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You might wonder why a cat would need a high fiber diet when people are usually advised to feed their cats a diet that is high protein. After all, cats are obligate carnivores and they need plenty of meat in their diet, right? We don’t usually think of feeding cats a diet with a lot of fruit and vegetables or grains.
It’s true that cats are obligate carnivores and they have a natural need for meat protein. There are some nutrients that they can best get from meat sources since they can’t make them in their own bodies or get from plant sources. However, there are some good reasons why you might consider a high fiber cat food, as long as your cat is still getting the meat protein he needs.
Reasons to feed a high fiber cat food
Some of the reasons to feed a high fiber cat food can include:
- Helping with diarrhea and constipation;
- Helps with a weight loss diet;
- Recommended for cats with anal gland disease;
- May help reduce the risk of colon cancer in cats;
- Recommended for cats with diabetes;
- May be recommended to help prevent the formation of hairballs.
So, cats who have some gastrointestinal problems or other health issues can sometimes benefit from a high fiber cat food. However, it’s always best to have your cat checked out by a veterinarian and follow his or her advice. Your vet is usually the one who will make a recommendation to put a cat on a high fiber diet. There are a number of prescription high fiber cat foods made by companies such as Royal Canin, Hill’s Science Diet, Iams Veterinary, and Purina. There are also some non-prescription high fiber diets that you can purchase online and in pet stores. These foods come in both dry and canned (wet) formulas but it is often advisable to buy the canned food, especially if constipation or impaction has been a problem.
Top 4 High Fiber Foods For Cats
High fiber for weight loss
High fiber diets are most often used to help a cat lose weight or if a cat is having problems with constipation. If your cat needs to lose weight – especially a lot of weight – please talk to your veterinarian before you make any changes to his diet. For many years the common thinking was to feed a cat a high fiber diet to help him lose weight in the hopes that the fiber in the diet would make him feel full and he would eat fewer calories. This method is very often very successful with dogs (and with humans). However, many cats fail to lose weight on this kind of diet. In fact, they may store the carbs from fiber in this kind of diet as added weight. Today some people are instead trying a diet with overweight and obese cats that increases their protein and fat and cuts down on their fiber. It is similar to the Atkins diet for humans. There are caveats with this kind of diet, especially if you have an older cat, so please talk to your veterinarian before making any changes to your cat’s diet if he needs to lose weight.
High fiber for constipation
If your cat is having problems with constipation or some of the other health issues listed above, a high fiber cat food may be a good idea, at least on a temporary basis. But it’s also possible that your cat could benefit from more moisture in his diet to help keep things moving through the gastrointestinal tract. Always make sure that your cat has access to fresh water and keep in mind that many cat experts recommend feeding canned (wet) cat food so cats can have more moisture in their diet.
High fiber for diabetes
The preferred diet for cats with diabetes today is usually a high protein, low carb, high moisture diet. However, if your cat cannot eat this kind of diet for some reason (perhaps he has other health issues involved), there is an alternative high fiber diet. The idea behind the high fiber diet for a diabetic cat is that it will slow the absorption of glucose and fat in the cat’s body so he won’t metabolize it so quickly. This is supposed to prevent the cat from experiencing a glycemic high in his blood glucose level right after he eats. There is also the hope that the cat might lose some weight if he is overweight. A high fiber diet that is lower in fat would supposedly be filling and help your cat feel full without eating as many calories. This kind of high fiber diet would have to contain a lot of complex carbs to work. These complex carbs would break down slowly so they wouldn’t spike your cat’s blood sugar level and they would help your cat feel satisfied and full long after he ate. This kind of diet is supposed to lower the diabetic cat’s insulin needs.
Again, this is an alternative diet for a diabetic cat, though it was popular at one time.
Diabetes in cats is not uncommon today. If you suspect that your cat might have diabetes, it’s important to get a diagnosis from your vet.
Symptoms can include:
- Increased thirst and urination
- Change in appetite
- Inappropriate elimination
- Weight loss
- Change in the way your cat walks and moves
- Depression and decreased activity
Many of these symptoms are also present with other illnesses in cats, but your vet can confirm whether your cat has diabetes with blood work and other lab work, a physical exam, and talking to you about your cat’s symptoms and behavior. Once you have a diagnosis, your vet can recommend an appropriate diet for your cat, whether that is a high protein/low carb diet or a high fiber diet.
What you should know about fiber in cat food
Nutritionally speaking, fiber is a kind of carbohydrate that the body can’t digest. We usually think of carbs as something that the body breaks down into sugar so it can use it as energy (or store it as fat), but fiber doesn’t break down. Instead, it passes through the body. But it does other work. It can help regulate how fast sugar gets into the bloodstream, help you (or your pet) feel full, and it can help food move through your digestive system to prevent constipation.
Some pet food sites erroneously state that fiber in pet food is a filler ingredient but that’s not the case – unless there is an overabundance of fiber. Fiber plays an important role in your pet’s food.
There are two basic kinds of fiber in pet foods: soluble and insoluble.
- Soluble fiber dissolve in water and will help keep your cat’s glucose levels lower. It also helps lower blood cholesterol levels. Soluble fibers include lentils, oatmeal, apples, and blueberries. Psyllium and some other fruits and vegetables are also soluble fibers. Soluble fibers can turn to a gel during digestion and slow the digestion of sugars from other carbs.
- Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water. These fibers are good at helping food move through the digestive system. They can help a cat (or human or other animal) stay regular and help prevent constipation. Good sources of insoluble fiber include whole grains, barley, brown rice, legumes, carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, zucchini, celery, broccoli, cabbage, green beans, dark leafy vegetables, fruit, and root vegetable skins.
You may or may not see some of these ingredients listed on a cat food label. Common sources of fiber found in pet foods include things like rice hulls, soybean hulls, bran, peanut hulls, and pectin. Better quality foods are less likely to have these ingredients and are more likely to have fiber from vegetables and fruits. However, you may find some less than desirable ingredients in prescription cat foods. The ingredients listed on the labels of these foods may not be appealing but they make up for it by being very precise with their manufacturing. If your cat needs a prescription diet, then it’s a good bet that the food will contain what it is supposed to contain and be suitable for your cat.
Problems with high fiber cat food
Along with some of the drawbacks already mentioned for high fiber diets, there are some general problems with them. Because these diets contain so much fiber, they often produce a lot of flatulence in cats. Many cats also produce a lot of stool and they can increase the number of bowel movements. Additionally, many cats do not find these diets as tasty as a high protein diet. They typically include a lot of vegetable matter which doesn’t usually appeal to cats.
Even though high fiber diets can have some problems, they are an option to consider if your cat has some particular health issues such as constipation, obesity, hairballs, anal gland problems, diabetes, and other problems. Sometimes a high fiber diet could be what your cat needs.
High-Fiber Cat Food Recommendations
Dry Cat Food Recommendations:
Wellness CORE Grain-Free Original Dry Formula
The Wellness pet food company is known for producing high-quality, holistic pet food formulas. This company always has the best interest of pets in mind which is why their formulas feature fresh, wholesome ingredients. If you are looking for a healthy high-fiber kibble for your cat, consider this Wellness CORE Grain-Free Original Dry Formula. This recipe features protein-rich ingredients like deboned turkey, deboned chicken, whitefish meal, and other meat meals to provide a crude protein content of 45% – that is much higher than most cat foods on the market. In addition to being rich in protein, this formula contains plenty of healthy animal-based fats like chicken fat and salmon oil for a total crude fat content of 18%. This is an excellent feature for this recipe because fat is the most highly concentrated source of energy available to cats.
This Wellness CORE Grain-Free Original Dry Formula is naturally grain-free which makes it a great choice for cats that are allergic or sensitive to grains. The main sources of carbohydrate in this recipe are peas, potatoes, and ground flaxseed. This recipe also contains supplementary sources of dietary fiber like tomato pomace and chicory root extract, a natural source of insoluble fiber. The crude fiber content of this recipe is 3% which is about as high as you want to go for cat food. Other beneficial ingredients included in this recipe are natural flavors, vitamin supplements, chelated minerals, and dried fermentation products. While synthetic supplements can help balance out the nutrition of a cat food product, natural sources are always better. This recipe doesn’t contain fresh fruits and vegetables but it does contain chelated minerals which are chemically bound to protein molecules, making them easier to digest and absorb. The dried fermentation products act as probiotics to support your cat’s digestion.
Blue Buffalo Wilderness Indoor Hairball Control Chicken Recipe
The Blue Buffalo Company is widely known for producing high-quality ancestral diets for cats and dogs – products that mimic the natural diet of wild cats and wolves. If you are looking for a healthy high-fiber diet for your cat, consider the Blue Buffalo Wilderness Indoor Hairball Control Chicken Recipe. This recipe features protein-rich chicken as the main ingredient and it is supplemented with chicken meal and turkey meal. This recipe also includes pea protein as a supplementary protein source which is a little bit questionable. The total protein content is very high at 36%, however, so it is difficult to tell how much of that comes from plant-based sources. This recipe is also very rich in fat with a crude fat content of 16% – most of that comes from chicken fat, fish oil, and flaxseed.
Because this Blue Buffalo Wilderness Indoor Hairball Control Chicken Recipe is loaded with animal-based ingredients, you can be sure that it provides a depth of rich, natural flavor that your cat is sure to love. It is also a highly digestible recipe made with gluten- and grain-free carbohydrates like sweet potatoes and peas – there are also fresh fruits and vegetables which provide supplementary fiber and which act as natural sources for key vitamins and minerals. In terms of supplementation, this recipe is filled to the brim. There are numerous supplementary sources of dietary fiber such as powdered cellulose and potato starch as well as pea fiber and alfalfa meal. The total crude fiber content of this recipe is fairly high at 5%. You will also find plenty of vitamin and mineral supplements including chelated minerals which offer optimal nutrient absorption and utilization. This recipe also contains dried fermentation products for probiotic support.
Wet Cat Food Recommendations:
Merrick Limited Ingredient Diet Grain-Free Duck Recipe
This Merrick Limited Ingredient Diet Grain-Free Duck Recipe is an excellent solution to your cat’s digestive problems. Not only is it high in fiber, but it is a limited ingredient diet which means there is a lower risk for triggering food allergies and sensitivities. It is also important to note that this recipe features a single source of animal protein and that source is, for many cats, a novel protein – this further reduces the risk for allergies. Deboned duck is the first ingredient listed for this recipe and it is a high-quality source of animal protein. This recipe also contains pea protein and organic alfalfa meal – both of these ingredients supply some supplementary plant protein, though it is difficult to say how much. The total protein content of this recipe is 8% which translates to a dry matter basis of 36% which is well within the AAFCO recommended range for adult cats.
In addition to being rich in quality proteins, this Merrick Limited Ingredient Diet Grain-Free Duck Recipe is also high in fiber. The main source of fiber in this recipe is the organic alfalfa meal, an ingredient that also contributes some plant protein as well as a number of healthy vitamins and minerals. In terms of fat, this recipe contains a crude fat value of 4% (which translates to a dry matter basis of 18%) that comes primarily from the deboned duck and flaxseed oil. This recipe also contains a number of synthetic vitamin and mineral supplements, as well as some natural flavors. While synthetic supplements can be used to ensure complete and balanced nutrition for pets, natural sources for those same nutrients would be better – things like fresh fruits and vegetables. It also would benefit this recipe to include some chelated mineral supplements.
Nature’s Variety Instinct Limited Ingredient Diet Rabbit Formula
This Nature’s Variety Instinct Limited Ingredient Diet Rabbit Formula is made with premium-quality ingredients including a single source of animal protein and highly digestible carbohydrates. It is a gluten-free, grain-free formula that features a limited number of ingredients which makes it a great choice for cats suffering from food allergies or sensitivities – it also helps that the proteins come from rabbit which is a novel source of protein for many cats. This recipe contains 10% crude protein content which equates to a dry matter basis of 45% and it contains 4.5% crude fat (about 20% dry matter basis). What makes this recipe truly stand out, however, is the fact that it is high in fiber. With a crude fiber content of 3%, this recipe offers a dry matter fiber content of nearly 14%.
In addition to being protein-rich and high in fiber, this Nature’s Variety Instinct Limited Ingredient Diet Rabbit Formula also includes a number of other healthy ingredients. This recipe draws most of its fat content from fresh rabbit and rabbit liver – these are also the only sources of protein in this recipe. For carbohydrate, this recipe utilizes green peas as the solitary source of fiber – peas also contain some plant protein which may help boost the overall protein content of this recipe. The remaining ingredients in this formula consist of synthetic supplements. In addition to synthetic vitamins, this recipe also includes chelated minerals – mineral supplements that have been chemically bound to protein molecules which makes them easier for your cat’s body to digest and absorb.