Updated: Sep 6, 2022
High Carb Diets Contribute To Diseases In Cats
Over the past two decades, diseases like obesity, diabetes, and cancer are on the rise in cats. When you look closely at the diet most cats are fed and see the amount of carbohydrates that are in dry cat food it makes sense. These dry food formulas are loaded with carbs which can lead to blood sugar fluctuations, insulin resistance, and other health problems in your cat.
Cats have a physiological decrease in the ability to utilize carbohydrates due to the lack of specific enzymatic pathways that are present in other mammals, and they lack a salivary enzyme called amylase.
It is as illogical to feed a carnivore a steady diet of meat-flavored cereals as it would be to feed meat to a vegetarian like a horse or a cow. So why are we continuing to feed our carnivores like herbivores? Why are we feeding such a species-inappropriate diet? Because grains, potatoes, and beans are cheap. Dry food is convenient. Affordability and convenience sells.
Cats have no dietary need for carbohydrates and, more worrisome is the fact that a diet that is high in carbohydrates can be detrimental to their health.
Carb intake above the daily needs of cats (no more than10 percent) triggers internal enzyme factors to store the excess as body fat. It has also helped create an epidemic of sugar-related health conditions in cats.
Simply feeding grain free kibble is not the solution, either, because the alternative ingredients used in place of grains nearly always include pea products (the leader by a large margin), followed by chickpeas, lentils, sweet potatoes and tapioca.
So why not feed your cat dry food with pea products, beans, sweet potatoes or tapioca?
Because they are all still carbohydrates, and therefore cause serious health issues in our cats.
Okay, but aren't peas and beans a little better than grains?
Unfortunately, no, because legumes contain phytates, which are substances that carnivores can't break down because they lack phytase, the enzyme necessary to process phytic acid. Phytates bind minerals (including zinc, iron, calcium and magnesium), leeching them out of your cat's body.
In addition, legumes contain lectins - sticky proteins that when consumed in large quantities contribute to GI disturbances and leaky gut.
Grain free kibble is still very high in carbohydrates - and often even higher.
Conventional kibble food can contain 35-50% carbohydrate! This means that 1/3 to even 1/2 of your cat’s diet is comprised of simple sugar. Sadly, regulations don’t require labels to include the amount of carbs on pet food, so cat parents would never know. This amount of sugar intake has led to the body storing the excess calories as fat, and vets have seen an epidemic level of sugar-related metabolic diseases, including cancer, obesity, diabetes and other chronic illnesses.
How To Calculate The Carbs In Your Cat’s Grain-Free Food
When you look at the nutritional breakdown on the cat food label you’ll see percentages of proteins, fat, moisture, ash, and maybe fiber. Manufacturers are not required to include the percentage of carbohydrates and intentionally leave this off.
Follow this simple formula: 100 – % protein – % fat – % moisture – % ash (if not listed, assume 6%) = % carbs
Here’s an example of a label for Purina’s Grain Free White Meat Chicken and Egg Kibble:
Guaranteed Analysis 35.0% Crude Protein (MIN) 14.0% Crude Fat (MIN) 4.0% Crude Fiber (MAX) 12.0% Moisture (MAX)
Since ash was not included I’ll assume 6%.
LET'S PLUG IN THE FORMULA:
100 – 35% protein – 14% fat – 12% moisture – 6% ash =
Here’s the full list of ingredients:
Chicken, chicken meal, pea protein, pea starch, cassava root flour, dried egg product, beef fat preserved with mixed-tocopherols, dried yeast, canola meal, pea fiber, natural flavor, dried carrots, Phosphoric acid, potassium chloride, sodium bisulfate, salt, L-Lysine monohydrochloride, taurine, calcium carbonate, choline chloride, Vitamin E supplement, zinc sulfate, ferrous sulfate, manganese sulfate, niacin, Vitamin A supplement, copper sulfate, calcium pantothenate, pyridoxine hydrochloride, Vitamin B-12 supplement, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin supplement, Vitamin D-3 supplement, calcium iodate, menadione sodium bisulfite complex (source of Vitamin K activity), folic acid, biotin, sodium selenite.
Ingredients are listed in order by the amount found in the product – highest to lowest.
Did you notice above that the third, fourth and fifth are carbohydrates? And this brand is using pea protein to increase it’s percentage of protein. Sadly, this grain-free food ends up having 1/3 of its content as sugar!
The Better Choice
The healthiest option by far is to ditch the kibble and find great brands of human grade canned food, freeze dried, or frozen raw food in natural pet food stores. Whiskers is very selective in the cat foods offered - and they only sell one brand of dry food that is high in animal protein and has around 16% carbohydrates.
Even if your budget will only allow you to offer several high quality meals per week it’s better than none at all.
Let's look at a few more:
Meow Mix Kibble:
100 – 31% protein – 11% fat – 12% moisture – 6% ash =
Iams Proactive Health Kibble:
100 - 30% protein - 11% fat - 10% moisture - 6% ash =
Royal Canin Urinary SO Kibble:
100 - 32.5% protein - 13% fat - 8% moisture - 6% ash =
Hills Prescription CD Kibble:
100 - 30% protein - 13% fat - 8% moisture - 6% ash =
Square Pet HMLC Turkey and Chicken Kibble*
100 - 48% protein - 20% fat - 10 moisture - 6% ash = 16% carbohydrate
98% of protein from cage free turkey, chicken, whole eggs and salmon
Made without peas, legumes, lentils, potatoes & grains
All-natural nutrition – no artificial ingredients & no ingredients from China *Sold at Whiskers