What is complete cat food?

Complete cat food provides an optimal diet for a domestic cat. It means that it is complete in terms of balance of nutrients, digestibility and high palatability. The word “complete” refers to inclusion in the diet of adequate amounts of all essential nutrients.

Cat food ingredients. Complete and balanced cat food that is palatable and digestible. Image: MikeB
Cat food ingredients. Complete and balanced cat food that is palatable and digestible. Image: MikeB
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

It must contain several essential nutrients which are not needed for dogs such as preformed vitamin A, taurine, and arachidonic acid. That is not a complete list obviously.

The balance refers to the amount and proportions of essential nutrients in the diet relative to each other. It is balanced when no single nutrient is in excess or under the required level which may interfere with digestion, absorption or the utilisation of other nutrients.

An assessment is made as to completeness and balance by comparing the nutrients in the cat food with a domestic cat’s nutritional requirements.

Digestibility refers to the ability of a cat to digest the cat food concerned in their gastrointestinal system and to supply the nutrients in the food in a form which can be absorbed into the body from the gastrointestinal system.

For food manufacturers conduct trials to determine a food’s level of digestibility. The digestibility of a specific nutrient is assessed by deducting the amount of the nutrient that is not absorbed by the body and is eliminated in faeces from the total amount which is known to be present in the food. The difference is the amount of nutrient which is absorbed into the body.

The fourth factor is the food’s palatability which means that it is acceptable to the cat in terms of odour, taste and texture. The food needs to be sufficiently palatable for a typical domestic cat to want to eat it in sufficient quantities to maintain vitality and health.

Various factors enhance food palatability such as:

  • Moisture levels;
  • animal fat as opposed to vegetable sources of fat;
  • meat extracts of various types and;
  • protein hydrolysates.

Linda P Case, in her book THE CAT Its Behaviour, Nutrition & Health – the source of this article, states that “Many cats also generally enjoy foods that are slightly acidic. The fact that cats react positively to protein hydrolysates and certain amino acids has led to the use of digestive coatings in almost all dry cat food.”

Palatability of dry cat food is improved by digests by as much as 10% compared with food without digestive.

‘Hydrolysates’ as defined by the Science Direct website as proteins that are chemically or enzymatically broken down to peptides of varying sizes.

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