Why does my cat need to eat meat?

Cats are obligate carnivores, which means they need to eat meat. We explain the nutritional needs of cats.

Cats have adapted to a hunting life that is based almost entirely on a totally animal diet.The way it actually feeds and digests is geared towards eating flesh. In the thousands of years since first being domesticated, cats have not changed in either their nutritional or behavioural requirements and animal flesh remains their main source of nourishment.

All the senses of a cat are adapted to respond to the make up and smell of meat. As they have to eat meat, cats are defined as obligate carnivores, unlike dogs, so need more protein than other mammals.

If the cat does not get the required amino acids from protein, then problems can occur. If the amino acid arginine is missing, for example, this can lead to clinical signs of lethargy and hypersalivation. This is needed by cats to synthesise urea, a waste product resulting from the breakdown of protein.

Another essential nutrient for your cat is the amino acid, taurine, which the cat cannot synthesise sufficiently by itself to meet its needs. The diet of a cat must therefore contain taurine in sufficient quantities. If there is a shortage then there is a high risk of serious and untreatable damage to major organs such as the eye and the heart.

Taurine is found almost entirely in meat and supports the concept of the cat as an obligate carnivore. Good diets, that include meat, therefore, are essential for the health of your cat to ensure normal growth and development.