As a pet owner it’s important you understand the nutritional needs of your pets
so you can feed them a balanced, nutritious diet. So let’s get back to basics. Are
cats and dogs omnivores (meaning they eat a variety of food from both plant and
animal origins) or carnivores (meaning meat eaters)?
First let’s take a look at dogs:
If you’ve ever witnessed your dog chowing down on a bone you’d be forgiven for
thinking these little bundles of joy are pure carnivores. But they’re not. You’ll
never see a wolf munching on grains but in the wild these dogs go after plant-
eating mammals, and one of the first parts of the prey they will eat is the
Do some research and you might come across the term ‘opportunivore’ to
describe a dog’s instinct to eat whatever is available (toast off the coffee table, a
biscuit found down at the park, even cat poo!) so that’s certainly not restricted to
True carnivores have different nutritional needs to plant eaters – they require
amino acids and vitamins that are easily obtained from animal protein and fat.
The nutritional requirements of dogs are more like us omnivorous humans – we
can get nutrients from plants and meats.
Another way you can tell that household dogs are not true carnivores but in fact
omnivores is by taking a good look at them. Dogs have molars (like us), which
grind up bone and plant material. The small intestine of a dog is designed to
digest plant material and they can turn the beta carotenes found in plants into
Taking their behaviours, anatomy and food preferences into account it’s clear
dogs aren’t carnivores. But our other favourite household pet is another story.
So are cats carnivores?
They sure are, and there are plenty of attributes and behaviours that give it
away. Cats will stalk, chase and pounce, and their superior eyesight and hearing
is tuned for predatory behaviour. They also have a great sense of smell and those
soft pads on their feet mean they can creep around without alerting their prey.
Their teeth are designed for slicing and gnawing on meat and their digestions are
designed for flesh.
You might assume that like dogs, cats are more omnivore than carnivore,
because you’ve probably seen them eating grains and grain-based food. In fact,
you’ve probably fed your cat on dry pet foods, which are full of grains.
It might be time to rethink your cat’s diet, because cats aren’t just carnivores,
they are known as obligatory carnivores. This means they are carnivores by
necessity. Unlike dogs, who we’ve established will eat anything, cats must have
meat. Their shorter guts mean they can’t properly digest plant materials and
extract the nutrients from them. Cats need a thing called taurine, which is an
amino acid found in meat. Sure wild cats, like dogs, will be getting some grain
from the stomachs of their prey, but cats, wild and domestic, are just not
physiologically set up to digest grains.
So throw out that bag of cat food and head to the butcher. Your cat will love you