There can be many different causes for your beloved cat reacting sensitively to its favorite food, suddenly losing fur, breaking out in a rash, vomiting or its digestion going haywire. However, good advice doesn't necessarily have to be expensive! When it comes to nutrition for cats with allergies or food intolerances , the main priority is to avoid allergenic ingredients and specifically cater to the cat's special requirements.
Food for Sensitive Cats
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How are allergies triggered?
You must be familiar with the multitude of bags and tins of cat food labeled "sensitive". Such foods are particularly suitable for sensitive cats, but what does the term actually mean in the first place?
For millions of years, the food that small cats hunted themselves was made up of relatively “pure” ingredients: muscle meat, offal, perhaps the vegetable-based gastric content of the prey animal or a few bones. There's no point looking for preservatives, sugar or fillers in the cat's natural prey animals. Feeding cats has become easier for owners with the success of ready food. The diet of many domestic and court cats had up until then merely consisted of table scraps, so the use of ready food with sufficient minerals and vitamins should be considered a very positive development! However, certain additives need to be included in order for cat food to be stored for months or years without any issues.
Nowadays beef, turkey or other large prey animals are present in cat food instead of mice or birds. These sources of meat are unknown to the little feline hunters. Whilst most cats don't have any problems digesting high-quality meat from unfamiliar prey animals, intolerance may occur in isolated cases.
Furthermore, cats can only utilize carbohydrates to a limited extent. As carnivores, they rely on protein as a source of energy, with vegetable-based carbohydrates not accommodating their natural diet. These ingredients strain the body further and can trigger allergies. Nevertheless, a large proportion of vegetable-based ingredients are mixed into dry food for production reasons, despite the fact that many cats show an allergic reaction to grain. Besides, soya is a renowned allergy trigger for cats!
Equally, commercially produced pet food rarely consists of the exact nutritional components that the cat would consume in the wild. Ideally, the food should be made up of 85% meat, including muscle meat, connective tissue and organs. The remaining 15 percent should be vegetable-based components in the gastrointestinal tract, bones and feathers. The model should be the mouse, the cat's natural prey. Hence, species-appropriate cat food should consist of 50 to 60 percent protein, 20 to 30 percent fat and 3 to 8 percent carbohydrates, which can naturally be found in the prey animal's gastrointestinal tract. However, further additives are thrown into the mix in order to make production cheaper. Animal and vegetablebased by-pr products are of particular note here. Not all “by-products” are bad, since at the end of the day, a mouse also has a heart, liver, lungs and further offal, although they should be deployed in a sensitive combination. According to European feed regulation, however, it is also permitted to mix in hooves, horns and feathers. These ingredients make less sense, because they have no nutritional value whatsoever for the cat and burden the gastrointestinal tract and urinary organs, resulting in allergic reactions triggered by the body's protective reaction against unfamiliar or potentially damaging substances. When allergies are provoked by ingredients, the term used is food intolerance.Itching, vomiting, diarrhea or skin rash are typical manifestations of an allergy to certain ingredients.
Preservatives such as artificial antioxidants with often unpronounceable names such as ethoxyquin, BHA, BHT and propyl gallate ensure meat-based food can be kept for a long period of time, even at room temperature, but they are the absolute opposite of healthy! Animals examined in lab tests showed allergies to these ingredients.
Along with the actual ingredients, food mites too can trigger an allergy - they just love to nestle in unsuitable stored food!
Allergic - but to what?
Do not worry! Even if your cat reacts sensitively to its current food, you can still continue to opt for ready food. The key priority is to establish what provokes a sensitive reaction and to thereby avoid this ingredient.
The easiest way is an exclusion diet, whereby your cat only consumes varieties of meat that it has never eaten before, therefore could not possibly have developed an allergy to them. Little by little, familiar ingredients are mixed in, such as potatoes, rice, grains and so on. The allergy symptoms should improve over the course of the six- to eight-week diet, but will worsen as soon as an ingredient that triggers an allergy is added to the mix. Ideally this allows you to gradually rule out potential causes of intolerance and to establish which ingredients provoke an allergic reaction.
Food for sensitive cats
If you're sure that your cat is suffering from a reaction to grains, a certain type of meat or soya, it's time to start the search for the right cat food. Thankfully, many feed producers offer ready food for sensitive cats excluding certain ingredients that trigger allergies, such as soya, gluten or grains. These types of food predominantly use easy-to-digest ingredients or consist of just one source of protein and carbohydrates, making digestion very straightforward. It's then easy for the cat owner to exclude undesired food components. In doing so, these foods contain all the essential vitamins and minerals that your cat needs to stay healthy.
In contrast to the bland variety on offer to humans, hypoallergenic food for sensitive cats is truly delicious. It is available in many varieties, as dry or wet food and in organic quality . It can now be purchased at the local pet shop or online, so you don't just have to buy it through the vet as previously.