Do Cats Need Carbohydrates?

Cats have little to no dietary need for carbohydrates, but based on a veterinarian’s 30+ years of experience feeding real, whole DIY raw balanced diets, a small percentage of fruits and vegetables belong in a cat’s diet. The key is to include the right kinds of carbs in species-appropriate amounts.

On the Agenda

Cats Process Carbs Differently

For many animals, humans included, carbohydrates are a quick source of energy. But cats are special. Just ask them. As predators at the top of the food chain, they’ve evolved to use protein as their primary energy source–this means the bulk of their diet should come from animal tissue.

Cats have unique nutritional requirements. After all, they’re obligate carnivores, and their bodies can’t produce certain vitamins the way herbivores and omnivores can. Cats of all sizes need foods with a higher concentration of protein, taurine, arginine, niacin, vitamin A, and vitamin D.

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Cats also lack the liver enzymes to metabolize carbohydrates in the quantities that humans and other animals can, so we need to be selective about the quantity and quality of the carbohydrates we include in our felines’ bowls. 

Fortunately, both science and nature can guide us in this endeavor.

Carbohydrates and Cats’ Wild Cousins

You might be thinking, but lions and tigers don’t eat leaves and berries, so why should Mewlius Caesar? When cats, big or small (equally ferocious),  eat their prey, they don’t let anything go to waste. Bones, organs, and digesta are all consumed, which means when a cat eats his prey, he’s also taking advantage of that animal’s last meal– predigested plant matter full of phytonutrients with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Take a Cue From Nature On Which Carbs Are Best For Cats

Not all carbs are created equal. Some carbohydrates are high on the glycemic index (GI), which means they cause blood sugar to rise rapidly. Sugary foods are often culprits, but other foods are sneakier–white rice has almost as dramatic an effect as white sugar… not something you want anywhere near your cat’s bowl.

On the other hand, low GI carbs come from certain fruits and vegetables –especially brightly colored ones. They digest much more slowly, stabilize blood sugar, and provide a steady stream of energy over time. But what everyone should be writing home about is that these foods are often powerhouses of essential nutrients. Unsurprisingly, they’re exactly the carbs cats would be eating in nature.

In the wild, your Apawllo would hunt and feast on small rodents, birds, and the more skilled hunters, young rabbits, and hares. These prey animals would have bellies full of fruits, seeds, berries, and leafy greens, and those are just the nutrient-rich ingredients domestic cats should consume. It’s not hard to see why the starchy fillers found in low-quality cat food– grains, corn, soy, and potatoes– give other carbs a bad name. Unlike the vitamin-packed, functional foods found in the digesta of a cat’s prey, the more common and starchier options are almost void of usable nutrients and much higher on the glycemic index.

Superfoods For Cats

Your cat needs energy to maintain her busy schedule– she has to keep an eye on those squirrels in the yard, practice her contortions so she can fit into any box that comes her way, attack your feet from under the bed, and if she doesn’t patrol the house at 3:00 a.m., at full speed, then who will? It’s a strenuous life, but making sure her bowl contains the obligatory high-quality meat proteins and, of course, species-appropriate amounts of low-glycemic plant ingredients will keep her in tip-top shape for years to come.

How?

Through the power of age-fighting antioxidants. These mighty nutrients protect cells from damage by neutralizing harmful free radicals. Oxidative damage caused by free radicals can lead to cognitive decline, diseases like cancer, and many other chronic conditions that can cause cats to slow down long before their time. 

Fortunately, antioxidants can prevent much of this damage, and antioxidants aren’t hard to find. Antioxidants are both produced by the body (which declines with age) and found in superfoods – the same select few low-GI carbohydrates your cat should be eating anyway.

  • Berries like blueberries and cranberries

  • Spinach, kelp, and other leafy greens

  • Nuts and seeds

  • Pumpkin and squash

  • Broccoli and other cruciferous greens

Learn more about the power of antioxidants and how you can make a radical change in how (you) and your pet age.

Fitting Carbs Into a Balanced Feline Diet

Left to their own devices, cats will naturally eat the right proportions of nutrients. Specifically, most of their diet will consist of protein and animal fats, with a very small portion coming from nutrient- and antioxidant-rich carbohydrates, the kind of plant matter they might find in the digesta of their prey. 

Following nature’s model, we can ensure cats are getting exactly what they need for healthy aging by providing:

#1 A Diet High in Moisture

Cats would get most of their water from their prey. Throughout the day, wild and feral cats might catch six to ten prey animals like mice or birds, and each time they eat their prey, they rehydrate from moisture found in the animal’s tissue. This is why cats have a low thirst drive. (You can put that little nugget in your back pocket for later.)

Because your four-legger isn’t inclined to drink as regularly, it’s essential that you provide your cat with moisture-rich wet, raw, or freeze-dried meals. Cats often can’t or won’t get the hydration they need by drinking, and this can cause chronic dehydration that severely affects a cat’s health, wellbeing, and life span.

#2 Dietary Animal Proteins

Herbivores and omnivores derive cellular energy (at least partially) from carbohydrates– translation, what makes you and I go.  Cats derive energy from protein, animal protein specifically. That’s because animal protein provides all the amino acids cats need to grow and thrive. Those butt-wriggling sneak attacks? Brought to you by the protein in your cat’s dish. 

Plant-based proteins like corn and soy lack in some of the amino acids critical to a cat’s health– which starves your cat’s cells of what it needs.  There’s no substitute for animal proteins in your cat’s diet, and fresh, raw, or (rehydrated) freeze-dried proteins are best.

#3 A Diet Low in Carbohydrates

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You’ve seen how certain carbohydrates are important for cats, but the fact is, cats need far fewer carbs than other animals. They’ve evolved to get their energy from protein, and while they can use carbohydrates for energy, they can’t do it nearly as effectively as other species. When carbohydrates are included in the appropriate quantities (think <15%, but the lower, the better), they provide critical nutrients and those uniquely super-charged antioxidants cats won’t otherwise get.

What Commercial Pet Foods Get Wrong About Carbs & Cats

Most (read: the majority of) cats are eating too many carbohydrates.

The average dry food contains 35-50% carbohydrates.  And many contain significantly more.

This number is unacceptable and a leading cause of not only the obesity epidemic but the extreme rise in the number of diabetes cases in pets.  

Cats only need around 10-15% of their diet to come from carbohydrates.  

Many veterinarians recommend even lower, and you’ll see in Dr. Bessent’s recipes that a few are formulated for as low as 5%.  And because you are providing such a small quantity, you need to pick those carbohydrate sources carefully. They need to provide your kitty with a healthy dose of super-charged antioxidants.  Dr. Bessent chooses produce like cranberries and blueberries to provide exactly that. 

Unfortunately, common pet food ingredients like corn and rice are cheap and are used to help to bind kibble together. They don’t provide either the protein or the vitamins cats need– they’re filler that can leave your cat malnourished and deficient. These just aren’t ingredients cats were meant to eat.

Many canned foods aren’t much better in terms of high-carbohydrate content, though they’re at least supplying more moisture.

Perhaps worst of all, it can be tough for a well-meaning cat parent to try to decipher a pet food label or determine what it actually contains. 

But! Praise the buts. Feeding your cat doesn’t have to be a mystery. There are a few tips and tricks you can use.

How To Figure Out Whether A Food Is Truly Up To Snuff

First, if carbohydrates that aren’t species-appropriate are listed prominently on the label (corn, wheat, rice, to name a few), chances are the percentages are too high for your cat. To calculate the exact number of carbs, you’ll need to roll up your sleeves and pull out your calculator.

Then, you should also beware of these 3 dubious pet food label tricks

When in doubt, just follow nature’s cues and look for products with whole, fresh ingredients your cat might choose for herself.

    • Food high in animal proteins and embellished with species-appropriate carbohydrates that provide essential antioxidants to keep her youthful and fit. 

And if you have any questions, thoughts, cute photos of bleps… reach out or drop them in the comments below.

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Dr. Chris Bessent

Chris Bessent, DVM, MSOM, Dipl. OM, L.Ac. has over thirty years of experience in veterinary medicine including certificates in veterinary acupuncture, veterinary chiropractic and veterinary Chinese herbology. Imbued with Eastern philosophy and the knowledge that food is the foundation of health, Dr. Bessent also received her degree in veterinary nutrition and began to formulate recipes fit for a carnivore from nothing but whole foods. Currently, she divides her time between the Simple Food Project and Herbsmith, both of which are owned and operated out of her facilities in southeastern Wisconsin.

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August Li - Content Writer

August is an author, artist, and animal activist. He lives on the coast of South Carolina, where he spends his days looking for sea glass, merpeople, and friendly cats.

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Kayla is the Content Editor for The Simple Food Project. She has a cat named Professor Cat-Faced Meowmers, who goes by Kitty, and a goof of a dog, named Duck. She stays busy biking trails, playing board games, and searching for the next best craft beer.

Can Dogs Eat Raw Beef?

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Raw beef for dogs? A hearty yes! Not only can dogs eat raw beef, but they should because this lean, savory meat protein offers benefits from tip to tail. 

Let’s look at all the reasons why raw beef should be in the bowl.

On the Agenda

Benefits of Raw Meat

Genetically, dogs are designed to digest animal proteins in their raw form. Their ancestors consumed the whole carcass, including muscle meat, bones, tendons, organs, skin, and fur, as a complete meal. 

That’s probably not going to happen in your house, but you can add raw beef to the bowl, and you should because real food makes a difference.

Food is functional– Each food we choose to put in the bowl directs, changes, and shapes our animal's health– not just weight or performance but also wellbeing.

Food is the foundation of health: yours and your pets. Consider just some of the benefits whole foods like beef offer your carnivore.

Raw beef offers nutrients like protein, which is the building block for muscles, ligaments, skin, cell maintenance and provides energy for running after a squirrel or chasing a ball. Beef also offers essential fatty acids Omega 3 (EPA & DHA) & 6. Omega 3s nourish and hydrate the skin for healthy skin and a shiny coat. Plus, with its anti-inflammatory properties, omega 3 benefits everything from the heart to the immune system. 

Consider this coverage from tip to tail and just one of MANY reasons dogs need essential fatty acids in the bowl. 

Not bad, right? Now, let’s take a closer look at your four-legger’s needs.

What Makes Raw Beef a Good Choice?

Your dog, the carnivore, NEEDS meat to thrive. 

Think about what dogs ate before they were members of the household. What did generations of animals eat when they roamed apart from us. Surely, they didn’t hunt wild kibble… No, a dog’s biology supports a carnivore’s diet.

Dogs share 99.9% of the same DNA as the grey wolf. As we’ve domesticated animals, we’ve bred them for specific propensities (think hunting or herding) and aesthetics (looking at you pugs), but we haven’t bred out their DNA.

The basic physiology, i.e., their internal anatomy, has changed little since domestication, which also means their nutritional requirements haven’t changed. 

Take a peek inside their mouths–

Large canines and pointed molars meant for ripping and tearing meat from the bone.

Little to no salivary amylase (the enzyme necessary for breaking down carbs) in their mouth.

High acidity levels in their stomach can handle the number of bacteria found in fresh prey.  

 

With anatomy like that, a dog’s diet should match.

That means… Meats and organs, about 70-80%

And, of course, a diet low in carbohydrates, no more than 25% or so (but the less, the better) from vegetables, fruits, seeds, even minimal amounts of predigested grains.

But before you add a hunk of raw beef to your carnivore’s bowl and call it dinner, there are a few things you need to know first. 

Not All Beef Is Equal

Not all beef offers equal nutritional value. Most animals used in beef production are grass-fed or grain-fed. Your canine companion benefits most from the grass-fed variety, and here’s why.

Omega-3 and 6 fatty acids are essential components of a carnivore diet. Dogs can’t don’t produce them naturally, so we must include them in their daily diets. 

What’s more, Omega 3 and Omega 6 have to be balanced to reap the benefits. The target ratio of Omega-3 and Omega-6 should be 1:1 in the diet. This is crucial, so those ears should be at attention, pups. 

Too much Omega 6 and not enough Omega 3 can lead to chronic inflammation and ultimately havoc on the body, including diabetes, gut issues, or cancer.

Raw grass-fed beef has a more balanced ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 essential fatty acids. The meat of grass-fed cows contains almost five times the levels of Omega-3 fatty acids than grain-fed cows with higher levels of Omega-6. 

And then there’s the fat difference. Grass-fed animals have leaner muscle mass because they’re out roaming the pastures all day and not carb-o-loading. That means less stress-caused oxidation to cells and more nutrients in the muscles and organs.

For Mr. Squishmallow, grass-fed is the superior choice.

Is Raw Beef Right For Your Dog?

Absolutely, dogs have forgiving digestive systems. With higher acidity in their stomachs and shorter intestinal tracts, they can eat raw meat that may harbor salmonella or listeria spores with no problem– and before you panic, some pathogens are completely normal. Remember, we’re talking real, whole, fresh food.

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We hoomans have more sensitive digestive systems that allow those bacteria to wreak havoc for us, which is why we’re hyper-aware of naturally occurring pathogens in our food. 

That’s not to say a big dose of salmonella or listeria from 4D meats that are contaminated or spoiled wouldn’t cause a problem for your dog. Again, it’s all about choosing high-quality sources.

Any dog who is immunocompromised should avoid raw meats. With a weakened immune system, their body isn’t functioning at 100%, making them more vulnerable to pathogen loads. To not deprive these pups entirely, you could cook the beef lightly or opt for a freeze-dried option.

How Much Raw Beef Can I Feed My Dog?

The amount you dish out depends largely on how you’re using raw beef– as a topping on a meal, feeding as a treat, or switching to a raw food diet.

It’s all about kcals– the number of calories a dog needs in a day based on their activity level and age. 

If used as a snack or training treat, 90% of your dog’s daily diet should be nutritionally balanced food. And as difficult as it can be to resist tossing a few extra at snack time, treats should be 10% of the caloric intake.

No matter which way you offer beef, happy tippy taps will commence, but just remember that while a great addition to the bowl, raw beef alone doesn’t serve as a balanced meal for your dog. If you want to incorporate raw beef into their diet, use it as a topper to a meal that is complete & balanced or consider making the switch over to a balanced DIY raw diet.

How Can I Offer My Dog Raw Beef?

Any form of raw beef will get those ears to perk up in excitement, but just be sure to cut into bite-size pieces or small morsels.

Cut up or mince (like hamburger) and add it right to your dog’s bowl for a nutritional boost.

Dogs are just as excited to receive lightly cooked meat as raw, but the cooking process decreases the nutritional benefits, so if tossing raw meat to your dog isn’t your thing, try freeze-dried. It’s as good as raw, retaining almost 100% of its nutrients.

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Why Beef Is Just One (Big) Portion Of A Carnivore’s Diet

Adding a helping of raw beef to the bowl or tossing in spinach is undoubtedly this mastiff-sized step for your dog’s health, but it is the first step. Beef, foods like spinach, and blueberries should be parts of a whole, comprehensive diet for your dog. 

Real, raw whole food ingredients picked for the carnivore:

  • high in meat proteins (70-80% per recipe- all USDA inspected)
  • low in carbohydrates (15-23% from nutrient-dense fruits, veggies, and seeds)

And the proverbial raw beef on top? Diets like the Simple Food Project’s Beef & Salmon Recipe are already nutritionally balanced with whole foods only (no synthetic vitamins here, folks). 

Even if you’re feeding recipes like the above as a topper, you’re providing the most beneficial nutrition– antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals from whole foods, and key nutrients that a dog’s diet cannot get from meat alone (or from kibble for that matter). 

It’s real food made especially for your carnivore, making it easy to put the right food on your dog’s plate daily.

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Dr. Chris Bessent

Chris Bessent, DVM, MSOM, Dipl. OM, L.Ac. has over thirty years of experience in veterinary medicine including certificates in veterinary acupuncture, veterinary chiropractic and veterinary Chinese herbology. Imbued with Eastern philosophy and the knowledge that food is the foundation of health, Dr. Bessent also received her degree in veterinary nutrition and began to formulate recipes fit for a carnivore from nothing but whole foods. Currently, she divides her time between the Simple Food Project and Herbsmith, both of which are owned and operated out of her facilities in southeastern Wisconsin.

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Lynn Guthrie - Content Writer

Lynn Guthrie is a writer focused on improving the lives of cats and dogs. She is pawrent to two dogs and two cats. When not writing, she enjoys traveling the US with her husband in their RV and gardening.

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Kayla - Editor

Kayla is the Content Editor for The Simple Food Project. She has a cat named Professor Cat-Faced Meowmers, who goes by Kitty, and a goof of a dog, named Duck. She stays busy biking trails, playing board games, and searching for the next best craft beer.

The Power of Krill for Dogs & Cats

Home / Blog   |   Read Time: 6 minutes

Krill are tiny crustaceans, only about 2 inches long. But don’t be fooled by their small size — they can change your pet’s life.

Though they are teensy ocean creatures, krill are packed with vital nutrition that can help our land-dwelling cats and dogs live a long, vibrant life. No matter the age, size, or breed of your pet, krill can provide them with crucial nutrients that nourish and fuel the entire body. And that means more time and energy for all their favorite things — from curtain-climbing to frisbee fetch.

There’s a reason krill should be on your radar — and in your pet’s bowl. Actually, a LOT of reasons. So let’s dive in…

On the Agenda

The Power of A Single Ingredient

Krill is packed to the brim with nutrition — and yet, it’s just one ingredient. One ingredient means no preservatives, no artificial additives, and no fortifying. It’s just plain krill — high-quality nutrition straight from the ocean. All the good stuff and none of the bad.

So what exactly is all that good stuff? What makes krill so vital for our cats and dogs?

1. Omega 3 

Krill is full of omega-3 fatty acids. We’re talking good fat. Omega 3s promote a healthy inflammatory response throughout your pet’s entire body and benefit everything from the heart to the immune system.

Cats and dogs can’t produce omega 3 on their own, so they absolutely need to be eating omega-rich foods. Not only that, but it has to be the right kind of omega 3s — with DHA and EPA fatty acids. This form is readily available for the carnivore’s body to use — a.k.a. exactly what ferocious Mr. Fluffums needs. And that’s exactly the kind you will find in krill. 

Plant-based sources of omega 3, on the other hand, contain ALA, which isn’t as bioavailable to your pet — and therefore not as beneficial. So be on the lookout for meat based sources of omega 3, which contain that vital DHA and EPA.

Omega 3 with EPA and DHA

Omega 3 with ALA

One last thing: adding omega 3 to the bowl is especially vital for kibble-fed pets. Kibble usually provides a lot of omega 6 and hardly any omega 3 — and it’s all about a balanced ratio with these two omegas. Too much omega 6 and not enough omega 3 can lead to inflammation and health problems. So don’t hold back when you add omega 3 to the bowl!

2. Phospholipids

Phospholipids deliver the omega 3 right to where your pet’s body needs it most and help the body absorb a greater amount. This makes krill a super efficient and high-quality source of omega 3s. Nutrients aren’t useful unless the body can actually use them, and phospholipids make it possible for the body to maximize the omega 3s and really reap the benefits.

3. Choline

Krill also contains choline, an essential nutrient shown to promote brain, heart, and liver health. Not bad. Not bad at all.

4. Astaxanthin

Astaxanthin is known as “nature’s most powerful antioxidant.” It’s hundreds of times more powerful than other antioxidants, which means its free-radical scavenging ability is unparalleled. 

Antioxidants neutralize free-radicals in the body, which prevents oxidative stress (cell damage) and premature aging. Filling the bowl with antioxidant-rich foods gives your pet the tools their body needs to stay healthy and strong — especially as they age.

And here’s a hot tip for kitty parents — cats especially need meat sources of antioxidants (like astaxanthin!) because cats aren’t meant to have loads of leafy greens. Dogs can thrive with a combination of plant-based and meat-based antioxidants (yes, you should give your dog spinach!), but cats are obligate carnivores, which means meat is the name of the game pretty much 24/7. This makes krill absolutely crucial to a kitty’s diet — it’s a meat protein and nature’s most potent antioxidant all in one. And that’s win/win.

The Power of Sustainable Choices

There’s another piece to consider when you decide to fill your pet’s bowl with krill: we want healthy pets, but we also want a healthy planet — which means paying attention to our marine ecosystems and making sustainable choices.

Always look for manufacturers that source from fisheries that are committed to sustainability and minimizing our environmental impact (look for the Marine Stewardship Council label).

In our Simple Food Project recipes, we only use wild-caught krill. Our MSC-certified supplier is one of the most sustainable fisheries worldwide, with a deep commitment to conservation. They created a revolutionary technology called Eco-harvesting, which utilizes a hose to collect krill and bring it on board. This ensures that no other marine wildlife is harmed in the process. This kind of technology and conscientiousness allows us to care for our pets and our planet simultaneously.

As you peruse your krill options, you may come across chews and oils, but our recommendation is ground krill — which is the entire krill.

Ground krill is by far the most sustainable option. In order to produce oils and chews, manufacturers extract oil from the krill — and then throw away what remains. This is especially true for how humans use krill (since humans typically don’t want to eat a whole krill). If the rest of the krill isn’t used for anything, this practice is wasteful. 

That’s where ground krill comes in. Ground krill uses the entire krill — including the parts that would otherwise be discarded after oil extraction. So when you choose ground krill, you’re also choosing an option that complements the human industry, provides your pet with maximum nutrition and honors the krill and marine ecosystem.

The Power of Krill

Preventive care is incredibly powerful, and adding krill to the bowl is one of the best things you can do for your pet’s long-term health. Krill provides the body with vital nutrition during every phase of life — from developing puppy brains to aging seniors.

Krill can:

No matter the size, age, or breed of your pet, the nutrients in krill provide every pet with the tools to thrive. Krill can take every single pet’s health and wellbeing to the next level.

That’s why Dr. Bessent added ground krill into every one of our Simple Food Project Recipes. And if your pet needs a little extra, it’s as easy as adding ground krill like Pure Krill to the bowl. Just be ready for your pet to go crazy for that fishy flavor.

Regardless of how you feed krill, you’ll be taking a concrete step toward a healthier pet. The krill will nourish the entire body, allowing your favorite four-legger to start reaping the health benefits.

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Dr. Chris Bessent

Chris Bessent, DVM, MSOM, Dipl. OM, L.Ac. has over thirty years of experience in veterinary medicine including certificates in veterinary acupuncture, veterinary chiropractic and veterinary Chinese herbology. Imbued with Eastern philosophy and the knowledge that food is the foundation of health, Dr. Bessent also received her degree in veterinary nutrition and began to formulate recipes fit for a carnivore from nothing but whole foods. Currently, she divides her time between the Simple Food Project and Herbsmith, both of which are owned and operated out of her facilities in southeastern Wisconsin.

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Hayley - Content Writer

Hayley is a freelance writer based in Northern California. (Writing for the Simple Food Project is her favorite, but don't spread it around.) She enjoys riding horses, taking road trips, and eating grilled cheese sandwiches. Her foster dogs have mixed feelings about the spinach she keeps trying to sneak into their bowls.

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Kayla is the Content Editor for The Simple Food Project. She has a cat named Professor Cat-Faced Meowmers, who goes by Kitty, and a goof of a dog, named Duck. She stays busy biking trails, playing board games, and searching for the next best craft beer.

6 Ingredients in Cat “Food” That Aren’t Meant To Be Eaten

Home / Blog   |   Read Time: 6 minutes

Mr. McWhiskers is a pure delight. He only scratches the sofa sometimes (he’s very polite that way), he’s an excellent coworker and sits on your laptop right on time every day, and he takes all your outfits to the next level with the refined layer of hair he leaves behind.

Mr. McWhiskers deserves the best in every way — especially in terms of what he eats (because let’s be honest, Mr. McWhiskers LOVES to eat).

But is he eating ingredients that aren’t meant to be eaten?

We’re not talking about the occasional pillow stuffing that just somehow escaped from the pillow. Or a thread from that sock he stole.

No. We’re talking about ingredients within his cat food. Ingredients that manufacturers put in his food intentionally. Ingredients that you would never dream of eating.

You know that long list of ingredients on the back of the cat food bag? Yep. That’s where you’ll find these doozy ingredients. And the actual uses of these ingredients (i.e. their proper, non-food uses) should raise some red flags. Like — giant, wildly-flapping-in-the-wind, neon red flags.

On the Agenda

The Problem(s) With Kibble

Many pet parents choose to feed kibble. True, it’s a convenient choice — but convenience comes with some scary tradeoffs.

Kibble is heavily processed and often has a shelf life of decades. It’s akin to junk food. Yes, it’s cheap and convenient, but it often causes obesity and numerous health problems down the road. Plus, it doesn’t properly nourish the body — even though it can cause obesity. Kibble leads to overfed and undernourished pets.

It’s also worth noting how kibble is made. In production, the kibble is heated to extremely high temperatures — 275-572 degrees F. The idea is that this temperature will kill pathogens (which it does), but it also ends up killing healthy components like antioxidants and enzymes. Additionally, when proteins and carbohydrates are heated to such high temperatures, they become toxic and/or carcinogenic (read: cancer-causing). 

This is serious stuff. Our four-leggers deserve better.

Many Cat “Foods” Contain Ingredients That Are Not FOOD

Okay, so we know some concerning things about kibble. Now let’s get to the nitty-gritty — the specific ingredients that should make you run

Let’s demystify some of the ickiest and most dangerous ingredients for your cat. We’ll cover 1) what the ingredients are and 2) what they are supposed to be used for (hint: not food).

Powdered Cellulose

What is it: Cellulose is a fibrous plant-based compound. It comes from plants, which doesn’t sound too alarming, but don’t be fooled. This is not meant to be eaten by cats — or anyone, for that matter. 

What is it supposed to be used for: Cellulose is typically used to make paper and fabrics. It’s also used in household items like sponges and glue. The form often found in cat food is derived from sawdust, which is considered a “byproduct” or “waste” from wood. Sawdust is great for various landscaping uses and to soak up spills, but it is certainly not meant for Mr. McWhiskers to have for dinner.

Food Dyes (Yellow 5, Yellow 6, Red 40, Blue 2)

What is it: Food dyes are artificial chemicals that can provide color to many foods (ever had a lollipop that left your tongue blue for hours?).

What is it supposed to be used for: Well, coloring food at best. But we have to ask if this is really necessary — especially for CATS! Does your cat really care or even see what color her food is?  Colors are often added to make the food look more enticing to you (the consumer, not your cat).  But artificial colors just aren’t worth the cancer risk. Yep, food dyes are known carcinogens for animals. No, thank you. It’s just not worth it.

Ethoxyquin 

What is it: Ethoxyquin is a synthetic preservative meant to prevent rancidity. 

What is it supposed to be used for: Certainly not food! Ethoxyquin is banned for direct use in human food (it’s toxic if it touches the skin or is swallowed), but it is allowed in pet food — that should be a red flag right there. And the scientific community has some pretty big concerns relating to toxicity that can lead to autoimmune disorders, reproductive damage, cancer, and more.

BHT and BHA 

What is it: These are closely related synthetic chemical preservatives (often in dry cat food and human food like cereal and packaged snacks).

What is it supposed to be used for: In addition to being used as food additives, BHT and BHA are commonly used in beauty products, plastic, gasoline, wax, paint, and more (ew). What’s even worse? They’re known carcinogens.

Meat and Bone Meals 

What is it: Meat and bone meals are a mysterious mixture from sources such as roadkill, expired food from grocery stores, and inedible byproducts from slaughterhouses. These meals often contain bones and feathers and very little (if any) valuable parts like muscle meat, which is reserved for human consumption. The meal is formed through a high temperature and high-pressure process that essentially converts carcasses and byproducts into a powdery substance — and that is what goes into your pet’s food (yikes).

What is it supposed to be used for: Well, compost at best. Meat and bone meals are often essentially garbage that’s being repurposed as food for our pets. We’re all about repurposing, recycling, and sustainability, but here’s something we’re not about: feeding our pets unhealthy and unsafe waste.

Glucose and Grains (Wheat, Corn, Rice)

What is it: Here are some familiar and recognizable ingredients (finally)! We’re going to assume you know what grains are. And as a Biology 101 reminder, glucose is a simple sugar and a component of carbohydrates.

What is it supposed to be used for: This category is a little different. For other species (like humans or goats), grains are perfectly appropriate. The issue is that the grain is not species-appropriate for cats. Have you ever felt like your kitty is hungry all the time? Well, that’s because she’s not getting the nutrition she really needs. Cats simply cannot process high-carbohydrate ingredients like grains and fillers. A high-meat diet is absolutely imperative to their survival. So even if your kitty eats a seemingly appropriate amount of food each day, she still won’t get the nutrition she needs if that food is filled with carbohydrates. (You can learn more with “Cats and Kibble”).

What Cats Need to Thrive

Cats are obligate carnivores, which means their entire body is designed for hunting and consuming prey — meat. Anything other than meat in their diet should be limited, and carbohydrates (from produce and seeds) must be predigested. (Learn more with “Cat: The True Carnivore”). When you’re choosing a food for your cat, always look for high meat content (like 80-90%) and ingredients you recognize

Your cat deserves real, whole food — not “cat food” that isn’t actually food at all. We know that health starts with what’s in the bowl, so fill it with everything your cat needs to truly thrive!

Meat. Your cat would like us to emphasize once again that the answer is meat — and just to be clear, we’re talking raw meats and not meat meals (shudder).

And don’t forget about antioxidants and omegas, which support a healthy inflammatory response, boost heart health, foster a robust immune system, and promote healthy aging. Adding these doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, single ingredients like krill can provide a supercharged daily dose of both these nutrients.

You can even learn to curate the bowl for your cat, filling it with the quality staples that all cats need and going beyond the basics to tailor a plan for your unique four-legger.

There are a lot of ways for you to give Mr. McWhiskers the nutrition he needs to thrive. The solution isn’t one-size-fits-all. Maybe you want to try DIY raw. Or maybe that’s a bit too much of an endeavor. In that case, another great option would be freeze-dried whole food nutrition like The Simple Food Project recipes.

Regardless, it’s safe to say several ingredients absolutely do not belong in your cat’s bowl. Now that you know what they are — and the non-food purposes they actually serve — you can make healthier choices for Mr. McWhiskers for years to come.

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Dr. Chris Bessent

Chris Bessent, DVM, MSOM, Dipl. OM, L.Ac. has over thirty years of experience in veterinary medicine including certificates in veterinary acupuncture, veterinary chiropractic and veterinary Chinese herbology. Imbued with Eastern philosophy and the knowledge that food is the foundation of health, Dr. Bessent also received her degree in veterinary nutrition and began to formulate recipes fit for a carnivore from nothing but whole foods. Currently, she divides her time between the Simple Food Project and Herbsmith, both of which are owned and operated out of her facilities in southeastern Wisconsin.

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Hayley - Content Writer

Hayley is a freelance writer based in Northern California. (Writing for the Simple Food Project is her favorite, but don't spread it around.) She enjoys riding horses, taking road trips, and eating grilled cheese sandwiches. Her foster dogs have mixed feelings about the spinach she keeps trying to sneak into their bowls.

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Kayla - Content Editor

Kayla is the Content Editor for The Simple Food Project. She has a cat named Professor Cat-Faced Meowmers, who goes by Kitty, and a goof of a dog, named Duck. She stays busy biking trails, losing at board games, and searching for the next best craft beer.

Can Dogs Eat Spinach?

Home / Blog / Everything Dog    |   Read Time: 6 minutes

Cue the lights. The music starts and the applause swells. The kitchen sparkles, ready for your next culinary masterpiece. Sure, your dog is the only audience member, but what a supportive and attentive viewer! Tonight, your official taste-tester is in for a surprise because your special ingredient is… spinach.

We’ll cover everything you need to know about spinach and dogs.

On the Agenda

Before that, some basics.

Can Dogs Have Spinach?

Yes, not only can dogs eat spinach, but they should eat those super-powered greens because both humans and dogs can benefit in equal measure from their daily stems and leaves.

Whole Food Nutrients vs Synthetics

This whole food provides a whole lotta whole food nutrients for pups, including vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. If all of this comes from just one leaf, which would you choose?

You get…

Vitamin A helps dogs maintain that healthy, sparkling fur coat. And while you won’t find any dog reciting the bottom row on the eye chart anytime soon, Vitamin A helps keep their peepers in working order.

Vitamin B is a major player when it comes to brain function, blood cell formation and nervous system maintenance. Three big ones, if we don’t say so ourselves.

Vitamin C has proven to play a key role in dogs’ immune function, much like it does for their two-leggers.

Vitamin K assists with the clotting process when a dog is nicked or cut, assuring their body can perform its own first aid in a pinch.

Calcium does what Mom always said it would: Bone health is pivotal for a growing pup. (P.S. no video games until you finish your milk.)

Iron is essential to the formation of red blood cells and hemoglobin. For dogs, a healthy iron intake means proper blood circulation and origination.

Mask Group (1)

Lutein is a carotenoid that’s got an eye out for your pups’ eyes. This antioxidant helps fight off free radicals and reduce oxidative stress that can be damaging to the eyes

Fiber can help keep your dog, ahem, regular. And not just on the rear end. Fibrous diets can help create a feeling of fullness to prevent overindulgence.

Potassium keeps almost everything on the up and up, from the heart to the kidneys to the nerves.

Mask Group (2)

Zeaxanthin is another eye-catching antioxidant. Much like lutein, it’s drawn to the eye where it helps protect against oxidative damage from UV rays.

 

Or you get…

Mask Group (3)

Synthetic Vitamin A – The long list of impossible words at the end of kibble ingredient decks are piles of synthetic vitamins and minerals. 

They have to be added to kibble because the food never offered them in the first place, or they were lost in the high-heat extrusion process. 

If we can ditch the synthetics on an ingredient deck by including one ingredient, it’s really a no-brainer.

Yes, all that. From one little leaf. Impressed? Just you wait.

Why Feed Your Dog Spinach?

Still not convinced? Let’s get to the main event: It’s all about the antioxidants, including lutein and zeaxanthin mentioned above.

But before we go any further, what exactly are antioxidants? And why does my pup need them?

Here’s the scoop: As a result of normal metabolic processes (chemical reactions that happen inside the body to keep us alive and healthy), free radicals get released. These may sound cool, but free radicals are not our friends. 

They actually do some serious cell damage, which leads to oxidative stress, which contributes to our risk of disease including cancer as well as aging and age-related health problems. This shows up in humans and dogs in various ways, including:

  • Graying hair
  • Graying eyes
  • Deteriorating vision
  • Thinning skin
  • Dementia

So where do the antioxidants come in? Well, antioxidants are the real MVP here because they reduce the oxidative stress caused by harmful free radicals (antioxidants are anti-oxidation… get it?!). Now this is making sense!

Science tells us antioxidants could actually be one of the most important components in the upkeep of necessary biological functions — everything from the inner ear all the way down to strands of DNA. Plus, research shows that antioxidants are pivotal to a carnivore’s traditional diet. (“Wait, my dog is a carnivore? Yes, your dog is a carnivore.”)

Dogs do produce antioxidants on their own, but the level decreases significantly as they get older — which means Mr. Paws McGee is going to need some supplemental antioxidants. And guess what, food is packed full of ‘em.

Yep, you got it: Spinach.

Super Powers Of A Superfood

While meat should be the primary means of nourishment for dogs, spinach complements their diet.

 A side salad, if you will. 

Some may warn against the oxalic acid in spinach, but realistically, there would only be cause for concern if a high percentage of your dog’s diet consisted of spinach– like platefuls of spinach for breakfast, lunch, elevensies, and dinner.  While rabbits would dig in, that’s not an appropriate diet for your scavenger carnivore, so that’s really not relevant for your pup. 

What is relevant are those antioxidants we were raving about earlier. Spinach gives your dog a turbocharged dose of antioxidants that’s tough to come by with meat and bones alone.

That could mean a stronger immune system, steadier heart health, and reduced risk of cancer for your dog. In fact, a 2005 Purdue study shows that adding some leafy green vegetables to your dog’s food three times per week causes a 90 percent decrease in cancer risk. You can listen to Rodney Habib talk about it here. Impressed? We are. Not too shabby for a little green plant.

Ways To Feed Your Dog Spinach

It doesn’t have to be glamorous. It doesn’t have to be seasoned. Heck, it doesn’t even have to be cooked. There’s more than one way to get your pup eating his greens.

For the sophisticated palate – if your dog is a leaf eater by trade, then by all means: chomp those leaves in all their green glory. It would take a whole lot of spinach for its acidic content to cause any digestive damage, but we still wouldn’t recommend it as a meal replacement so much as a supplement. Just be sure to rinse it off as well as you would your own salad (and always choose organic if possible). Dogs can stomach some pretty rough-and-tumble ingredients, but pesticides aren’t one of them.

For the picky pups (you know who you are)– if your dog doesn’t appreciate a nice side salad, you’re going to have to be a sneak. A few leaves at breakfast. A few leaves at dinner. Chopped finely and cooked simply, it’s fairly easy to sprinkle in some spinach with every meal.

How To Prepare Spinach

Try dicing up the leaves. They’re much easier to hide. Or blending them (smoothie, anyone?). Toss blueberries, a few carrots and kefir in there for good measure. Chop them finely, add bone broth and divy that tasty soup into ice cube trays for a special treat. If you’ve ever fantasized about having your own cooking show (like we clearly have), now is the time to show off for the canine food critic in your life!

Should I Cook It?

You don’t have to, but you can. For maximum antioxidant benefits, raw or lightly steamed is the way to go. But if Madame Booperton isn’t in the mood for crunchy leaves, cooking is a perfectly good solution.

Many of the best nutrients, including antioxidants are heat-labile meaning they break down when exposed to heat, so to get the most out of these leafy greens we want to keep the heat to a minimum.

The best way to do that is to steam the spinach on the stovetop for about two minutes, just until the leaves wilt.

Next best, would be lightly sautéing those leafy greens for about three minutes, pulling them once they’re wilted. You could mix it into a meat like ground turkey and voila– dinner served. (Note: This is a great option once in a while, but balance is everything in home-cooked diets.)

You could also take that sauteed supergreen, chop it finely, and sprinkle it into a warm bowl of bone broth. Or mix it into an extra drool-worthy treat of theirs – cottage cheese and kefir come to mind.

The point is there is so much you can do with this little leaf and any which way you do it will all have a big impact on your pup!

If this all sounds good in theory but not quite up your alley as a sous chef, check out the Simple Food diet. Allow us to explain.

How We Do Spinach

There’s a reason we don’t call our food kibble. Because it isn’t. It’s real food made specially for your carnivore. Every one of our recipes starts with tasty mainstay ingredients like spinach that make it easy to put real food on your dog’s plate daily.

And here’s the cool part: freeze-dried. Pun intended. That’s right, freeze-dried isn’t just for astronauts anymore. The amazing thing about freeze-dried food is that it retains about 97 percent of its original vitamins and minerals. This is especially important for those antioxidant-rich fruits and veggies like spinach.

 

Regardless which recipe your pup chooses, they all come with enough of the good stuff to help your dog benefit from those wonderful perks with every bite. Our Chicken & Turkey recipe, for example, includes organic spinach alongside organic carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkins seeds and plenty more nutrient-packed yum. Same goes for our Beef & Salmon recipe: Organic peas, organic carrots and organic spinach come together to bring out a flavorful blend that’s one part surf, one part turf — and all parts free of the fillers, byproducts and synthetic who-knows-what that so many brands use to fill their bags.

Ultimately, it’s up to you how your dog enjoys their spinach, well and your pup. But if you’re asking us? Try to find a way to sneak it in where you can.

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Dr. Chris Bessent

Chris Bessent, DVM, MSOM, Dipl. OM, L.Ac. has over thirty years of experience in veterinary medicine including certificates in veterinary acupuncture, veterinary chiropractic and veterinary Chinese herbology. Imbued with Eastern philosophy and the knowledge that food is the foundation of health, Dr. Bessent also received her degree in veterinary nutrition and began to formulate recipes fit for a carnivore from nothing but whole foods. Currently, she divides her time between the Simple Food Project and Herbsmith, both of which are owned and operated out of her facilities in southeastern Wisconsin.

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Kayla

Kayla is the Content Writer for The Simple Food Project. She has a cat named Professor Cat-Faced Meowmers, who goes by Kitty, and a goof of a dog, named Duck. She stays busy biking trails, losing at board games, and searching for the next best craft beer.

Cats and Kibble: Isn’t It About Time You Had The Talk?

Home > Blog > Nutrition > Cats & Kibble 

Your cat, the empress of sole (biting), queen of the porcelain throne, destroyer of unopened boxes, also happens to be a true or obligate carnivore who has unique dietary needs, three big ones in fact.

Cats need a diet high in moisture

Cats need a diet high in meat proteins​

Cats need a diet low in carbohydrates

I know what you’re thinking, “But Empress enjoys her kibble, and she drinks from the kitchen faucet on occasion, so we’re good.”

But here’s the thing. Dry, carb-laden kibble doesn’t meet any of those requirements. And because a cat’s body, its anatomy and physiology, are built for the carnivorous diet, their bodies try and often fail to cope when they stray from it.

Diabetes, kidney disease, obesity… these are just some of the more common health issues that stem from years of an inappropriate diet like kibble.

Cats and Water

(i.e., the original "it's complicated")

Wild and feral cats hunt and consume from 6-10 small animals a day, getting smaller amounts of moisture from their prey throughout the day, which may speak to some of the cat’s more unique physiological vulnerabilities for lack of a better word.

Cats are less sensitive to dehydration, have a lower thirst drive, and are capable of concentrating urine to conserve water loss. These may be rather practical devices put to use as cats hunt throughout the day, but not so much so when they simply have to saunter over to the automatic feeder to eat.

The Rather Obvious Reason Kibble Falls Short

Kitties need high amounts of moisture in their diet. Kibble very much lacks in that. It’s so low in moisture, in fact, that kitties only consume 6-10% moisture when fed kibble as opposed to 69% moisture gotten from a natural diet.

Think of moisture as an irrigation system for your kitty. It flushes the pipes, so to speak. When they don’t get enough moisture from their diet, they aren’t able to eliminate properly, which thanks to that nifty water conservation trick, means that they concentrate their urine. This creates the perfect storm for bladder crystals as minerals begin to cluster, and the bladder wall gets irritated by urine. And lest we forget, this all really means there’s one uncomfortable kitty.

Clearly, the cat’s complicated physiology makes it vulnerable to a whole host of urinary issues when there isn’t enough moisture in the diet (which we now know can’t be solved by fresh drinking water alone). So, please, please for the sake of their kidney and bladder health, add moisture in their diet.

Now on to the meat and potatoes (hold the potatoes).

Meat, Meat

and more meat protein, please

A species-appropriate diet for cats would consist of animal proteins and lots of it.

First, it’s important to know that amino acids are the building blocks of protein. People and even dogs, to an extent, can take the protein in plants and make the missing amino acids to create the protein they need. Cats can’t do this, which is why animal proteins are so important in their diet.

Animal proteins are complete proteins, meaning they provide kitties with all of the necessary amino acids, in the right proportions, that kitties need for growth and overall health.

Cats, in particular, need to get the amino acids taurine, arginine, and tryptophan from their diet, all of which are present in meat proteins.

Think of it as kitties getting a whole, ready-made dinner as opposed to just having the raw ingredients that they have no way of preparing.

Oftentimes, the protein in kibble comes from plants, including grains or starches like peas or legumes, which only offer incomplete proteins. And while pet food companies have invested a lot of time and money into adding nutrients back into pet food to make up for plants’ shortcomings, they still haven’t always gotten it right. Taurine, for instance, only became a dietary requirement in the ’80s after the surge in feline DCM cases made it clear that taurine was necessary in a cat’s diet.

Why A Diet Low In Carbs Matters

When a cat eats a high-protein diet, its body can actually use that biologically appropriate food like it was designed to, so it thrives. 

Flip through the diagram below to learn how kitties process a species-appropriate diet. (Never mind the rather over-simplified depiction of the amazingly complex systems in the body.)

What Happens When Cats Eat a Diet High in Carbs

High carbohydrate diets are more or less synonymous with kibble because of its high carbohydrate content. On average kibble is 40% carbohydrate (think grains, potatoes, peas) because it’s needed to form and hold the kibble together during the extrusion process, not to mention it’s cheaper than meat.

The problem is that cats are already rather adept at making their own energy from the protein they’d get from a species-appropriate diet, not via carbohydrates. So, when cats are fed a diet high in carbohydrates (that is anything more than 10ish%), their body isn’t equipped to process incoming carbs as effectively.

Flip through the diagram below to learn how (unsuccessfully) kitties process high-carb diets. (Never mind the rather over-simplified depiction of the amazingly complex systems in the body.)

These numbers only continue to grow.

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Carb-aholic Intervention

it's about time you had the talk

Any pet parent of an obese, carb-aholic kitty knows the struggle of trying to introduce healthier alternatives to carb lovers. Sparkles refuses to eat.

All cats can experience what’s called neophobia, a fear of trying something new. While this appears to pet parents as one stubborn picky eater, it’s actually a rather astute defense mechanism for cats who, in their natural diet, could very well eat something poisonous if they decided to go off-menu.

So, knowing that, you have to commit to quite possibly the longest game of chess with your kitty. If you’re on week 5, DO NOT LOSE HOPE. He’s likely to knock a few pieces from the board. He’s a cat.

It’s all about starting slow, approaching it with patience, and even a bit of trickery for the most stubborn of cats. Hey, if you’d only ever eaten Cheetos and an apple is plopped into your dish, you’d eye it with the utmost suspicion too.

Hard & Fast Rules for Transitioning

    • Stop free feeding! Seriously, just stop. I can say it again if needed. Stop.

    • This is important, so focus up. Do not fast your kitty. Their bodies aren’t designed for fasting and doing so can lead to liver dysfunction. Just know that some days you will have to feed them kibble if they aren’t budging.

    • Give them two to three meals a day, offering fresh or rehydrated freeze-dried meat on top of their kibble (or at the bottom of a picky eater’s bowl). Remove any leftovers about a half-hour later.  Do not dramatically decrease their feeding amounts, especially if your kitty is classified as obese. Cut their food very gradually in 5% increments. 

    • Each time your kitty begins eating the toppers, adjust the amount of dry kibble accordingly.

    • Continue adding fresh meats, freeze-dried treats, and canned foods. Mix it up. Offer variety and just be prepared to throw a bit of food away in the process.
    • For the most resistant amongst them, crumble a pinch of freeze-dried meat dust over their kibble and on their paws for good measure. Oftentimes, they just need to get used to their smell. Plus, they’ll lick their paws eventually.

    • Be patient. You got this! You’ve done much harder things. You’ve endured botched bang cuts, made it through the dodgeball unit in senior P.E., heck, you’ve spent 20 winters shoveling snow, by hand for peets sake! You’re amazing!! And you, you warrior, know the idea of giving in to your cat now seems downright laughable.

Once your cat is eating a species-appropriate diet high in meat, moisture, and low in those carbs, he is going to thrive. With the possibility of weight loss, renewed energy, and overall health and vibrancy hanging in the balance, it’s rather obvious now is the time you had the talk.

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Brain Behind the Science

Chris Bessent, DVM, MSOM, Dipl. OM, L.Ac. has over thirty years of experience in veterinary medicine including certificates in veterinary acupuncture, veterinary chiropractic and veterinary Chinese herbology. Imbued with Eastern philosophy and the knowledge that food is the foundation of health, Dr. Bessent also received her degree in veterinary nutrition and began to formulate recipes fit for a carnivore from nothing but whole foods. Currently, she divides her time between the Simple Food Project and Herbsmith, both of which are owned and operated out of her facilities in southeastern Wisconsin.

Correspondent to the Brain​

Kayla is the Content Writer for The Simple Food Project. She has a cat named Professor Cat-Faced Meowmers, who goes by Kitty, and a goof of a dog, named Duck. She stays busy biking trails, losing at board games, and searching for the next best craft beer.

800-451-5267

info@simplefoodproject.com

1823 Executive Drive
Oconomowoc, WI 53066

The Simple Food Project
1823 Executive Drive
Oconomowoc, WI 53066

800-451-5267

Feed Cats What They Eat in the Wild? Myth or Exactly As Nature Intended

Home / Blog   |   Read Time: 6 minutes

The pet food aisles offer more choices than ever before, so what should you feed your cat? The truth is, your little lionheart has almost the same nutritional needs as her wild cousins– a high protein, high moisture, low carbohydrate diet. 

Let’s dig into the specifics of feeding nature’s perfect hunter.

On the Agenda

How Cat Biology Determines Nutritional Needs

Before we venture down the vole hole, we need to be in total agreement that cats are obligate or true carnivores. In short, they absolutely need, cannot live without meat and organs in their diet.

We’re on the same page. This is going great! (If you’re scratching your head, stop now. Read this.)

As obligate carnivores, cats also have unique dietary requirements. This just means they get certain vitamins and fatty acids from their diet because they’ve lost the ability to make certain amino acids and vitamins in their own bodies the way that omnivores and herbivores do.

So, we know they need more protein in their diets as well as certain amino acids. Their physiology and anatomy offer ironclad proof that, as a species, cats are designed to eat prey. They’ve evolved characteristics that make them ideal for this role, like:

A sketched tooth: carnivores have differently structured teeth and mouths
a sketched intestine: carnivores have a shorter gastrointestinal tract
sketched saliva: carnivores lack an enzyme called salivary amylase, making them incapable of breaking down nutrients from plants as easily as omnivores

Sharp, pointed teeth for ripping and tearing

Short and simple g.i. tract to process raw meat in hours rather than days

Highly acidic stomach to handle the bacterial load found in fresh prey

A sketched tooth: carnivores have differently structured teeth and mouths

Sharp, pointed teeth for ripping and tearing

a sketched intestine: carnivores have a shorter gastrointestinal tract

Short and simple g.i. tract to process raw meat in hours rather than days

sketched saliva: carnivores lack an enzyme called salivary amylase, making them incapable of breaking down nutrients from plants as easily as omnivores

Highly acidic stomach to handle the bacterial load found in fresh prey

And, as if we needed further evidence, we need only look to the feral or wild cat diet to understand what a domestic cat’s diet should consist of.

A recent study from the School of Veterinary Medicine, UC Davis, observed that wild or feral cats hunt and eat a combination of wild rodents and small birds.

The dietary analysis showed 67% water content, 62% crude protein, 11% crude fat, 14.8% ash, and 2% carbohydrates.[i]

Given A Choice, What Would Your Cat Eat?

Additional research has actually provided rather substantial evidence that given the option, domestic cats would also pick a diet that was biologically appropriate for them, i.e., what they’d eat if in the wild.[ii]

Holistic veterinarian Dr. Karen Becker graciously translated the study to people speak to digest the most significant findings.[iii]

Every cat in the study chose the high-protein food over the high-carb food when given the option, even if there was less of the high-protein food available. When offered three foods, the cats mixed them to meet a daily percentage of 52% protein, 36% fat, and 12% carbs.

What Do These Numbers Say About a Cat’s Diet?

These numbers tell us that if cats had it their way, they wouldn’t be eating kibble, which is notoriously high in carbohydrates, 40% on average. (Carbs are needed to form and hold the kibble together during the extrusion process, not to mention grains are cheaper than meat). Instead, cats would opt for a high-protein food with moderate amounts of fat and low carbohydrates.

How to Meet The Nutritional Needs of Cats

We need to provide our kitties with food that comes as close to the wild or feral cat diet as possible, and the best cat foods would do that by meeting the three fundamental dietary requirements of cats.

#1 

#2

#3

A Diet High in Moisture

A Diet Rich in Animal Proteins

A Diet Low in Carbohydrates

Cats Need A Diet High in Moisture

Cats tend to be solitary hunters, hunting throughout the day, usually catching and eating from 6 to 10 small rodents or birds per day. A cat would get incremental amounts of moisture from their prey several times throughout the day to nourish their body.

The wild cat’s normal eating behavior may actually play a role in why they are less sensitive to the sensation of dehydration than other species and have a very weak thirst drive. This also explains why today’s kibble-fed kitties are at such risk for chronic dehydration–  especially because when cats are dehydrated, it takes longer to restore their water balance by drinking alone.

Knowing that feral cats get moisture through their prey and that their thirst drive isn’t doing them any favors, it just makes sense that domestic cats, too, need moisture in their food.

Whether it’s a raw diet, wet food, or a freeze-dried food that rehydrates, moisture needs to be a key component to their daily meals.

Cats Need Protein (Lots of It and From Animals)

A small bit of biology in 4. 3. 2. 1. There are different types of protein, and protein quality depends not only on the source (i.e., whether it’s from an animal or plant) but also on who’s eating.

Animal proteins are considered “complete” proteins for cats (and dogs) because they offer all the amino acids (in the right amounts) that a cat or dog needs for growth, maintenance, and overall health.

On the other hand, “incomplete” plant proteins, like corn gluten or soybean meal, either don’t have the amino acids that cats (or dogs) need and/or aren’t available in the correct amounts. That includes taurine and arginine– essential amino acids crucial to cats’ health.

So, offering cats the right kind of protein is just as important as offering them a high-protein diet, and the best cat food brands will always be sure to do that with real, whole meats composing 80% + of the recipe.

Know that the guaranteed analysis won’t provide you this information.  You have to call the company and ask how much of their recipe is made of human-grade meats.

Cats Need A Diet Low in Carbohydrates

For those who didn’t attend med school (this writer included),  you may not know that glucose is what the body uses as energy.  Healthy cats tend to have consistent blood glucose levels (aka energy) because, as carnivores, they are very practiced at making glucose (energy) from the amino acids obtained from a meat-based diet.  This is a slow and steady process that provides consistent energy levels throughout the day. This really ensures that our kitties are proficiently powered for pouncing and the mandatory midnight zoom through the living room.

What Happens When Cat Food Contains Too Many Carbs?

When you eat, say, two donuts, you get that big jolt of sugary energy, but then your energy quickly plummets. So, it calls for a 2 pm stroll to your coworker’s candy drawer for a pick-me-up.  

These extreme highs and lows in energy leave you feeling drained, but this rollercoaster can only occur because your body has the ability to cope with these big loads of glucose (i.e., sugar).

Cats don’t have this ability, though. So when they eat dry, carb-heavy kibble, they aren’t getting what we love about that big sugary rush of energy because carbs are the wrong type of energy for them. Instead, all of that glucose goes unused, floating throughout their bloodstream, leaving your cat famished because their body hasn’t been able to use any of the “food” they ate. 

That’s just the short-term effect. In the long term, blood glucose levels stay high because of all of that unused glucose in the bloodstream, which leads to addiction, obesity, diabetes, and other health problems.

That’s why we recommend complete proteins, and when it comes to carbs for cats, less is more. The small percentage they do consume should be picked for the essential nutrients not gotten from meat– berries, leafy greens, and other species-appropriate carbs talked about here.

Food Your Indoor Carnivore Would Pick

Kibble isn’t just the biggest carb offender. Overall, most kibble fails to meet any dietary requirements for cats, which should really disqualify it as a viable option for any cat. 

Unfortunately, many canned foods aren’t much better. They might be an improvement over kibble on the moisture front, but many still contain high-carb fillers and fall short on protein.

Just like her wild and feral cousins, your cat is going to flourish on a diet high in moisture, high in animal protein, and low in carbohydrates.

These aren’t suggestions or some New Age fad but requirements that need to be at the top of every pet parent’s list when considering which foods to feed their carnivore. 

Remember, when in doubt, follow nature’s example and choose food made from high-quality, whole meats using the smallest percentage of nutrient packed-produce for your cat’s unique needs.

Diets like the Simple Food Project Recipes are already nutritionally balanced for your carnivore with whole foods only (no synthetic vitamins here, folks). 

Even if you feed these recipes as a topper, you’re providing the most beneficial nutrition– antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals from whole foods, and key nutrients that a cat’s diet cannot get from meat alone (or from kibble, for that matter). 

It’s real food made especially for your true carnivore, making it easy to put the right food on your cat’s plate daily.

[i] Kremen NA, Calvert CC, Larsen JA, Baldwin RA, Hahn TP, Fascetti AJ. Body composition and amino acid concentrations of select birds and mammals consumed by cats in northern and central California. J Anim Sci. 2013;91(3):1270–1276.

[ii] Hewson-Hughes, A. K., Hewson-Hughes, V. L., Miller, A. T., Hall, S. R., Simpson, S. J., & Raubenheimer, D. (2011). Geometric analysis of macronutrient selection in the adult domestic cat, Felis catus. Journal of Experimental Biology, 214(6), 1039-1051. doi:10.1242/jeb.049429

[iii] Becker, K. (2016, September 13). How Cats Choose the Food They Eat. Retrieved from https://healthypets.mercola.com/sites/healthypets/archive/2016/09/13/cats-choose-food-they-eat.aspx

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CAT EATS MOUSE

MOUSE = COMPLETE PROTEIN

Remember, ALL the amino acids (AA) in the right amounts, that cats need to thrive.

PROTEINS ARE BROKEN DOWN INTO AMINO ACIDS (AA)

These protein chains need to be broken down so they can enter the bloodstream.  (Remember those important amino acids like taurine + arginine?) . 

Fun fact, this is where digestive enzymes like protease come in and break chains down

FIRST – AA’S BUILD + RESTORE THE BODY

They get put back together and sent anywhere proteins are needed like muscles and tissue, etc.

LEFTOVER AA’S ARE CONVERTED INTO INACTIVE GLUCOSE

This process is called gluconeogenesis.

THEN IT’S CONVERTED TO ACTIVE GLUCOSE (THE KIND CELLS CAN ACTUALLY USE)

Liver enzymes (fancy name, Hexokinase) slowly convert inactive glucose to active glucose that cells can use for steady levels of energy throughout the day.

PANCREAS RELEASES INSULIN

The pancreas is the watchman for glucose sending insulin to move active glucose into the cells.

INSULIN + ACTIVE GLUCOSE CAN MOVE INTO THE CELLS

Insulin is like a VIP pass into the cell via insulin receptor.

ACTIVE GLUCOSE IN CELLS = ENERGY

WHICH MEANS ZOOMIES!

CAT EATS MOUSE

MOUSE = COMPLETE PROTEIN

Remember, ALL the amino acids (AA) in the right amounts, that cats need to thrive.

PROTEINS ARE BROKEN DOWN INTO AMINO ACIDS (AA)

These protein chains need to be broken down so they can enter the bloodstream.  (Remember those important amino acids like taurine + arginine?) . 

Fun fact, this is where digestive enzymes like protease come in and break chains down

FIRST – AA’S BUILD + RESTORE THE BODY

They get put back together and sent anywhere proteins are needed like muscles and tissue, etc.

LEFTOVER AA’S ARE CONVERTED INTO INACTIVE GLUCOSE

This process is called gluconeogenesis.

THEN IT’S CONVERTED TO ACTIVE GLUCOSE (THE KIND CELLS CAN ACTUALLY USE)

Liver enzymes (fancy name, Hexokinase) slowly convert inactive glucose to active glucose that cells can use for steady levels of energy throughout the day.

PANCREAS RELEASES INSULIN

The pancreas is the watchman for glucose sending insulin to move active glucose into the cells.

INSULIN + ACTIVE GLUCOSE CAN MOVE INTO THE CELLS

Insulin is like a VIP pass into the cell via insulin receptor.

ACTIVE GLUCOSE IN CELLS = ENERGY

WHICH MEANS ZOOMIES!

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Dr. Chris Bessent

Chris Bessent, DVM, MSOM, Dipl. OM, L.Ac. has over thirty years of experience in veterinary medicine including certificates in veterinary acupuncture, veterinary chiropractic and veterinary Chinese herbology. Imbued with Eastern philosophy and the knowledge that food is the foundation of health, Dr. Bessent also received her degree in veterinary nutrition and began to formulate recipes fit for a carnivore from nothing but whole foods. Currently, she divides her time between the Simple Food Project and Herbsmith, both of which are owned and operated out of her facilities in southeastern Wisconsin.

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Kayla Behling

Kayla is the Content Editor for The Simple Food Project. She has a cat named Professor Cat-Faced Meowmers, who goes by Kitty, and a goof of a dog, named Duck. She stays busy biking trails, playing board games, and searching for the next best craft beer.

Why Your Dog Needs Organ Meats

Home > Blog > Everything Dog > Organ Meats

Photo by @jaxandthepack

Eat some organ meats! Did you just wrinkle up your nose? To humans, consuming organ meats may seem like a thing of the past, but don’t assume the same for your dogs! The meats often considered inedible by humans are actually some of the most nutritious parts of the animal. While you may not be ready to jump in line for a plateful of beef liver or kidney, it’s likely just what your pooch needs to round out their diet!

LIVER

The thought of eating liver sounds gross, we know, but it’s one of the top organ meats you can give your dog. A serving of liver contains 10 to 100 times the nutrients found in a serving of muscle meat. One of the most nutrient-rich organs available, it’s loaded with protein, iron, B vitamins, vitamin A, CoQ10 and essential fatty acids, so tell your pup to eat up!

The CoQ10 found in liver is twofold in important uses! It improves joint health, which is especially beneficial for large breeds and dogs who suffer from arthritis. Secondly, Coenzyme Q10 is good for hearth health; increasing the “good cholesterol” in your dog’s body. It also helps to lower blood pressure and protect muscle tissue in the heart during cardiac trauma. Fatty acids improve coat health and all those B vitamins help your dog fully reap the benefits of the fat and protein found in liver. Since it is so densely packed with iron, it’s also effective in treating anemic animals.

Source Of:

Tripe

Tripe is the muscular stomach lining of grazing animals like cows, pigs, sheep and goats. Feed this fatty organ in moderation to reap the benefits! Like liver, it is high in protein and contains vital B vitamins. It also contains selenium, which helps monitor enzymes and zinc, which strengthens the immune system and aids in blood clotting.

If you can get past the stink, tripe can also provide your dog with high levels of a healthy probiotic known as Lactobacillus acidophilus. These good for the gut bacteria compete with harmful types of bacteria – like salmonella, listeria and E. coli – and prevents them from taking over the digestive system. When fed to your dog, Lactobacillus acidophilus aids in healthy digestion and ensures proper nutrient absorption. It helps to get rid of those super stinky dog toots, too!

Source Of:

Heart

The heart is both a muscle and an organ, so it’s similar to feeding your dog a steak with an extra punch of protein and vitamins. Both chicken and beef hearts are excellent sources of B vitamins, iron and essential fatty acids, keeping your dog’s coat silky smooth for cuddle time! It also contains phosphorus, which helps build and strengthen your dog’s skeletal system. The folate found in heart is important for DNA health and can help prevent anemia and IBD. Thiamine, which is also found in heart, improves carbohydrate metabolism and is necessary for nourishing the brain and other high-energy organs. Don’t forget it’s got a healthy dose of taurine! 

Source Of:

Kidney

Kidney meat – yum. While chicken kidneys are more nutritious and provide more health benefits than beef kidneys, either will provide a large percentage of your dog’s necessary daily vitamin intake. Kidney provides a wide range of vitamins, including vitamins B12, E and K.

The vitamin A found in kidney aids in eye cell creation and helps improve vision. It also plays a role in the creation of mucus. Kidney also contains iron which acts as an antioxidant and helps carry oxygen throughout the body. No anemic dogs here!

Source Of:

How To Nourish A Carnivore:

Organ meats are a vital part of a complete and balanced diet for your dog. Unfortunately, they are often treated as byproducts and seldom make it onto the meat counter at the local grocery store. Feeding your dog the Simple Food Project eliminates the frustration of trying to track down organ meats while ensuring that your dog enjoys a healthy, well-balanced meal. All the recipes contain US-sourced freeze-dried organ meats and other healthy ingredients like real fruits and vegetables, complete for your carnivore! The Simple Food Project makes giving your dog the diet he needs – and deserves – easy and convenient. Here’s to real food for dogs!

1.5lb Beef & Salmon Recipe - food for dogs

Beef & Salmon Recipe Contains:

Beef Liver & Beef Heart

Chicken & Turkey Recipe Contains:

Chicken Liver & Chicken Heart

1.5lb Duck & Trout Recipe - food for dogs

Duck & Turkey Recipe Contains:

Beef Liver

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About the Author

Alexandra Ritchie is a digital media specialist at the Simple Food Project. When she’s not cranking out content, you can find her lounging with her fur babies - two cats (Shadow & Maya) and her mastiff rescue, Adam. Volunteering with animals is her absolute favorite!

800-451-5267

info@simplefoodproject.com

1823 Executive Drive
Oconomowoc, WI 53066

The Simple Food Project
1823 Executive Drive
Oconomowoc, WI 53066

800-451-5267

Why feed dogs real food?

why feed dogs real food?

Home > Blog > Nutrition > Why feed dogs real food?

why feed dogs real food?

Myth: Table scraps are bad for dogs.

When did it become shameful to subtly drop some roast beef on the floor? Or to let those couple runaway peas roll off the table? When did we start believing that anything meant for the humans to eat could disrupt the whole metabolic process of the family dog?

It’s all a bunch of baloney.

Table scraps are GOOD for dogs. (Erm.. table scraps that are good for you are also good for your dog—that chocolate cake you’re eating for dessert… that’s not so good for your dog). But it’s long been argued that dropping extra food is bad—and maybe this can be true if you’re trying to curb a dog’s naughty begging habits, but it’s not so true for the overall health of the dog. 

Animals do not require some entirely new set of food standards. They don’t require dry food that’s gone through a mystery of a process. Real, whole foods are great for animals, just like they are for us. 

Dogs that eat real foods are...

1. Healthier: there are far more natural nutrients in whole foods than in a highly processed bag of kibble. Have you seen that paragraph of vitamins and minerals on the back of the bag? Those are there because the food lacked all those things to begin with.

2. Happier: Dogs really can get addicted to kibble. It’s like junk food—full of sugar, carbs and artificial flavors. But even with this “kibble dependency”, most dogs will still prefer real meat and veggies over dry kibble (and their improved health will translate into happier moods as well). 

3. More energized: real food supplies dogs with better energy for longer, while kibble only gives them sugar highs. The energy dogs get from whole food meals is less of a roller coaster, so your dog won’t experience that big crash halfway through the day.

4. More in shape: This better form of energy also translates into less hunger and less over-indulging. Dogs who eat real, whole foods tend to be in better shape, and are also at a lower risk for obesity, type-2 diabetes, and even cancer.

The point:

Drop that extra broccoli in your dogs bowl. Toss the leftover chicken through the air into that drooly mouth. Your dog will benefit from table scraps!

Real food for every meal

Table scraps are great (and easy) to give your pup, because you have to eat too! But, to make sure your dog is getting a complete and balanced, healthy meal, give one of our recipes a try:

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Joslin Lee: Content Writer and Editor, Graphic Designer for The Simple Food Project

About the Author

Joslin Lee is the graphic designer and content writer/editor for The Simple Food Project. She's got two dogs (Dr. Astronaut and Bevers), a ferret (Space Weasel 5000) and a goldfish (Sea Bean). Lately, she's been staying busy cookin' up the cutest little baby (coming Feb 2018).

800-451-5267

info@simplefoodproject.com

1823 Executive Drive
Oconomowoc, WI 53066

The Simple Food Project
1823 Executive Drive
Oconomowoc, WI 53066

800-451-5267

Prescription Diets Aren’t Complete & Balanced

Prescription Diets Aren't Complete & Balanced

Home > Blog > Nutrition > Prescription Diets Aren’t Complete & Balanced

Prescription Diets Aren't Complete & Balanced

In the holistic sense, prescription diets should never be complete and balanced. By its very nature, a prescription diet is assigned to animals who have an imbalance in their bodies with the sole purpose of counteracting that imbalance. If a dog is severely lacking in Zinc and Iron, a “prescribed diet” would be something that is very high in Zinc and Iron to help get the dog’s body back where it needs to be.

A Temporary Mission

A true prescription diet wouldn’t be a lifetime assignment, either (at least not for most purposes). The animal may just need a temporary boost in a specific area, but as soon as the animal’s body reaches normal levels of whatever it was lacking, it should generally go back on a complete and balanced diet to maintain the balance it achieved.

To demonstrate this, imagine you’re standing on a piece of plywood that’s balanced on top of a paint can. If you’re too far to one side, you’ll start to pull the whole board off balance. So, to correct yourself you walk toward one end of the board. But once you reach the middle, you don’t just keep walking to the other side, because then you’ve become unbalanced in the other direction. You have to walk to get yourself back to the middle, but then stop walking once you reach the center.

1 A dog with an internal imbalance is like someone standing on the far side of a teetering board. The animal may need help attaining correct balance through a prescription diet. 

A dog with an internal imbalance is leaning too far to one side: it needs a prescription diet to correct itself

2 What SHOULD happen: the dog stays on the prescription diet until his condition is corrected. Once he gets back to a balanced state, he returns to a normal, complete & balanced diet to maintain that balance.

A balanced diet is like balancing on a teetering board

3 What usually happens: the dog stays on the prescription diet until his condition is corrected, but continues on the prescription diet, overcorrecting his original condition. (He’ll now need a DIFFERENT prescription diet to correct this overcorrection and bring him back to normal).

But, when the dog is kept on that prescription diet for too long, it overcorrects and ends up on the other side of the teetering board (still unbalanced)

"Prescription" has taken on a new meaning

The other confusing element to this issue is that many “prescription diets” aren’t prescription at all: they’re just another complete and balanced formula, intended to be fed indefinitely, with a new marketing twist.

No one regulates it

To reiterate: true prescription diets are not (and should not be) complete and balanced. But to slap a “prescription diet” label on your packaging requires no more than the correct letters on your designer’s keyboard. No one regulates or verifies whether or not a prescription diet is actually worthy of its claim. It’s bogus, but its such an easy way to make almost twice as much money on almost the same exact formulas, and thus why so many big companies do it. 

Over at Dogs Naturally, Editor Dana Scott compares some of the big name brands’ regular diets and prescription diets, and the outcomes are…disheartening to say the least. 

In this day and age, it’s best to go for diets that are healthy by way of their ingredient decks – not by the marketing tactics they use on the bag. 

Brightly colored foods laid out on a counter

More Good Info: Food Charts

Food can be its own medicine. In understanding food energetics, you can help feed your dog foods that will maintain his internal balance. Check out our food charts to learn more!

Not prescription. Just healthy.

Avoid the stress of finding the right over-the-counter-but-still-somehow-prescription diet, and just feed your pooch some simple and healthy food:

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Joslin Lee: Content Writer and Editor, Graphic Designer for The Simple Food Project

About the Author

Joslin Lee is the graphic designer and content writer/editor for The Simple Food Project. She's got two dogs (Dr. Astronaut and Bevers), a ferret (Space Weasel 5000) and a goldfish (Sea Bean). Lately, she's been staying busy cookin' up the cutest little baby (coming Feb 2018).

800-451-5267

info@simplefoodproject.com

1823 Executive Drive
Oconomowoc, WI 53066

The Simple Food Project
1823 Executive Drive
Oconomowoc, WI 53066

800-451-5267