies into your cat’s diet, broccoli, cucumber, pumpkin, and zucchini can all be given to your cat. Adding veggies can help give your cat important vitamins and minerals, just make sure you don’t overdo it. Start with one vegetable, not many at once, so can identify the trigger for any upset stomachs. And of course, always check with your vet before putting your cat on a new diet.

Why Do Some Cats Overeat?

Does your cat overeat? They may be putting on weight and getting a bit more “fluffy.” If this is the case for your cat, it might not be the cat’s fault.

In the wild, cats are opportunistic eaters. This means that they will eat whatever is easiest for them to get. This also means that they eat as much as they can because, in their wild days, they did not know where their next meal was coming from.

Your domestic cat may have a wild side, but they probably are not hunting down all their food. When you give them food, they will have a tendency to eat as much as they can. If you have other animals in the house, your cat may see them as competition as well, so your cat might have an even harder drive to eat everything for fear that the other animals will take their food.

Because your cat is going to eat everything you put in front of them, this could lead to an overweight cat. If you are feeding your cat every meal, their obesity is your problem. An overweight cat can easily be managed by just reducing how much food you’re giving them. You can also play with, or exercise, them more often. This helps them burn those extra calories.

Some cats will whine or incessantly meow as though they’re asking for more food. If your cat does this, it’s because you’ve trained them that they will get what they want by bothering you. That’s a habit you’ll have to break if you are working to get them to a more normal weight.

So, Are Cats Carnivores?

Cats are very much carnivores, but there is plenty of wiggle room to expand their diet. Remember that diet and exercise are the best ways to keep your cat healthy, so be sure to monitor both aspects of their wellness.