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Fats & Cats - The Fatty Acid Guide To Your Cat's Diet Feat Image

Fats & Cats: The Fatty Acid Guide to Your Cat’s Diet

Is your cat getting enough fat?

Are they consuming too much?

Will fat make your cat fat?

There are so many questions when it comes to feeding your feline friend that you might find yourself paralyzed with worry about doing the wrong thing. Add in all of the conflicting misinformation that is stuck in your brain about human diets and it can be downright maddening.

But don’t be a scaredy cat. There is no need to fear the fat. This post will show you why fats are an essential part of any cat’s diet and provide you with actionable advice for how to provide them with just the right amount.


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Fats & Cats - The Fatty Acid Guide to your Cat's Diet


Overview: What exactly are fats?

Dietary fats, also known as lipids, are one of the three key macronutrients that account for caloric intake in your cat (the other two are carbohydrates and proteins). We have a tendency to think of calories as a bad thing, but they are really just a measurement of energy. So, in a sense, fats are one of the three ways your cat gets energy from their food.

This energy is only a problem when your cat takes in more calories than its body can use. That’s when excessive fat intake can lead to weight gain. Therefore, pet owners need to monitor how much fat their cat is eating every day.

Fats are composed of smaller building blocks called fatty acids, which can be categorized in a number of ways:

  • Chain length: short-, medium- or long-chain fatty acids
  • Saturation: saturated, unsaturated or polyunsaturated fats
  • Bond location: for example, omega-6 or omega-3 fatty acids

To make a long story short, a healthy diet for your cat is low in saturated fats and high in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.


Fats & Cats - The Fatty Acid Guide to your Cat's Diet 2

Fat is a necessity for cats, and not simply because of its energy content, either — it’s essential for the digestion of fat-soluble vitamins like vitamins A, D, E, and K. It also helps their bodies break down protein from food into the glucose and essential amino acids they need for optimal health. –


Do cats need fat in their diet?

Think of what cats eat in the wild: it’s not grains and root vegetables. Felines are natural predators, so their evolutionary diet consists mostly of eating other animals (namely: birds and rodentia). The ideal cat diet is therefore high in protein and fat, and low in carbs.

Fat provides twice the calories of an equal amount of protein, so it is a very efficient energy source. Furthermore, fats assist in metabolising these proteins into essential nutrients like amino acids and glucose. Finally, vitamins A, D, E and K are fat-soluble, which means they rely on dietary fats in order to be properly absorbed by the body.

Without fat, your cat wouldn’t get the most out of the rest of their diet!


cats essential fatty acids


What are essential fatty acids?

An essential nutrient is one that your cat’s body cannot create on its own. They are contrasted to nonessential nutrients, which the body can synthesize from other materials. Essential fatty acids must be consumed (in food or supplements) in order for your cat to benefit from them. If they don’t eat them, they don’t get them.

How Fatty Acids Benefit Your Cat’s Health

Two important essential fats for cats are arachidonic and linoleic fatty acids, more commonly known as omega-6 fatty acids. These promote healthy skin by maintaining the surface-level moisture barrier, thereby preventing dry patches. Furthermore, omega-6s encourage healthy growth and a shiny coat.

Cats also need a healthy supply of omega-3 fatty acids. While not an essential fatty acid, omega-3s are often added to pet food because of their role in inflammation control and brain function. In fact, one study found that cats with osteoarthritis demonstrated more physical activity and reduced stiffness when placed on an omega-3 supplement.


Cats Fatty Acids 2

Your cat’s diet needs to include the right balance of the six major nutrient groups in order maintain optimal health: proteins, fats and oils, minerals, vitamins, carbohydrates and water. –


Functions of fats in cats’ health

You would be amazed at all of the roles that fats play in your feline friend’s short and long term health.

Energy source

Every gram of fat provides twice as many calories as a gram of protein or carb. While this does mean that excessive fat can lead to weight gain, it also means that your cat needs to eat less fat to get the energy it needs. Furthermore, fats help a cat feel full and satiated. A well-regulated diet of fats can prevent them from feeling hungry between meals while still having the energy they need to live their best life.

Cell membrane health

In any given cell, the membrane consists mostly of fats. These membranes are responsible for controlling what enters and exits the cell, balancing the delicate ecosystem within. A strong cell membrane also protects the cell from external threats and helps transport nutrients where they need to be to maintain healthy function.


functions of fats in cats food and health


Nerve function

Your cat’s central nervous system wouldn’t work without fats. They protect neurons, facilitate the transfer of nerve impulses, preserve tissue structure and improve memory. One study found that aging cats who received a nutrient blend including fish oils (which are rich in fatty acids) performed better on cognitive tasks.

Hormonal balance

Hormones are the chemical messengers of your cat’s body. They carry signals from one part of the body to another so that every system can work together. When cat’s suffer hormonal imbalance, all sorts of side effects can result. Hormones are created from, among other sources, fats. Ensuring your cat has a healthy amount of fat in their daily diet is one way to encourage proper hormone balance.


how much fat do cats need


How much fat do cats need?

The following are the recommended daily values of fat for cats:

  • Young kittens (1.8 lbs): 4 grams per day
  • Adults (9 lbs): 5.5 g per day
  • Nursing cats (9lb with 4 kittens): 12 g per day

Of course, just like a human diet, a cat’s needs to be customised to meet individual needs. You should take into account three primary factors when planning your cat’s daily fat intake:

  • Age: As cats get older, their metabolism tends to slow down. Therefore, they tend to need less calories overall.
  • Activity Level: Cats who spend more time running around and playing are going to burn more calories. Outdoor cats, for example, are less likely to be obese because they tend to have more opportunities to run off extra energy from food.
  • Health Conditions & Goals: Consider how other issues might affect your cat’s needs. A cat with obesity who is trying to lose weight should eat less calories. A pregnant or nursing cat, on the other hand, needs to eat more in order to keep up with the caloric demands of her litter.

If you are aiming to provide your cat with a diet similar to what they eat in the wild, the World Small Animal Veterinary Association points out that in nature, a predatory cat’s diet consists of about 45% fat and 55% protein. Considering that most commercial cat foods are only about 9 to 21 percent fat, you may need to adjust your cat’s diet significantly to reach these levels.


common sources of fat in cat food


Common sources of fat in cat food

Commercial cat food will contain fat in two forms:

  • Naturally occuring fat in the ingredients that make up the food. These typically include beef, chicken and fish.
  • Added fats to increase the concentration of total fat. These may come from animal sources, but could also come from soybean, safflower, corn, flaxseed or other vegetable oils. If you see an ingredient specifically listed with the word “oil”, that means it is an added fat.

Healthy sources of fat for cats

The best sources of fat for cats include chicken, pork, beef, turkey, fish, and eggs. Krill oil, fish oil and sunflower oil are also good supplements to provide omega-3s and omega-6s. While wild cats get their fats almost completely from animal meat, plant-based oils are generally still healthy for domesticated felines.

Avoid butter, lard and shortening in your cat’s diet, though. These saturated fats can lead to health complications and aren’t usually considered a nutritional source of dietary fat.


healthy sources of fat for cats

Energy is not technically a nutrient, but it is still an important part of a cat’s diet. Dietary energy, measured in kilocalories (also called calories), comes from fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. –


How can I add more fatty acids to my cat’s diet?

If you are concerned that your kitty isn’t getting enough healthy fats in their diet, here are some tips to safely adjust how much they consume.

Monitor portion sizes

Increasing healthy fats is not as simple as just giving your cat more fatty food. If you want to avoid excessive weight gain and upset stomach, keep an eye on how big your servings are. In general, you don’t want to feed your cat more food. Instead, keep their caloric intake the same while replacing macronutrients.

Replace high carb daily cat foods

A lot of commercial cat foods include grain fillers, and thus have a lower concentration of fats due to the higher carb count. You can opt for a low or no carb cat food for your kitty’s everyday meals instead. Freeze Dry Australia’s Raw Cat Food – Duck is more than 49% crude fat and 39% crude protein. It is the perfect way to increase the concentration of fat in your cat’s diet without overfeeding them. Additionally, our foods never contain grain fillers or preservatives.

Another favorite offering is our Raw Cat Food – Quail. The primary ingredient is quail, but there are other healthy additions to the mix as well. Namely, green lip mussels. While this cat food isn’t quite as high in fat (23%) as our duck, green lip mussels are well-known to be a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids.


how can i add more fatty acids to my cats diet

To the cat, fats are also important in the taste of their food. Meat-based diets provide animal fat and supply many essential nutrients specific to the nutritional and health needs of our feline friends. – Catcarecenter


Replace high carb cat snacks

In addition to swapping out you cat’s daily food, you can also sneak in more fat in-between meals with some of these healthy whole food freeze-dried cat treats:

Freeze Dried Green Lip Mussels

Whole Green Lip Mussels, for the aforementioned omega-3s.



Freeze Dried Raw Salmon Belly

Salmon Bellies, also known as the “bacon” of salmon and loaded with healthy fish oils.



Freeze Dried Whole Sardines

Whole Sardines, while low in fat content, are packed with omega-3s. And your cat will go nuts for them.



Health risks associated with excess fat intake in cats

Remember, the goal is to get your cat a healthy level of fats—a balanced diet that takes into account all of your kitty’s unique needs. When a cat regularly eats too much fat, they can suffer from a wide range of conditions.

Upset stomach

Just like humans, cat tummies can be sensitive to excessive fat consumption, resulting in bloating, pain and diarrhea. This is typically a short term condition caused by acute instances of overeating high fat foods. If your cat has been living on a relatively low fat diet for years, transition them slowly to a higher fat diet so that their body can keep up with the change.


cats obesity



You can never be reminded enough: fat contains twice the number of calories as protein and carbs. Hastily increasing your cat’s fat consumption without accounting for caloric intake can lead to short or long term weight gain. If this persists for too long, your cat could become obese.

Being severely overweight brings with it a host of related symptoms. High blood pressure, diabetes, and arthritis are some of the most severe comorbid conditions of obesity. They are a hindrance to your pet’s quality of life and require a lot of special attention from you.

Fatty liver disease

Fatty liver disease, also known as hepatic lipidosis, occurs when a cat stops eating for a long period of time. This leads to fat building up in the liver, which can lead to severe outcomes if left untreated, such as muscle atrophy, seizures and even death. Fatty liver disease isn’t directly caused by high fat diets, but it is more common in obese cats. Therefore, it can be a long term side effect of a diet that is excessively fatty.


cats liver disease

Hepatic Lipidosis (“fatty liver”) –


Tips for monitoring your cat’s fat intake

  1. Work with your vet to come up with a diet plan that meets your cat’s unique needs. This is especially important if your cat has a complicated medical history or other risk factors that might necessitate special care. Even if kitty has lived a perfectly healthy life, talking with a veterinary professional will give you the peace of mind you need to transition their diet with confidence.
  2. Read food labels carefully to understand exactly what your cat is ingesting. The first and primary ingredient in your cat’s food should be meat. Avoid any amount of trans fat, but don’t worry about saturated fats. These come from animal meat, which is exactly what your cat should be eating.
  3. Keep track of what your cat eats by logging their diet for the first few weeks. At the same time, keep a look out for the early warning signs of too much fat: upset stomach and weight gain. Adjust your cat’s diet as necessary, and above all, avoid free feeding your cat with no sense of portion control.

How much fat is too much?

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. As we’ve already seen, cat’s in the wild eat a diet of approximately 45% fat. However, your cat’s dietary needs also must take into account factors like level of activity, health conditions and age.

If your cat is getting plenty of protein, maintaining a healthy weight and not demonstrating any negative symptoms, then you are probably doing the right thing. In addition to your own diligence, regular consultations with your vet are the perfect way to confirm that your cat is eating the right amount of fat.


how much fat is too much for cats


Fat is not the enemy

As we have seen, fat is a necessary part of any healthy cat diet. Some essential nutrients, such as omega-6 fatty acids, can only be obtained by consuming fat.

The key is understanding just how much fat your cat needs, providing them with healthy sources of it, and monitoring changes in their health or lifestyle that might necessitate new dietary habits. Combine your own common sense with the tips you’ve read here and you are on your way to a healthy cat with just enough fat.

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