Does my cat need a grain-free diet?
Most cats do not necessarily require a grain or gluten-free diet. But how do you know if your cat needs one of these diets? To answer that question, let's take a look at a few common reasons why pet owners choose to feed their cats grain-free diets.
Grain-free is not by definition low in carbohydratesHigh-protein and low-carbohydrate diets are often combined with grain-free pet foods. High protein, low carbohydrate diets are very helpful in some cases, especially when feeding cats with diabetes. However, it is important to realize that a grain-free diet is not necessarily a low-carbohydrate diet. Several types of grain-free kibble contain carbohydrate levels that are comparable to or even higher than diets containing grains. In many grain-free kibble brands, ingredients such as potatoes replace grains and often these ingredients contain more carbohydrates than the grains normally used in cat food. Grain-free food does not necessarily have to be low in carbohydrates.
Grain-free cat food for allergiesAnother reason why many cat owners choose to buy grain-free or gluten-free cat foods is that many people mistakenly believe that these diets are the best choice for cats with food allergies. While food allergies are certainly common in pets, corn and other grains are not among the most common allergens in standard cat food. In fact, several studies have shown that corn is one of the least likely sources of food allergies. For cats that actually have an allergy to the proteins in grains, a grain-free diet is certainly a good choice.
Difference between grain-free and gluten-freeIt is important to realize that there is a difference between gluten-free and grain-free cat food. Grain-free cat food contains no grains, as can be deduced from the name. However, gluten-free cat food can still contain cereals as an ingredient. Gluten is a protein found in specific grains, including wheat, barley and rye. But not all cereals contain gluten, there are gluten-free varieties. These grains can still be present in gluten-free animal feed. For that reason, gluten-free cat food is not necessarily grain-free. Conversely, grain-free cat food is always gluten-free.
When does my cat need a gluten-free diet?A gluten-free diet is not necessary for most cats. Gluten allergy is very rare in cats.
In fact, many cats benefit from gluten, as it fulfills the animal's specific protein needs. It is important to realize that cats are carnivores and so they need animal proteins. Gluten or other vegetable proteins should never be the only protein source in your cat's food.