Carbohydrates are very much present in commercial cat food, whether we like it or not. Depending on the situation and the cat, this can be a good thing or a bad thing. Carbohydrates come from a variety of sources. Some sources allow the cat to easily digest carbohydrates, while others do not. It’s important to understand why carbohydrates are present in cat food and what amount is right for your cat.
Are cats able to digest carbohydrates?
There is a myth going around that cats are unable to digest carbohydrates. This is false. It’s true that cats in the wild do not digest a whole lot of carbs (approx 3%). It’s also true that cats lack certain enzymes that are essential in carbohydrate breakdown. However, the enzymes they do have for carb breakdown, they have in abundance. So food with carbohydrates present isn’t a bad thing. It isn’t recommended, but it isn’t a bad thing.
Why are carbohydrates in cat food and why are they important?
Carbohydrates are in cat food primarily as the go to energy source. When energy levels are high (for example, growth period in kittens) a high carbohydrate diet is acceptable. Protein and fat are also used as energy sources, however carbohydrates from sources such as starch are cheaper to manufacture and sell. In dry foods, starch works as a bonding agent to hold the dry kibble together during the manufacturing process.
Carbohydrates are broken down into glucose. Most cells in the body use glucose as their energy source. Glucose is so important, that the body is always ready for a continuous supply at the cellular level. So if your cat is receiving no dietary carbohydrates, protein would be broken down into glucose. This takes away from the body’s need for protein. Protein is being used to supply the glucose. What replaces the protein? This is a good reason why carbohydrates are important.
Why is low carbohydrate cat food important for my cat?
So now that you know why carbs are important, the question becomes why a low carb diet instead of a high carb diet. We know the body needs carbohydrates, and we know that a cat has the ability to digest carbohydrates. So why is the amount of carbs an issue?
Even though a cat can digest carbohydrates, it doesn’t have a high tolerance for it. Carbohydrates are okay, but an excess is not. A big problem with a high carbohydrate diet is the development of diabetes. As mentioned earlier, carbohydrates are converted into glucose. This glucose enters the bloodstream to travel to the cells. If there is too much glucose in the bloodstream the pancreas has to work double time to produce insulin. If it is constantly working overtime to produce this insulin, over time the pancreas just cannot keep up.
These are a few of the reasons feeding your cat low carbohydrate cat food is important. A diet high in carbs, over time, will do damage to your cat. Fixing this problem by feeding low carb cat food will significantly increase health and longevity.
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