Wednesday, May 19, 2010 11:29 AM

More Internet Myths About Feline Nutrition

Many articles online regarding feline nutrition seem to cluster around the question of whether commercial canned diets or dry food products are "better" for cats. Many authors use the existence of the Association of American Feed Control Officials (NAAFCO) as proof positive that commercially prepared diets are not only adequate, but something above that. After all, if the product is prepared according to this entity's standards, it must be good, right? Of course, as covered here previously in other posts on feline nutrition, the NAAFCO is nothing more than an industry trade group, whose main raison d'etre is to create a product that sells well. If this means that the product must not cause death or illness in the pets of the consumers that buy it (it does), then, of course, that becomes a primary goal. They have learned from past fiascos such as the taurine deficiency and tuna-vitamin E incidents that they must be a bit more careful with their product, but only because of the dire results that ensued. They did not use science to improve their product; the scramble to fix the problem resulted from economics, i.e., a loss of market share. Where were their "guidelines" when manufacturers were adding melamine to cat food to raise the protein content?

Other writers suggest that a homemade diet is healthier for cats than the commercial stuff. So far, so good. Unfortunately, instead of pointing the reader in the direction of research and fact-finding, some of these authors attempt to give advice about making cat food at home. This advice mainly consists of cooking many types of meat thoroughly, mixing them together in a blender or food processor, and feeding the resultant mixture to your cat. While these authors usually note that cats are carnivores, they obviously believe that this means that cats can eat only meat, and thrive. Hopefully, these articles will merely encourage those who are interested in homemade diets to look further, not actually follow the advice offered.

Many of these articles suggest making some of portion of your cat's diet and using this to augment a commercial diet. This, of course, is better than nothing, but one still needs to learn the basics of feline nutrition before setting out on this journey. While many of these authors caution against feeding only a homemade diet, they say this not because they necessarily believe that a commercial diet is healthier, but because they feel that the average cat owner cannot possibly figure out how to formulate such a diet. This is nonsense. Even pet owners with no background in nutrition or physiology can read books by those that do. There are many good books out there that even give sample recipes and menus, and many are written by veterinarians.

Don't discontinue your online research when it comes to caring for your cat. Just be discerning about what you read (this goes for any subject, really!). And remember the old research standby: Borrow a few books on cat nutrition from your local library and read them. When you find a couple that you really like, buy them and refer to them often. Sometimes, the old-fashioned way is still best!
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Amanda has worked with animals for many years and has always had cats in her life. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband and two excellent cats.
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