Saturday, November 8, 2008

Starch in cat food

One of the recent pet corners in the paper included an inquiry of a cat owner. She is feeding her 6 year old Main Coon daily half a cup of Hills CD dry formula , mixed with a quarter cup of Hill’s Hairball Control Light and a tea spoon of Friskies wet food in a variety of flavors. She also gives her 6 to eight Dentabyte Treats twice a day. Though, she is considering cutting down on the treats since her beautiful cat is “turning rather chubby”. To further help the chubbiness she also reversed the dry food ratio and reduces the wet food. All the food is being served in a dish filled with water and she thinks she’s noticed a slight weight loss since changing the routine. That all, however, doesn’t seem to be her problem. Apparently she is more worried about her cat’s habit of daily getting some of her “human” food. As these habits typically come about, she too started doing it one day and now the cat will sort of go on strike if her owner doesn’t adhere to the daily scheduled feeding at the table. All we cat owners can feel with her since we know how our animals get once they are used to something. That’s the time when they show us who really is the boss and running the show.
The vet answering the inquiry made a strange comment, which I didn’t quite understand and I am going to e-mail him to find out what he was trying to say. He goes: “As long as your cat is healthy and does not roam outdoors where she could pick up disease, I see nothing wrong with feeding her at the table.” What does the one have to do with the other? Obviously this clearly is an indoor cat contempt with the life she has and not cruising the neighborhood for more food because she doesn’t get enough at home. So why bring it even up? The part of his answer I like better has to do with the dry food in itself. He says that he thinks it is wrong in general to feed cats dry food, even if it is mixed with water. His reasons are that dry food contains high numbers of starches, which are needed to bind the kibble in the manufacturing process. And since cats are carnivores they do not handle these starches well with diabetes and obesity being common consequences.
As to the teeth maintenance treats he says that he’d rather recommend unprocessed whole foods to be given. They include thin strips of raw beef shank bone and raw chicken wing tips with plenty of skin. He reminds to scald the beef and wings to kill off any potentially harmful surface bacteria. And he adds that rubbing aloe onto the cat’s gums as well as giving her a daily teaspoon of cod liver oil (mixed into the food) will help to reduce gum inflammation.
I couldn’t agree more on his comments about dry food and the starch content of those, however I am not completely against feeding cats dry. I would however add that it is not only the starches, which have to be of concern. High quality ingredients are another one and essential for a healthy cat food. Many of the mass market or so called economy brands are made with inexpensive, low quality, you get what you pay for ingredients that are not easily digested. As a result they do not provide healthy and most possible optimal nutrition. Although they may theoretically and technically meet the legal specifications for AAFCO minimum requirements of protein, fat, carbohydrates, etc., these foods typically have low energy values and contain low grade proteins. Because of this, many health building nutrients may pass right through the digestive system without being absorbed.
In addition, I believe that it is the variety, which makes the difference. This cat owner is definitely on the right track when it comes to variety, she is most definitely doing already a much better job than the majority of cat (and dog) owners, who feed the same old stuff day in day out for their pet’s life span. While I do have a problem with the brand she’s feeding (I just think there are better choices available), at least she is doing some mixing and providing variety with different kibble formulas, various flavors of wet and table food. I think she should expand upon this. To me, varied feeding includes feeding alternatives like raw food in any shape and form, from naturally raw as various meat based protein to freeze dried or other gently demoisturized variations, food mixes, meat only canned formulas and fresh whole foods like veggies and fruits. Use common sense and also take a look at how nature itself handles it to get the best pointers in the right direction.
Finally I also like the comments made about the “dental care” treats. This is a problem I see quite often. Cat owners just overfeeding treats because they believe that they are doing the optimal and best thing for their pet’s dental health. Remember, while the nutritional value of such treats is questionable they also are one reason why so many pets suffer from obesity. As this cat owner clearly admits and I have to say that I don’t think so much that the regular food itself fattened the cat, I am convinced it was the 12 to 16 “junk food” snacks daily. And as the vet points out, there are much better and natural ways to tackle the problem on hand.

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