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Why Cats Need A High Protein Diet With No Unnecessary Fillers tips

Why Cats Need A High Protein Diet With No Unnecessary Fillers

That meowing mound of fluff lounging on the back of your sofa may as well be a little tiger. Believe it or not, domestic cats' physiology hasn’t changed much since their ancestors hunted prey on the hills and plains of the Near East and Africa.

High Protein Cat Food vs. High Carbohydrate Cat Food

The modern house cat’s ancestors ate a diet consisting of small prey such as rodents, birds, insects, and reptiles (Smithers, 1971). Modern feral cats eat a diet containing as low as 2% carbohydrate. Protein accounts for 52% of their calories and fat make up the remaining 46% of energy intake (Plantinga, Bosch, & Hendriks, 2011).

Cats can adapt to having some carbohydrate in their diet, but it’s not natural to them and may lead to health problems. Most cat owners feed commercially produced dry kibble cat food. It’s inexpensive and convenient to use.

According to US feed regulations, cat food can derive up to 55% of its calories from carbohydrates. Average cat foods contain 22-40% carbohydrates (Verbrugghe & Heska, 2017). Compare that to the 2% carbohydrates found in wild cats’ diets. Now you can understand why experts question the nutritional composition of commercial cat food!

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Average Cat Foods Are High Carb

Why do cat food producers put so many carbohydrate ingredients in cat food? There are a few reasons:

  • Kibble must contain some carbohydrate to hold its shape. Like a cookie, cat food won’t hold together unless it has some starch in it.
  • Carbohydrate ingredients generally cost less than meat. This is easy to understand when you think about the cost of a pound of flour versus a pound of steak. The difference can be tremendous in large-scale production. Carbs are cheap, making the profit margin larger for the manufacturers.
  • When carbohydrates combine with meat, the food has a better texture and becomes more palatable (3). Think about the difference between a low-quality cut of beef and meatloaf.

Since cats don’t require carbohydrates as part of their diet, starches and grains act as cat food filler ingredients. But these aren’t the only fillers found in your average bag or can of cat food.

6 Cat Food Fillers to Avoid

A cat food filler is an ingredient that has questionable nutritional value. There are many things in the average cat food your cat would never recognize as food, including:

  1. Meat by-products and grain by-products (chicken by-product, wheat middlings, corn gluten meal, etc.)–cheaper ingredients than meat, used to increase protein and calorie content
  2. Green peas, beet pulp, carrots, potato, sweet potato, etc . – a cheap way to increase calories and allow kibble to hold its shape
  3. Soy products (soybean meal, textured vegetable protein/TVP, isolated soy protein, etc.)–a cheaper source of protein than meat
  4. Carrageenan – used to improve food texture
  5. Food coloring (yellow 6, red 40, etc.)–makes the food more attractive to humans
  6. Chemically altered proteins (hydrolyzed chicken, hydrolyzed soy protein isolate, etc.)–increase protein content in hypoallergenic cat foods.

Any of these filler ingredients could cause an adverse reaction when ingested by your cat. Anything that irritates the gastrointestinal tract can trigger chronic digestive and skin problems.

Finding a high-protein cat food with no problematic fillers can be a real challenge. You could spend hours online or in a boutique pet food store reading labels and still walk away empty-handed. Koha Limited Ingredient Diet for cats was created to solve this problem. It has no grain, potato, soy or carrageenan, so you can be sure you’re feeding your cat a meat-based diet with no unnecessary fillers.


Plantinga E.A., Bosch G., Hendriks W.H. Estimation of the dietary nutrient profile of free-roaming feral cats: Possible implications for nutrition of domestic cats. Br. J. Nutr. 2011;106:S35–S48.

Smithers, R. H. N. (1971). The Mammals of Botswana. University of Pretoria, South Africa.

Verbrugghe, A., & Hesta, M. (2017). Cats and Carbohydrates: The Carnivore Fantasy? Veterinary Sciences,4(4), 55.

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