Kick Kibble to the Curb “Revisited” – Kibble: An Inappropriate Diet for Cats

I have written several blogs explaining why kibble is not a healthy food to feed your dog or cat.  In this blog, we will zero in on why feeding kibble is problematic for cats.

Why is kibble considered a “junk food” diet for cats?

Kibble is highly processed, often at very high heat.

Almost all commercial dry and canned food contains pet grade waste proteins and fats that are not fit for human consumption. A highly processed kibble diet can put great strain on the digestive system of cats, resulting in leaky gut (dysbiosis) as well as other problems such as pancreatitis. Additives such as carrageenan, especially when processed at high heat, have been shown to have carcinogenic affects.

Kibble contains very little moisture.

By nature, cats are desert animals, deriving the moisture they need from their prey. In the wild, cats do not seek out and drink water during the day. Kitties eating dry food often suffer from urinary and kidney diseases such as stones and infections. Obesity and periodontal disease can also be the result of feeding dry food to your cat. Cats do not chew their kibble but eat it whole. There is no dental benefit to feeding your cat dry food.

The macronutrient profile in kibble is unhealthy for cats. 

In the wild, cats eat close to 95% protein and fats, with only 5% in fruit and vegetable matter. Cats are strict carnivores, relying on the amino acids found in animal tissues to get their nutritional requirements. The evolution of the cat has them metabolically adapted to using protein and fats as energy sources. Protein is required for the maintenance of blood sugar. Protein requirements for kittens are 1.5 times that required for other young species, and 2 to 3 times more than adults of other omnivorous species.

Because cats naturally eat a diet low in carbohydrates, they will overeat high carb foods (kibble) to get their needed protein.  As a result, they are at greater risk for obesity, IBD (Irritable Bowel Disease), diabetes, pancreatitis, and fatty liver disease. In studies conducted on cats eating a variety of different foods with varying macronutrients, (including kibble) cats will select 52% protein, 46% fat and 2% carbs. Yet, the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) states that a kibble with 25% protein is “sufficient.”  AAFCO also states that food can have up to 55% carbohydrates - extraordinarily high rates for a cat. Grain-free foods still contain plant-based proteins such as soy, peas and corn. These proteins are filled with starchy carbohydrates.

The amino acid profile in kibble is insufficient for cats.

Amino acids are the building blocks of protein, and cats require 11 amino acids (dogs require 10 and humans require 9). Cats will struggle if they must rely on carbohydrates to get their needed protein. Taurine is essential and cats need a great deal of it. Cats must be supplemented with taurine when plant proteins are found in the diet. Increased fiber in the diet also results in increased taurine needs. Cats cannot synthesize arginine so it must be present in the diet.  Amino acids, such as methionine and cysteine are needed but not as much as in dogs and other species. The amino acids that cats need are abundant in animal tissues. Cats cannot survive as vegetarians or vegans.

Cats eating kibble may seem on the surface to not have any problems digesting and utilizing the nutrients; however, under the surface there are opportunities brewing for all kinds of problems. To support long term health, cats need high quality, species appropriate food to meet their physical and metabolic needs. I recommend:

  • Whole, fresh human grade food containing high amounts of animal proteins and fats.
  • Minimally processed food to maximize digestibility.

  • Food that provides nutrients in the most natural form. Synthetic vitamins are added back to the kibble after high heat processing. Cats will not get maximum nutrient benefit from vitamins in synthetic form.
  • A diet low in fiber with very little fruit and vegetable matter. Cats should have small, firm, odorless stools if eating a species appropriate diet. Low glycemic veggies are best for needed fiber and antioxidant support.

 All the above adds up to:  KICK THAT KIBBLE TO THE CURB!  There are many resources on my website to get you started.


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