Cats Are Not Little Dogs

It’s important when making decisions about how to feed your kitty to realize that there is not much physiologically that cats and dogs have in common — except maybe a very keen sense of smell! One of the main ways in which cats are different than dogs is in their digestive systems. Cats are obligate carnivores, which means that they are “designed” to eat meat, and their digestive process is geared only to processing protein. Dogs are omnivores, as people are, meaning that they can eat a little of everything and do well with the variety.

A cat has a different digestive system from a dog: it is a short digestive tract, designed to quickly digest a mouse or a bird, expel it, and then remain empty for a stretch of time. “Mouse in mouse out,” is what it basically boils down to. Since no cat would be able to (or even have the appetite to) eat a mouse or bird every hour of the day, her digestive tract evolved to manage a small protein meal (as little as a few tasty bugs, on days when a rodent is not to be found!). In fact, optimum health for a cat includes giving her one or two meals a day of wet food and then allowing her digestive system to remain empty and rest afterward.

This physical fact about a cat’s body is yet another reason why free feeding dry food to cats can be harmful for their overall health. As we already know, the introduction of the modern habit of feeding kibble to cats — putting highly processed carbohydrates into the body of an obligate carnivore — is like putting sugar and diesel fuel in the engine of a Ferrari. At the root of that error is the question of respecting the inherent and fundamental differences between dogs and cats and how their systems function. A cat is not a grazing animal. She should not be eating a non-stop buffet of carb-heavy foods — otherwise she will not feel her best nor have maximum health. And she is not a little dog, who will thrive on a mixed diet of kibble, vegetables, and various proteins (which is exactly what my own dogs get — Halo dry food with a little of various other ingredients).

Please consider transitioning your cat to an all canned diet — Halo has a delicious array of grain free canned foods and even a sampler that allows you to offer different proteins and expand your kitty’s culinary experience.

I do understand that there are those people who, for a variety of reasons, are not in a position to be able to feed their cats an exclusively wet food diet — and for them I recommend Halo’s dry food for cats because of the superior ingredients that go into it. But if you’re able, I always recommend to make the switch to canned food only.

If you want to give her a little crunch in her life, get some Halo Liv-a-Little freeze dried treats. Halo makes three different proteins so you can rotate which ones you toss to her or hide for her to find, as if she was hunting. It’s fine to give a cat a few of these all-protein treats during the day when you are encouraging desired behavior from her, or after playing with an interactive toy. The difference is that her digestive tract can naturally handle that pure protein, just as it would a small rodent, lizard or bug she might naturally catch and eat. [Feel free to call in to my radio show CAT CRAZY™ any Monday night at 8 PM ET/ 5 PM West — all information at — to hear more about the healthiest way to feed your cat from me or any of my veterinary guest co-hosts.]

–Tracie Hotchner