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Do you know what's in your cat's food? It's probably not what you think

Dry cat food often contains many ingredients that owners don't know about. Sometimes, it doesn't even contain any muscle meat.
Dry cat food often contains many ingredients that owners don't know about. Sometimes, it doesn't even contain any muscle meat.
Eve-Angeline Mitchell

Do you know what's in your cat's food? Does it contain real meat, meat by-products, meal, fruits, vegetables, or grains? According to Wagging Tales CEO and Catster author Tim Link, many people don't actually know what they're feeding their cats. They know the look of the bags or cans they buy, and they might know the company and the brand, but they don't know what goes into the food.

Everyday, run-of-the-mill dry cat food often doesn't contain any real protein. Instead, it contains meat by-products and meal as its primary ingredients. According to Little Big Cat, these products are rendered, or ground up, and then boiled at high temperatures for hours. This isn't the only high heat that the food gets exposed to. When the resulting brown powder is mixed into the food dough, it's put into an extruder, which also cooks at high heat. The high heat destroys a lot of enzymes and nutrients that cats need.

Also, the average dry cat food is roughly 30% carbs, because carbs are considerably cheaper than lean protein. Cats are obligate carnivores; their biology literally can't process carbs into anything other than fat. Their bodies get the energy they need from animal protein, not carbs, and not plant protein. Worse, the high heat used to make dry food also increases carbs' glycemic index, making it even more likely that cats eating this stuff will gain weight.

Cats also have short digestive systems, when compared to humans and even dogs. It's because they aren't designed to need to break down plant cellulose. In fact, too much cellulose can cause digestive problems, including gastritis.

Besides all that, dry food has a very low moisture content. In the wild, according to another article on Catster, cats' prey is about 70% water. Canned food is more than 75% water. Dry food, by contrast, is 10% water, or even less. Because of cats' natural diets and the way they're built, they have diminished thirst mechanisms, and only seek out water when they're really, really thirsty. So cats that eat primarily dry food are always dehydrated, which eventually leads to kidney problems. Pet fountains can help entice your cat to drink more, but you can also ensure she's getting the water she needs by avoiding dry food.

However, it's also important to remember that cheap wet food isn't as healthy for your cat as premium dry food. The best thing you can do is check the ingredients to see what the food contains. Or you can make your own cat food. Then you'll always know what's in it.