Conventional cat food often contains a high proportion of sugar, even though its nutritional benefit for animals is nonexistent. Today we explain why cats should do without sugary food and how you can switch your little tiger to natural products.
Why does cat food contain sugar?
In many types of cat food, sugar has different functions:
Food Cosmetics: The meat colour is often lost when the meat / vegetable mixture is cooked. The colour created by the caramelization of the sugar ensures that the sauce and meat appear nice and dark (Maillard reaction).
Preservatives: Sugar is used to make cat food last longer, for instance in semi-moist snacks.
Flavour Enhancers: Sugar enhances the taste of cat food.
Finding out if your cat's food contains sugar is sometimes more complicated than you might think. The following names, which may be stated on the packaging, stand for ingredients containing sugar: sucrose, dextrose, grape sugar, fructose, molasses, malt germ, beet pulp, glucose, caramel, cellulose, maltose.
The amount of added sugar in cat food is often obscured by the fact that the individual food components are listed separately from one another and thus appear further back in the ingredient list.
Why cats don't need sugar
Your cat has a very low need for glucose, which can be covered completely with meat. Cats draw their energy from animal proteins and fats. To digest sugar or starch, your cat lacks the necessary enzymes in sufficient quantities. Cats neither have amylases in their saliva, which could break down long-chain sugars, nor do they have sufficient amounts of glucokinase - an enzyme in the liver and pancreas that can break down glucose.
Still, some cat owners believe their pet is addicted to the sweet taste of cat food. But your cat does not have any sweet taste receptors, so it is not even directly aware of the sugar in its cat food. The addictive effects are questionable. However, sugar causes preventable diseases in some animals.
The following diseases can occur as a result of excessive sugar consumption through cat food:
Not only lack of exercise and too much cat food can lead to obesity, but excess sugar can also be converted into fat and stored in the body.
Diabetes is considered to be a result of being overweight. The constant addition of sugar also results in increased blood sugar levels, making the development of diabetes possible. However, concrete studies in cats are still pending.
The impossibility of breaking down the sugar properly means that it will be excreted from your cat's body with the urine. Too much sugar in cat food can also lead to diarrhoea. This places excessive strain on the intestines and kidneys.
Overload on the pancreas
With constant sugar consumption, the pancreas must produce an unnatural number of enzymes to break down the sugar. At the same time, insulin production also increases. Diabetes or pancreatic insufficiency could be the result.
Fortunately, this is not an issue with cats. They are protected from dental decay by the high pH of their saliva. This neutralizes organic acids that would otherwise attack the tooth enamel. Nevertheless, the above illnesses should be reason enough to switch to sugar-free cat food.
How do I switch my cat to sugar-free food?
Sugar has no nutritional value for your cat but stresses their body. As a rule, cats do not show any withdrawal symptoms from sugar, but many animals do not at all like switching to other, perhaps natural, food.
Why can it be difficult to switch cat food?
Your cat will eat what she knows. This strategy protects cats from dangers in nature. The little tigers get to know different tastes from an early age and usually stay with them for a lifetime. In nature, this taste training is regulated by the mother cat. Even in the womb, the unborn kitten learns what its mother cat eats and what not. If we as humans take control of the cat food, then we also shape the little kittens from day one: The choice of food is thus learned.
In general, it is very important to give growing cats and expectant mothers a varied diet. Different manufacturers, varieties, wet and raw feed offer a wide range of flavors. Any changes to the cat food that may be necessary later (maybe due to allergies) are easier this way.
Two methods of changing your cat’s diet
Should you ever have to move a cat that is very picky and would like to stick to her familiar food, there are different ways to achieve your goal.
The two-bowl method
Add a bowl with the new cat food next to the familiar food. At first, the new bowl will not be touched, but your cat can gradually get used to the scent. With a little luck, she will try the new cat food and you can keep away the previous food over time.
The substitution method
Mix the new cat food into the familiar food very slowly and in very small quantities. Substitute the reduced amount of old cat food with the new one. For particularly picky pets, it is best to start with ¼ teaspoon of the new cat food to the usual amount of the old one. You increase the amount of new food slowly over 14 days, at the same time reducing the amount of old cat food.
In order to make the "sugar-free cat food" project a success, you should stick to fixed feeding times, not give any additional treats and, if your house tiger is used to sauce, spice up the favorite food that is too solid with some home-cooked chicken broth.
You can recognize natural cat food with a high meat content by its firm consistency. This cat food contains no sugar and is very healthy for your cat.