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Your Cat's Diet: Nutrients

Cat owners have a new awareness of animal nutrition. With the introduction of nutritional labeling on food packaging, we've been able to read about the nutritional contents of our own food. And we've become more interested in the nutritional content of the foods our cats eat.

As a basic definition, each component of nutrition is a called a nutrient, and nutrients help maintain life. Nutrients fulfill many different functions: they serve as building material for the body and enable the body to constantly form new cells. They are fundamental to the formation of hormones and enzymes, and to the functioning of the metabolism. Furthermore, they supply the energy necessary for all the processes of life.

Vitamins
Minerals
Essential fatty acids
Carbohydrates and fiber
Protein

Vitamins
Vitamins are essential for your cat's good vision, bone growth, and efficient metabolism, among other things.

Every action in your cat's body requires the assistance of vitamins. That's because they are essential catalysts for chemical reactions. There are water-soluble vitamins--vitamin B1 (thiamin), vitamin B2 (riboflavin), vitamin B6, vitamin B12 (cobalamin), and vitamin C, and fat-soluble vitamins-vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E and vitamin K. Each vitamin has very specific roles to play. For example, if your cat cuts a paw, one vitamin helps stop the bleeding and another helps repair the skin.

Because it's difficult to get the proper balance of vitamins, they also may be added to pet foods as dietary supplements. In pet foods, vitamin supplements, dairy products, vegetables, liver, kidneys, yeast, and grains are good sources of vitamins.

Minerals
Minerals are required for your cat's strong teeth and bones, and efficient metabolism. The minerals she needs are: calcium and phosphorus, potassium, sodium chloride, magnesium; and trace elements, such as iron, copper, manganese, zinc, and selenium.

Minerals, pure inorganic elements, are tiny compared with vitamins and other nutrients. Some minerals are put together in an orderly fashion to form structures, such as your cat's bones and teeth. Minerals also influence fluids, such as blood, in your cat's body.

While minerals are virtually indestructible, they can be difficult to absorb and too much of a mineral can be toxic. In pet foods, good sources of minerals include mineral supplements, fish, meat, poultry, liver, dairy, cereals, and bone meal. When you feed your cat a complete and balanced, prepared cat food, there is no need to give her any mineral supplements.

Essential fatty acids
Your cat needs essential fatty acids for a healthy skin and coat, healthy reproduction and healthy metabolism.

Fats and essential fatty acids (major components of fats) are extremely important contributors to your cat's health. Fats and essential fatty acids are a major source of energy in the diet and they add significantly to a food's palatability. Fats also help in the absorption of the fat-soluble vitamins - A, D, E and K.

In pet foods, good sources of fats and essential fatty acids include animal fats, vegetable oils, meat by-products, and poultry by-products.

Carbohydrates and fiber
Carbohydrates and fiber are important to your cat's energy and good digestion.

For immediate energy, your cat's body converts carbohydrates (reserve energy is stored as glycogen). Fiber supports good digestion and proper stool consistency.

In pet foods, grains - rice, corn, and wheat - are good sources of carbohydrates and fiber. Additional fiber sources include wheat bran and sugar beet pulp.

Protein
Protein is essential for your cat's healthy growth and muscle tone.

Protein is the major structural material in almost all living tissue - hair, skin, nail, and muscles are mostly protein. There are thousands of different proteins in your pet's body, with different functions, but all are made from smaller units called amino acids. Some amino acids can be manufactured in the body; others must be provided in the diet.

In pet foods, good sources of proteins include meats, poultry, eggs, fish, grains, dairy products, and yeast.

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