Do Cats Need Meat to Have a Good Diet?

Cats can't be vegetarians -- they're carnivores!
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Unlike other mammals, kitties need the nutrients, vitamins and minerals that come from meat. Our furry friends are strict carnivores and require proteins from animal tissues, namely meats, to fulfill their nutritional needs, rather than those from plant sources. Provide your kitty with a meat-based diet so he stays healthy.

Why Meat?

Our feline friends are known as obligate carnivores, meaning they must have meat in their diet to survive, according to the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. Consumption of meats helps to support healthy growth, maintain the kitty's tissues and organs and support a healthy metabolism, among other bodily functions. Without meat-based proteins and the amino acids they contain, your kitty can quickly develop potentially fatal health issues. Remember that in the wild, our furry friends feast on animal prey, which make up the majority of their diets. While plants and cereals can provide some protein for kitties, these proteins don't contain many of the necessary amino acids our furry buddies require that only come from animal sources. This differs from our canine companions who can survive on a diet of primarily vegetable-based proteins.

Amino Acids

Meat-based proteins contain 23 types of amino acids, 11 of which kitties can't produce naturally in their own bodies. It's these amino acids that are essential for their survival, according to the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine. Animal proteins can supply your kitty with all of the essential amino acids he needs and are considered complete sources of these substances for your kitty, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Of these amino acids, taurine is required for kitties to maintain their sight, heart function, blood sugar, muscle functioning and reproduction. This amino acid is only found in animal-based proteins, according to VetInfo.


Another component of meats is the fats that they contain, which kitties need to maintain their health, energy level and coat. These fats contain essential fatty acids like linoleic acid and arachidonic acid, neither of which a kitty's body can make itself, along with other omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. These substances make your kitty's diet taste yummy to him and help him to absorb the fat-soluble vitamins contained in the food too. While some animals, like pooches, can make arachidonic acid from linoleic acid, kitties can't and need to ingest it from eating animal fats, according to PetMD. This substance helps to maintain a kitty's kidneys and reproductive functions, the ASPCA recommends.

Complete Diet

Animal proteins need to make up a majority of your feline friend's diet to maintain their health. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends a kitty's diet contain anywhere from 26 to 30 percent protein, according to the nutrient profiles established by the Association of American Feed Control Officials. Not only do these animal proteins provide your little one with proper nutrition, they also provide him with a proper source of vitamin A. Unlike other animals, kitties need vitamin A from animal sources because they lack the enzymes to properly break down beta carotine, a plant-based source of it, according to the Feline Advisory Bureau. Look for foods containing poultry, beef or fish as the primary ingredient to give your kitty the proper protein he needs to maintain his health.


Not all animal proteins are healthy for your furry friend. In fact, raw eggs and meats can actually harm him. Eating raw egg whites prevents your kitty from properly absorbing biotin, a B vitamin, and the eggs themselves can harbor harmful bacteria like E. coli or salmonella, according to WebMD. Raw meat can also contain such bacteria and raw fish prevents your furry friend from digesting another B vitamin, thiamine. Avoid such issues by feeding your kitty properly balanced commercial cat foods containing cooked animal-based proteins.

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