ALL ABOUT FOOD: Answering two of the top questions about pet nutrition

Every pet parent wants to ensure their animal is happy and healthy, but sometimes with all the conflicting information we receive, it’s hard to know what the “right thing” is, especially when it comes to feeding your pet.

You might find yourself asking questions like “Should my dog eat just meat or grains too?” and “Why does my cat always act like it’s starving?” We compiled the two most burning pet questions right here, and hope this will shed some light on the complex issue of food.

Are Dogs Carnivores Or Omnivores?

Surprisingly, there’s a lot of controversy around this question. Why? Well, there are plenty of arguments for both. Certainly most dog owners know that their pet will just as happily chomp down on a roll of toilet paper, a shoe, or grass as they would a piece of meat. For the real answers, we look to biology:

1. Dogs chop instead of grind. Unlike plant-eaters like cows, dogs chomp their food with their teeth, much like we do, which allows them to cut into and eat meat. They also chew with an up-down motion instead of side-to-side, another trait of meat-eaters.

2. Dogs lack salivary amylase. Herbivores and Omnivores have this digestion aid, which helps break down starchy carbohydrates into simple sugars before they enter the stomach.

3. Meat is relatively easy to digest, so carnivores tend to have much shorter intestinal lengths than herbivores. Dogs land somewhere in the middle.

4. Herbivores are able to extract nutrition from plant matter due to their ability to ferment it and therefore have a high “coefficient fermentation”. Dogs have the same “coefficient of fermentation” as cats, which are obligate carnivores and cannot digest vegetation.

girl sits on bed with pug dog and laptop

5. Dogs are descended from wolves. So they must eat meat and only meat right? Wrong! The genetic makeup of dogs is different from wolves (How else would we get chihuahuas from wolves?) and they are five times better at digesting starch than their ancestors. This might even be thanks to us, as says that early dogs may have developed more efficient starch digestion by living alongside humans and eating their scraps.

Still confused? No problem. Ultimately a meat-focused diet is better for your pups, but the occasional grain won’t hurt them.

Why Is My Cat Always Hungry?

Cat owners know the struggle. You’ve just fed your pet, you think that they’re finally satisfied, then there’s that loud “MEOWWW” from the other room.

Why are they like this? Why do they cry out for more food when your dog is happy with one or two square meals a day? Well, it’s simple: Cats are hunters and dogs are scavengers. Or to put it another way: Cats are snackers and dogs are gorgers. Left to their own devices, cats will eat around 20 small meals a day, and this gives them the perfect calorie intake. So you can ease the whining by making sure your cat always has access to food, and add a little wet food in to help with their hydration.

Source: Food in the bowl - The Oatmeal

Some cats are unable to regulate their food intake, however, and will eat and eat until they resemble a soccer ball more than a svelte hunter. In those cases, in conjunction with advice from your vet, it can be better to feed them on a schedule, making sure to follow the feeding guidelines of your particular brand of cat food. As cats enjoy smaller meals, try to feed them often during the day, if that’s possible for you.

If you are dealing with a cat who truly believes that they should be fed two, or three, or four times as much as you’re giving them, it might not be that they’re just an extra hungry kitty. Just like humans, cats sometimes eat out of boredom. When your cat complains about food, try redirecting their attention with a toy. You’ll get the added bonus of bonding with your cat, as well as adding a bit of healthy exercise to their day. 

Learn all about what your animal food needs, from managing health issues to the ups and downs of different pet foods, in our Pet Nutrition course.