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Franny Syufy

Why are cats described as "obligate carnivores?"

By December 17, 2013

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Today's question comes from Barry, a devoted cat dad with a voracious need to learn as much as he can about cat care. Barry keeps me hopping with his questions, for which I am very grateful. He asked, "Why are cats described as "obligate carnivores?"

Barry went on to say, "The following sentence makes sense to most people: 'Cats are carnivores. The following sentence is unclear: 'Cats are obligate carnivores.' What the heck does the word 'obligate' add to the sentence 'Cats are carnivores?'"

My answer in part: "There is a fine, but extremely important distinction between the two terms as related to cats. Let's start with the definition of "carnivore." The simplest definition is: "an animal which eats flesh." Please read the remainder of my reply before posting your comments.


August 24, 2009 at 1:29 am
(1) E says:

Franny, thank you for this explanation. I would just like to see a couple of things added. For instance, a lot of dry foods have aggregate amounts of corn that equal more than the meat protein, it is just that they have separated them out, making the volume of EACH smaller than the meat. Also, I would really love to see something more strongly worded about vegetarians who insist on not feeding their cats meat. If a human being has moral and humane issues with eating animal protein, that is MORE than fine. For them. But one can not say they believe in the humane treatment of animals, and then exclude their own pets.

August 24, 2009 at 8:20 am
(2) Nuria says:

Thank you for the article. I am a vegetarian, but it’s my choice to eat this way, key word, choice. It is a moral and ethical reason for me. It would be unfair to make my cats eat the way I do, especially since they unlike me need meat based protein to live a healthy life. My cats all eat canned, and I feed them as close to their natural diet as I can, Innova EVO Venison, to be exact. If I could afford to feed them a raw based diet I would, but I feel comfortable knowing they are getting the nutrition they need to thrive. Heck, I wouldn’t even subject a dog to a completely vegetarian lifestyle either, as even though they are considered omnivorous, I don’t see it as natural to completely take away meat based protein for them either.

August 24, 2009 at 11:54 am
(3) Franny Syufy says:

Thanks for your comments E. There is an excellent article on my site by HOSTBarb which thoroughly covers the vegan angle. I have added a link to that article.
Should I try a Vegan Diet for my Cats. I have also added more information about the splitting of ingredients, such as corn.

August 24, 2009 at 12:04 pm
(4) Franny Syufy says:

Nuria, I appreciate your attitude, and I’m happy that it is shared by not just a few vegetarians, according to my mailbox.

August 25, 2009 at 12:17 am
(5) E says:

Thanks, Franny. You ROCK!

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