It’s no secret that cats are carnivores. From the ingredients in their food to the way they stalk and pounce on their toys (or bugs or other unsuspecting creatures), it’s clear that some internal voice is telling them to hunt. Dogs like meat too, but they enjoy eating small amounts of fruit and vegetables as well. Does that make them omnivores like us humans, or carnivores like cats?
The answer is: Dogs are carnivores, but not like cats.
Cats are Obligate Carnivores
Cats have a nutritional obligation to eat animal protein. As true carnivores, they rely on it for all of their required nutrients. In other words, cats need meat to survive. Why?
Cats lack certain vitamins and acids that their bodies need, and they depend on their diet to obtain them. Examples of these are:
- Taurine – An important amino acid that is found in animal meat, not plants. Taurine deficiency in cats can cause serious health problems, like heart disease.
- Arachidonic acid – A fatty acid found in animal tissue that is essential for cats. It benefits their skin and coat health, among other functions.
- Vitamin A – Required by cats for healthy vision, a strong immune system, and more. Cats lack the enzyme necessary to convert carotene from plants to vitamin A, so they obtain it from animal meat only.
Cats also lack the ability to efficiently digest and process vegetable matter. Ever had a cat vomit up grass or a houseplant on your rug? Then you know what we mean.
Dogs are Scavenging Carnivores
Dogs’ wild ancestors were predators too. They have the long, sharp canine teeth and shorter digestive tracts that are characteristic of carnivores, plus the hunting instincts of certain breeds. But, although they were mostly meat-eaters, dogs were also scavengers, eating whatever was available, either prey or plant. So, many canine experts believe that dogs should be classified as scavenging, or facultative, carnivores, not omnivores.
Unlike cats, domestic dogs have evolved to the point where their bodies can derive required nutrients from plants. Dogs’ bodies also make their own taurine and arachidonic acid. In fact, dogs can live without animal meat if necessary. However, animal protein is far more nutritious (and delicious!) for dogs than plant protein.
Your Pet’s Protein Requirements
So, how much protein does your pet need?
This depends on your pet’s life stage and activity level. Puppies and kittens need more protein than adult dogs and cats because of their rapid growth. Active pets need more protein than sedentary pets for muscle mass and energy. Your best bet is to choose a dog or cat food that’s designed for your individual pet – young or old, big or small, energetic or inactive.
As obligate carnivores, cats have higher protein requirements than dogs. All Tiki Cat® foods offer high protein and low or no carbohydrates. Tiki Cat® Raw™, for example, gives cats an uncooked, prey-like diet with no fruit or vegetables in a safe, complete and balanced meal. Tiki Dog™ recipes are also rich in animal protein, like Tiki Dog™ Wildz™, which gives dogs more than 90% animal protein from New Zealand-sourced beef, duck, lamb, and venison.
Protein quality, in addition to quantity, can make a big difference in your pet’s health as well. The best dog and cat foods will contain a high-quality animal protein as the first ingredient – like Tiki Pets®! We have a meat-first philosophy using only the finest, real, natural protein sources, never any animal by-products.
Now that you understand your cute carnivore a little better, you can focus on finding the animal proteins he or she enjoys most. Happy hunting!