This is the most important nutrient. Water is everywhere. It can account for 70% of the weight of an adult cat. A 15% loss can result in death. Very important! Water is required for many, many aspects of cat nutrition and digestion.
It is needed for reactions within the body, as it can act as a solvent for these reactions.
It is needed for the transportation of nutrients and waste. Water is a component of cells, blood, and lymph. These 3 components within the body act as transportation. Water is also a component of urine. Urine allows the body to excrete any excess elements.
It is needed for temperature regulation. Water clears out heat away from the tissues and organs after a chemical reaction within the body. Water also cools the respiratory tract by not being present when the cat is panting. This is how the cat stays cool. They don’t sweat like humans.
There are two kinds of water:
Water is produced when carbohydrates, fats, and proteins are broken down for energy.
Water is taken into the body by drinking or eating. Wet food has more water than dry food.
Proteins are the basic building blocks for cells, tissues, organs, enzymes, and hormones. They are also important for growth, reproduction, and body repair.
Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. Amino acids chain together to form protein. These amino acids can chain up in many different ways to form different types of protein.
Amino acids are divided into two groups:
Essential amino acids:
These are not made naturally to meet the needs of the cat. Therefore, they have to be in the diet.
Please refer to this essential amino acid page for more information on each one.
Nonessential amino acids:
These can be made in the right amount naturally. Therefore, they are not needed in the diet.
Carbohydrates can come in the form of sugars, fiber, and starches.
They have many functions:
Providing a source of quick energy
Helping maintain the number of bacteria that live in the small intestine
Aid in the formation and consistency of stool
Increase the movement of hair in the intestines. This means less hairballs.
Fiber helps control the contractions of the GI tract (known as peristalsis)
The type and quantity of fiber can increase the absorption of nutrients
The building blocks of carbohydrates are known as saccharides. They are simple sugars. There are different types of carbohydrates. They are named according to how many saccharides they have.
Mono means one. Therefore, these are types of carbs that contain one simple sugar. This includes glucose, fructose, and galactose.
These are two monosaccharides joined together. This includes lactose and sucrose (also known as table sugar)
These are chains of three or more simple sugars. The chain can even reach 100s! This includes starch, glycogen, and cellulose. More information in this starch, glycogen, and cellulose blog post
There are more types of carbohydrates, but why confuse you. These are the three most common ones.
Glucose is far and away the most important aspect of cat nutrition and carbohydrates. Cats do not require the other classes. However, glucose is a must. Most cells in the body use glucose as their energy source. The carbohydrate that is digested is turned into glucose to be used by the cells. In fact, the body is always prepared to convert substances into glucose. If there are no carbohydrates in the diet, protein is used for glucose synthesis. This is not good as it takes away what the body needs from the protein.
Carbohydrates are a MUST in a cat’s diet, not a high amount, but they are needed. Feeding a cat zero carbohydrates is not a good thing.
Fat obviously has a reputation of being nasty. However, its presence is very important in a cat’s diet. It just has to be used in the right amount. Fat uses:
It provides a source of energy. Its source of energy is much greater and lasts longer than that of protein and carbohydrates.
Fatty tissue protects the vital organs from physical damage. It also acts as insulation in extreme temperatures.
It assists in the structure of cells. This helps ensure that essential nutrients, water, and other products can enter and leave the cells without any problems.
It aids in a great looking coat and healthy skin. It helps the skin cells retain the moisture and not be so dry.
They absorb and hold the fat-soluble vitamins.
And, of course, it helps the food get its texture and palatability (good taste).
There are two classes of fats: Saturated and unsaturated
These fats come mainly from animals. They occur naturally within the food. Sources include red meat like beef, poultry with skin, lamb, and pork.
These fats are usually liquid or soft at room temperature. There are two types of unsaturated fat:
Type of fat that is found in a variety of foods and oils. Olive, canola, and peanut oils fall under this category
Type of fat that is found mostly in plant based sources. Omega 3 and 6 sources fall under this category. This includes flax seed, safflower, sunflower, and corn oils. Fish such as salmon and tuna.
In humans, saturated fat is the “bad fat” and unsaturated fat is the “good fat.” In cats, it is different. Researchers claim that saturated fats do not cause cholesterol problems for cats. As long as the actual caloric intake remains consistent, it doesn’t make a difference if the source is saturated or polyunsaturated.
Then we have the essential fatty acids. These are sources that need to be given via food. The body does not make these naturally in the proper amounts. More information in this essential fatty acid blog post
Most vitamins are not made within the body; therefore these vitamins are needed in the diet. Vitamins themselves are not a part of any reactions that occur in the body, but they are responsible for creating reactions. They are not broken down or used as building blocks. Cats need these vitamins to ensure that every day reactions within the body can continue on as normal.
There are two classes of vitamins: water soluble and fat soluble.
They are exactly as they sound: they are able to dissolve in water. These vitamins are generally absorbed in the intestines along with the water. They are mostly involved in the transfer of energy.
Toxicity relating to water soluble vitamins is rare, unless a massive dose is given. This is because any excess amount digested can easily be excreted in the urine or feces, given its water solubility.
These vitamins are mainly used as supporting the immune system and structure of the body. They also can act as antioxidants.
These are not dissolvable in water. They are dissolvable in fat. So, wherever fat is stored, these vitamins can be stored too. This is why toxicity due to these vitamins is very possible. They cannot be excreted easily in the urine or feces because they don’t mix.
There are many vitamins needed for the cat, even in the tiniest amount. Therefore, vitamins need their own page. Please see this Vitamin page for more information.
Minerals are needed for a variety of reasons. Various minerals play various roles. These roles include bone formation, teeth growth, fluid balance, chemical reactions, and oxygen transport.
There are many minerals needed, so much so that they get their own page. Please refer to the Minerals page for a little summary of each one.