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.. Domestic pet foods

A cat is designed by evolution for hunting, killing & consuming prey animals. Pet ownership in modern times has created a huge substitute food industry. Complete foods are available in wet & dry forms with variations for neutered, elderly, long haired cats, overweight cats, animals with urinary problems etc. etc. The benefits of wet or dry, raw or even vegetarian substitute diets is an ongoing debate between breeders, owners, manufacturers & scientists.

Behaviour & health problems in cats can evaporate, by changing their diet from a poor quality food, to a variety that appropriately meets their bodies nutritional requirements.

Dry cat food is often preferred as (dependant on the brand) it is well researched & formulated to provide a cat with the required nutrients. The formulas are formatted for improved taste, as competition for pleasing fussy feline palates is high. The hard dry matter has been shown to help prevent the build up of dental plaque, as less acid from foods or residue is left behind on teeth & gums for bacteria to grow on. The mouth is the site of very large concentrations of bacteria. Some dry food has also been formatted specifically to improve oral hygiene. Ingredients & the specially designed larger more brittle biscuits are said to clean teeth & maintain dental hygeine.
Dry food is more convenient for pet owners as it is less messy, smelly & it lasts longer. Ideally cats require many small & frequent meals, which would be difficult for a pet owner to provide. Dry food can be left out & most cats (but not all), will pay regular visits consuming small amounts at a time over a 24hr period rather than eating in large quantities.
A dry food only diet does however present potential health problems. The reduction in moisture intake can be a cause for problems such as bladder crystals. These can form as a result of high urine concentration. In contrast a diet of wet food will have higher moisture content & is often recommended for avoiding bladder conditions. Cats have generally evolved from a desert based ancestor & they can gain much of their hydration from meals. Primarily meat based wet foods will contain more water & protein than dry biscuits & are generally more digestible. Dental hygiene does not fare so well with this diet, but a cats mouth has evolved to deal with meat rather than crunching on biscuits. Cats cannot chew or grind as there is no lateral movement in the jaws. Their teeth are designed to shear through moist meat, but this will leave residues behind.
It has been suggested that a raw & natural diet is best & bones or feathers could help to clean teeth. Modern farm cats with responsible owners, can be very healthy animals as they will be given cat food, but they also have to hunt for prey.
Around the time of the 2nd world war a cats - meat man, with a cart selling skewers of meat unfit for human consumption was a common sight. In modern times this sort of horsemeat coming from the "Knackers yard", finds its way to predators found in zoos & wildlife parks. The monitored raw meat diet can keep captive wild & big cats in peak condition (with some nutritional additives such as calcium, as offal is not fed to captive animals due to potential parasites commonly found within it). It is worth noting that wildcats, surviving on their hunting ability alone, will have generally short life spans in comparison to domestic or captive animals. This is partly due  to the absence of veterinary treatment. It is mostly due however to the difficulty of hunting an often inconsistent food source. Poor conditions, mistakes or injury can result in poor hunting and a lower food intake. This can result in nutritional deficiencies coming from quantities rather than quality found within a diet. 
It has been found that animals fed on a raw & natural diet fared better than those consuming prepared foods, which developed health problems.
For an average pet owner, providing this type of raw diet whilst being sure that the animal gains all the necessary nutrients, would be time consuming, unrealistic & unhygienic.
Cats also prefer a variety in their food, as perhaps their crepuscular natural habits would provide for them.
Farm cats with a good keeper providing them with complete cat food for at least half of their intake, would have it all. They could free range, receive medical attention if it was required, behave naturally, hunt appropriate prey & rest in the sunshine for some vitamin d (or in a cozy straw shed).
The reality for a working family in a city household would be a different matter. Perhaps the modern day comprimise is a dry food diet supplemented with a little tasty wet food. Forcing a vegetarian diet on a cat is quite simply against natures design, but it may be possible with a very large & in depth & expensive effort by pet food manufacturers, though long term effects are unknown. 

To interpret the language on cat food packaging, see the basic labelling rules

The ABC's of cat food

More information on cat food

Big cat photography taken by Robin Worboyes at www.whf.org.uk
The juvenile leopard cat that came into Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, found straying in Chiswick!

The juvenile leopard cat that came into Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, found straying in Chiswick!

The Eurasian lynx is the largest of the bob tailed cats, they are an intelligent cat with strong spacial awareness. They have a wide distribution across Eurasia

The Eurasian lynx is the largest of the bob tailed cats, they are an intelligent cat with strong spacial awareness. They have a wide distribution across Eurasia

The Pallas cat lives in the himalayan foothills & has the longest fur of any cat (winter coat)

The Pallas cat lives in the himalayan foothills & has the longest fur of any cat (winter coat)

Servals have the longest legs of any cat species, perfect for leaping in the air to catch a bird in flight & to raise those radar ears to locate prey.

Servals have the longest legs of any cat species, perfect for leaping in the air to catch a bird in flight & to raise those radar ears to locate prey.

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