Fiber isn’t just for humans — it’s an important part of balanced nutrition for cats, too!
But how much fiber do cats need, what kinds should they be eating and how can you make sure they’re getting the right amount for their bodies?
What's Good for You May Not Be Good for Your Cat
Cats and humans both need fiber in their diets, but that doesn’t mean cats should be eating the same amount as humans. People are growing more aware of the importance of fiber in our own diets today — and while it’s good to think about your cat’s fiber intake too, it’s important to remember that cats have different dietary needs than humans.
Cats have a much shorter digestive tract than humans, and unlike humans, cats are carnivorous, so their nutritional needs are better satisfied with mostly animal-based ingredients rather than plant matter.
What Is Nondigestible Fiber, and Why Do Cats Need It?
Nondigestible fiber supports cat health by providing bulk that helps move food through the digestive system. This fiber is largely made up of carbohydrates that cats can’t break down in the same way they digest protein or fat. This undigested matter helps usher food through your cat’s system at a healthy pace that lets them absorb the nutrients in their food and eliminate waste comfortably. Higher levels of nondigestible fiber can even help address specific conditions like frequent hairballs.
How Does Fiber Ferment?
Fiber can’t be broken down and digested like proteins and fats, but some kinds can be fermented (broken down by bacteria) in your cat’s digestive system. This breakdown produces short-chain fatty acids, which provide energy to your cat’s intestines as it is fermented.
Fiber sources used in pet foods include cellulose, which is poorly fermentable; beet pulp, which is moderately fermentable; and gums and pectin, which can be highly fermentable. Appropriate levels of moderately fermentable fiber, such as beet pulp, provide the benefits of energy for the intestinal lining and bulk without the negative effects of excessive stool or gas. That makes them ideal for the health and comfort of most cats!
High Fiber and Weight Loss
While a high-fiber diet can be part of a weight-loss solution for humans, our research has found that it’s not as helpful as a weight-reduction option for cats.
High levels of poorly fermentable fiber in cat food dilute the calories and nutrients in a serving and may make your cat feel fuller. Unfortunately, high fiber content can also increase the rate at which food passes through your cat’s digestive tract, making it harder for them to digest other nutrients in their food. They may be going to the litter box more often, but that doesn’t mean their digestive system is working more efficiently.
Fiber and Our Cat Foods
When choosing a pet food, remember that cats and humans need different things from their food. All IAMS™ cat food products are made with the right amount of moderately fermentable fiber needed to promote intestinal health.
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Cats are known for being a bit choosey about what they will and won’t do. And a little pickiness is fine when it comes to picking out toys and napping spots! But if your cat is or becomes extra-selective about what they’ll eat, it’s time to pay attention and perhaps talk to your vet. You and your vet know your cat best, so it’s always worth checking in if you think your cat isn’t eating enough and want their professional advice.
Start by paying close attention to what your cat is eating and how they behave. This information will help you, your household and your vet work together to make sure your cat is living and eating well.
Feeding Tips for the Truly Finicky Cat
Pay Attention to All the Cat Treats
Is your cat begging for table scraps or holding out on eating until you offer treats? Extras like these can be very disruptive to your cat’s appetite and diet. Think about them like snacks or desserts for you — tasty cravings that are easy to fill up on. A small portion may not seem like much, but it can make a big different for a cat-sized digestive system!
Try dialing back how much you treat your cat to tasty extras and see if their interest in the food bowl starts to return. Remember, it’s generally all right for cats to skip a few meals, but if they haven’t eaten for 24-36 hours it’s time to call the vet (even if they’ve continued drinking water).
Review Your Cat’s Food Routine
Humans often crave variety in their meals, but for cats, routine is king. It’s not likely they’d avoid their regular food out of boredom with it, but if you’ve recently changed the kind of food, the number of feedings or the times you feed your cat, they may be avoiding eating as a response.
It's a good idea to change your cat’s diet gradually (unless your vet advises otherwise). Pickiness can often be resolved by helping your cat adjust and get comfortable with their updated diet!
Help Your Cat Relax While Feeding
If your cat starts eating less, you may want to look for factors that could be causing stress. Seemingly unrelated changes to their environment can shift your cat’s stress levels enough to impact their interest in food. Has another animal or person joined or left the household? Has your cat been adapting to new surroundings due to a move or renovation? As the stress of that change begins to subside, your cat will probably go back to a normal diet.
Talk to your vet about good ideas for reducing your cat’s stress levels and share any concerns you have about their diet then too. You’re both on the same team, so work together to help your cat feel better!
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