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Do Cats Need Fat in Their Diet?

cat after eating food from a plate

It is no secret that the majority of cats in the United States are obese or overweight. Studies show that excess fat harms a cat’s health and longevity because it increases the animal’s susceptibility to diabetes, heart disease, osteoarthritis, and many types of cancer.

Consequently, pet parents are avoiding fat-rich diets. However, is avoiding that the solution? More importantly, do cats need fat in their diet?

Yes, they do. Cats derive some essential fatty acids from dietary fat, meaning they need fat for survival. In this article, you will learn the importance of dietary fat to cats.

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The Importance of Fat in a Cat’s Diet

cat eating_Shutterstock_Africa Studio
Image Credit: Africa Studio, Shutterstock

Your cat is an obligate carnivore, meaning it relies solely on a meat-based diet for survival. Therefore, unlike omnivores and herbivores, felines do not obtain energy from carbohydrates since their digestive tracts are not designed to process plant-based matter.

Instead, cats derive energy from animal fats. Therefore, the most important function of fat in a cat’s diet is to provide the feline with energy. Additionally, animal fat is essential for the following processes:

  • Transportation and utilization of nutrients
  • Cell integrity
  • Metabolic regulation

As mentioned, cats also derive essential fatty acids from animal fat, most of which are omega fatty acids. Omega fatty acids play a critical role in a cat’s overall health. They are essential for feline vision, reproductive health, a more robust immune system, and healthier skin and coat.

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How Much Fat Should Be in a Cat’s Diet?

cat food bowl_Pixabay
Image Credit: Pixabay

One way to tell the amount of fat a cat requires is by looking at the composition of its natural food; mice. The nutritional profile of a mouse consists of 55.8% protein and 23.6% fat.

The fat content in a cat’s diet should be at a similar level, 20%-24%.

However, the quality of that fat is what really matters. Avoid cat foods that do not name their fat sources. Instead, choose products with named fat sources, such as chicken fat.

How to Ensure a Cat Food Has all the Essential Nutrients

cat eating food_Lumi Studio_Shutterstock
Image Credit: Lumi Studio, Shutterstock

The easiest way of ensuring your kitty gets all the nutrients it requires is by only feeding it foods with an Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) statement of nutritional adequacy on their labels.

AAFCO provides the guidelines pet food manufacturers should follow when creating their foods. Those guidelines include standard ingredient definitions and nutritional requirements. Therefore, for pet food to get AAFCO’s seal of approval, the manufacturer must take their product to a third-party testing facility for analysis to prove they followed AAFCO’s guidelines.

The AAFCO statement on the food’s label explains important details such as:
  • The nutrients it contains
  • How that was determined
  • Which life stage the product is appropriate for

As such, you get a higher level of accountability by buying foods that have an AAFCO statement on their label, which is why we recommend avoiding products that do not have that statement.

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Conclusion

Your cat needs fat in its diet. Dietary fat provides your cat with energy, in addition to boosting its overall health. Therefore, do not limit the amount of fat in your cat’s diet as a means of managing the animal’s weight. If your pet is overweight, switch to a fat cat diet instead.

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Featured Image Credit: mik ulyannikov, Shutterstock

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