You may have heard that grain-free cat food is more species-appropriate and digestible for cats. Read here what our nutrition experts have to say on the subject: In an interview, Carolin Schindler and Matthias Kießling, product developers and quality management at Miamor, explain why you should use grain-free cat food.
In a sentence: Why should cats be fed grain-free food?
Schindler: Cats are naturally carnivores, meaning they eat meat, so feeding them grain is simply not species-appropriate.
Many cats can tolerate grains in their food – why don’t you still recommend it?
Schindler: Cats have changed as they evolved into pets and are no longer wild cats. In fact, many adult cats – but not all – can process carbohydrates in their gut. Cats also ingest a small amount of carbohydrates through their natural diet in prey such as mice or birds.
Kiessling: Due to the production process, most types of dry food contain a high proportion of grain. But cat owners should be careful not to feed too much of it. Grain provides a comparatively large amount of energy. If there is too much dry food, there is a very high risk that the cat will become overweight. Wet food should therefore have as high a meat content as possible.
Schindler: Cats also need glucose to maintain some vital functions. However, they do not need any carbohydrates to produce this glucose, because the protein intake is sufficient for the cat’s own glucose production.
Kiessling: Another reason why cat food shouldn’t contain any grains: grain-laced food contains less meat, so nutrients have to be added: vitamins or taurine, which are naturally found in meat.
What are the symptoms when cats cannot tolerate grain in their food?
Kiessling: If a cat does not tolerate grain, this can be shown, for example, by diarrhoea, flatulence and other digestive problems. This is not only unpleasant and annoying – the cat then does not absorb the nutrients contained in the food and is undersupplied.
Schindler: There is a simple reason for this intolerance: Cereals essentially consist of carbohydrates. If the cat eats a lot of carbohydrates, there is an increased production of organic acids in the intestine. These acids cause the pH value there to drop – and then trigger bloating and diarrhea.
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Does grain in cat food also cause long-term damage?
Schindler: Yes, besides the acute effects, there can be long-term damage from grains in cat food. These include, for example:
Underweight: If the cat does not tolerate the food, it is not taking in enough nutrients. Another indication of this is often a shaggy coat.
Obesity: This is a typical long-term consequence of too much energy in carbohydrates. There is a limit that you should not exceed: 5 milligrams per kilogram per day.
Dental problems: Food containing carbohydrates can also promote periodontal diseases in the mouth in cats. They are triggered by caries bacteria. A grain-containing – and thus carbohydrate-containing – food favors the development of the bacteria. Periodontal diseases are significantly reduced with a meat-based diet with lots of protein.
If the cat has developed dental problems, extensive dental care is necessary. Older cats usually don’t like this very much. The wrong diet can lead to far-reaching problems. Massive tooth and jaw problems then usually mean that the cat can no longer eat properly and therefore develops further health problems.
Are there differences in the types of grain?
Kießling: How efficiently the cat’s intestines are processed also depends on the carbohydrate source. Cereals containing gluten, such as wheat, are particularly poorly tolerated by cats. They tolerate gluten-free grains such as rice better and are therefore to be preferred. If we use a starch with Miamor, we therefore use tapioca, potato starch or rice, as with our diet foods. This is much easier for cats to digest.
You can find the entire range of Miamor food, snacks and cat drinks in our product overview. You can find more exciting articles on species-appropriate cat nutrition and all topics related to life with your cat in the magazine.