Are Grains Bad for Cats?

So, is it true? Are grains bad for cats?


Cat diet is contrary to the food consumption of humans. While muscle builders may eat more proteins, most of us favor a balanced diet of carbohydrates (bread and grains), vegetables, fruits, and dairy. Cats, on the other hand, fare better on a high-protein diet. As domesticated cats live more on commercial cat food, they take in more nutrients than solely protein.

One matter of debate among cat food consumers is the presence of grains in cat food. Is it essential? Is it bad? Can and should cats do without grains? Such debate rises from the current trend of grain-free cat food. Vets and diligent cat owners are also alarmed at the carb-rich cat food replacing the protein-rich diet cats require.

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Grains in dry food

Grains are not always and should not be the main ingredient in cat food. Still, there are pet food manufacturers that add up to four times more grain cereals than meat products. Such food keeps our cats full for a shorter period. You may need to leave a bowl of kibble all day and encourage free-feeding which leads to weight issues.

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In the wild, cats get their energy source from consuming animal protein which allows them to fast longer and prepare for their next hunt. When you compromise meat requirements with carbs, it results in less satiety so cats get hungry faster.

Wet cat food is not always better. While it has higher moisture content so our cats take in more water, the chunks in canned food are sometimes vegetable proteins created to resemble the taste and texture of meat. Cats shouldn’t be placed on a diet of meat replacements like a human on adult would. In some cases, those chunks are cereals boiled in meat by-products and dyed.

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Are grains cat allergens?

Do cats get allergies from grains? Such is a question we ask ourselves especially if we are considering a gluten-free diet. PetMD says that food allergies from grains are not as likely as allergies resulting from dairy, fish, and beef consumption. Fish, eggs, and milk are also common allergens. However, in rare cases, corn may still be responsible for food allergies in cats.

There are issues with corn that are more apparent in majority of cats. While some would argue that fiber in grains are optimal for gut health, if you look at what vets feed their cats, you will find that it’s not so. Vets know that corn can lead to bloating, gas, ulcers, acid buildup, and digestive problems. Cats shouldn’t eat corn and corn gluten meal because they can’t digest these.

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Starch as binders

Cereal flours and refined starch—that is cereals grounded into flour are used to bind the ingredients as well as to bulk up pet food. Cereal grains reduce the need to add plenty of meat, even if the pet food manufacturer uses only meat by-products (organs and sometimes, carcasses and contaminated meat).

Grain cereals increase profits for pet food makers at the expense of our cats. Such food has little nutritional value and empty calories loaded with refined sugar.

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Final verdict

In the wild, cats can eat small amounts of plant material when consuming fresh meat. However, their grain consumption remains limited. Grain consumption should not be an issue if you sometimes give your cat pieces of bread. However, there is no scientific evidence or research to prove that grains are superior to animal proteins as a source of energy and nutrients for cats.

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Cristina Vulpe is a licensed veterinarian who has been a cat owner since she was 12. She is passionate about giving useful advice to pet owners across the world. Her favorite topics range from pathology and novel therapies to infectious diseases and animal welfare. Her work has been featured in many online publications from The Pet Friendly House to Alpha Paw, Animal Wellness Magazine, and Currently, she is a Pet Content Specialist for IkoBrands.

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