There’s a whole lot of conflicting information out there about feline diets, but not a great deal about the best food for cats with asthma. Why is this? Well, we’re special, us asthma cat parents – only about 1% of cats are asthmatic, so in the grand scheme of things there really aren’t that many of us.
I’ve done a fair bit of research and a bit of experimentation (sorry Sparrow) into the whole asthmatic cat food situation and I’ve found a few things that I agree with, quite a lot that I disagree with and a bit that I’m changing my mind about.
Cat nutrition is a huge topic and there’s no way I can get into all of it with just one article, but I will lay out a few important facts that you should consider when choosing the best diet for your asthmatic cat. And yes, I will provide some resources if you’d like to delve deeper into the subject.
Please remember though, I am not a vet. I am not an animal nutritionist. I don’t know everything there is to know, but I know enough good sense and enough about what has worked for me that I feel confident in what I’m about to say.
Enough preamble. On with the show.
What do Cats Eat?
In the wild, your cat’s diet would consist mostly of small rodents and birds – the meat and organs of other animals. Cats are obligate carnivores, which means that their systems are designed to get all of the nutrients and water they need from the animals that they would kill and eat.
Cats require a high protein diet rich in nutrients such as taurine, calcium, niacin, arginine and thiamine, plus a whole range of other vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, and antioxidants. Many of the nutrients cats need are found only in animals and if they are found in plant foods, the cat’s system is not equipped to process these into a form they can use.
Our feline friends are not particularly thirsty creatures, but like every other animal, they require water in their diets. This low thirst drive makes it important for cats to eat a moisture-rich diet that fulfils all of their nutritional needs and keeps them well hydrated.
If you’re after more detailed and scientific-y information, check out this article on the basics of feline nutrition from the Feline Nutrition Foundation. Bottom line: cats eat other animals and that’s it.
What do Cats Not Eat?
We’ve been led to believe that cats eat a few things that they just don’t need. It’s common knowledge (I hope!) that a bowl of milk is not what your cat needs, as cats are mostly lactose intolerant. Puts a whole new spin on the old idiom of ‘the cat that got the cream’ doesn’t it?
Fish is also not a natural part of a good feline diet. While it’s ok as an occasional treat, fish is simply not something that cats need or would eat in the wild. It’s lacking in some vital nutrients that cats need, and there’s also the issue of those little bones that like to get stuck in harmful places like throats and digestive systems. More detailed information on safely feeding fish to your cat can be found here in this article from Pet-Happy.
Biggest on my personal hit-list of what cats don’t eat is grains. Why commercial cat food contains things like rice, corn and wheat is a mystery to many smart consumers, myself included. Can you imagine your kitty hoeing down on a plate of rice that they’ve cooked up for dinner? No. Cats are designed by nature to get all that they need from meat, not grains…and the same goes for vegetables. They’re just not required – a wild cat’s diet would consist of only about 5% carbohydrates, most of which would be from the contents of their prey’s stomach. It’s possible that these ‘filler’ ingredients are a large contributing factor in many common cat ailments, including obesity.
Do Cats Need Kibble?
The short answer is: no. If your cat eats nothing but dry food, it’s almost certain that kitty is not getting the nutrition he would from wet food. Many low-quality dry foods contain fillers and all are highly processed or heat treated in order to make the kibble bits into their shapes. This processing further destroys the nutrient content of the food.
Dry food is exactly that – dry. Remember, cats are designed to get the water they need from the food that they eat. Prey animals eaten in the wild can be up to 70% water, whereas dry foods average about 10% water.
The myth about kibble being good for cleaning a cat’s teeth is just that – a myth. Cats have teeth designed for tearing through muscle and flesh, not for grinding kibble. Most of the time your cat will be swallowing these kibble bits whole or smashing them with their pointy teeth. Mix in a bit of saliva and you’ll find these bits of kibble getting stuck between your cat’s teeth, causing the plaque you’re trying to kill.
So how to solve this teeth cleaning dilemma? Try giving kitty a raw chicken neck to gnaw on. Chewing on natural bones is much better for a cat’s teeth than shattering fake food kibble.
If you’ve been reading my stuff for a while, you might remember that I reviewed Hill’s Science Diet dry food and I do feed this to my cat occasionally. Why? Because he eats it. Sparrow is tricky to feed and sometimes it’s all I can get him to eat. Will I be putting an end to this? Absolutely – but it’s going to be a very slow process to find something else that he will eat without fail. I’ve been trying. Stay tuned.
The Best Food For Cats With Asthma
Diet plays a very important part in the overall health of all cats and our asthmatic felines are even more sensitive than their easy-breathing brothers. Asthmatic cats are likely to be suffering from some immune system stress, so feeding a diet that discourages inflammation and mimics what your cat would eat in the wild is best.
But what is that? There’s not a great deal of specific information, but what I have discovered from my own research, experience and from talking to other asthma cat parents is this: grains are out, fish is out and natural is best.
Generally speaking, the best anti-inflammatory diet for cats with asthma eliminates dry foods, grains, fish and possibly poultry. Opt for organic food made with little processing and you should be laughing.
Many asthma cat parents have seen a dramatic improvement in their kitty’s wheeziness just by switching foods, but please remember that you should not just stop the vet’s prescribed medication because things look like they’re getting better. I’m all for diet changes and natural remedies, but these things should be complimentary to what the doctor ordered, not a replacement.
Even if this kind of diet does not help with kitty’s asthma symptoms, it’s a solid foundation for good health no matter what and will give you a better chance of stopping other health problems in their tracks.
What do you feed your wheezy kitty? Has changing diet made any difference? Share your experiences with us in the comments below.