Nutrient Requirement Analysis

Introduction

 
It is essential that all living creatures get the proper nutrition in order to maintain optimum health and activity. In the domesticated and farm animal especially, it is the responsibility of the owner to make sure that all nutritional and behavioural needs are adequately provided. Failure to do so could result in severe ill health of the animal, disease or sub-optimal performance. (Lane & Cooper, 2002)

 
Food can be ingested in solid or liquid format, containing components called essential nutrients, supplying the animal energy-giving substances necessary to initiate and regulate the body’s ability to produce movement, heat, materials for repair, reproduction and growth. (Lane & Cooper, 2002)

 
The Domestic Cat

 
A normal healthy domestic cat will show signs of:-

 

  • non-distended or unduly sensitive abdomen without wounds, sores or growth
  • watchful, keen reflexes in reaction to any stimulus, using free limb movement with weight evenly distributed and no signs of pain or stiffness, quiet and contented at rest
  • clear bright eyes, not bloodshot, without discharge or watering, third eyelid not showing and nasal passages that are free of discharge
  • clean odour free ears without irritation, discharge, scratching or shaking of the head, pricked to catch sounds
  • no split claws, splinters or damaged pads
  • shiny, glossy but non-greasy coat, free from parasites, their eggs and faeces, no baldness or patches
  • supple skin
  • suitable weight in accordance with breed and size
  • normal range of temperature (38 – 38.5oC), pulse (110 – 180 beats per minute) and respiration (20 – 30 breathes per minute) even and quiet with no coughing or wheezing
  • anus clean and clear with firm brown faeces passed freely without any undue strain and no persistent diarrhoea and pain-free passing of urine
  • a healthy appetite when offered – eager to eat and with the ability to swallow without problems, maintaining good weight and growth in kittens with no persistent vomiting
  • teeth free of tartar, pink gums, not inflamed, white or yellowish.

 
Energy requirements are based on bodyweight, body surface area, body composition and hair type. Feline metabolism has adapted to a carnivorous diet – typically high in protein and low in carbohydrate, nutrients of which can only be found in animal tissue. Cats have a relatively narrow range of bodyweights – adult cat = 2.5 to 6.5kg and their energy requirements may be calculated from a linear relationship.

 
These basic energy requirements can then be narrowed down according to the animal’s physiological status which includes age and state of health or disease, level of activity and environmental conditions. In normal circumstances, an adult cat requires 70 – 90 kcal per kilogram of bodyweight/day depending on its level of activity and adopt a pattern of little but often feeds – from 8 to 16 in a 24 hour cycle. However inactive, caged, overweight or larger individuals have lower maintenance energy requirements and therefore should reduce energy intake to 50 – 70 kcal/kg bodyweight/day. (Lane & Cooper, 2002)

 
Macronutrients

 
Protein, fat and carbohydrates and should be balanced as follows:-

 

  • Protein = 25% or 35 – 40% if the cat is a breeding pedigree
  • Fat = 25% for young and growing cats and the diet should contain 9g per 400 kcal ME (also a valuable source of fat-soluble vitamins A, D & E)
  • Carbohydrates make up the percentage difference but they are not essential in a cat’s diet. They do however provide essential B vitamins from wholegrain wheat (The Official RSPCA pet guide, 1980)

 
Micronutrients

 
Vitamins and minerals – excessive Vitamin A (mainly found in liver) can lead to skeletal disease. Vitamin E can be destroyed when it comes in contact with some fish oils and leads to the body fat becoming inflamed causing the painful deficiency disease of pansteatitis or yellow fat disease. High levels of fish and some preservatives destroys the vitamin thiamine (vitamin B1) leading to neuromuscular disease. The vitamin pyridoxine (vitamin B6) is also a high requirement for cats. See the tables below for a basic breakdown of fat-soluble and water-soluble vitamins. (Dallas, 1999)

 
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