Just as in the human world, in the animal world there are very diverse forms of diet. Opinions often differ, especially among dog owners. While some use dry food, others rely entirely on BARF, i.e. biologically appropriate raw feeding. Before looking in detail at the individual aspects of the different diets, you need some basic knowledge about the eating behaviours of dogs and cats, because they differ in many ways.

Nutritional differences in focus: dogs’ eating behaviour

Dogs are of course descended from wolves. Wolves are carnivores, while dogs are more like carni-omnivores (meat omnivores). Domestication has not only changed their appearance, but also their digestive system and eating habits. Dogs are gluttons and can easily consume large amounts in a very short time. Their stomachs can expand a lot. A dog will sometimes vomit its “prey” in a quiet place and continues to eat there. Compared with cats, dogs have more amylase, an enzyme found in saliva that breaks down starch. Dogs’ intestines are also relatively longer, which means that food stays longer in their body than in cats. Dogs’ teeth can tear through large pieces of meat and bite through bones, preferably soft ones.

Nutritional differences in focus: cats’ eating behaviour

Today’s domestic cat is descended from the wildcat or the African wildcat. Cats divide their food into several meals, in fact, up to 16 small meals. This should be taken into account when feeding, to give your cat a species-appropriate life. They are carnivores, which means that they only eat meat. In contrast to dogs, cats eat very slowly and leisurely, as if enjoying their meal to the full. Cats are not hard drinkers either, since they absorb liquid directly from food, i.e. from the blood of their prey or the liquid in wet food. But they like to drink flowing water. It is therefore advisable to use a drinking fountain or to distribute several water bowls around the home. The cat is more likely to drink water as it wanders around the house, rather than if a bowl is placed right next to its food bowl.

Nutritional differences in dogs and cats at a glance

A table showing the differences in eating behaviour between dogs and cats.
There are many differences in the eating behaviour of dogs and cats.

Both dogs and cats have difficulty breaking down plant components, so they stay in the digestive tract for a long time. The required nutrients must be available quickly, which is best achieved by foods of animal origin. Compared to dogs, cats also have an increased protein requirement, as they constantly need nutrients, which are only available in optimal form in animal protein. Cats also have increased activity in the liver enzymes that convert protein into energy.

So if a cat is overweight, fasting would be the wrong approach, as it should never go without a meal for more than 24 hours (in young animals and obese animals) or 48 hours (in adult, lean animals). The increased liver enzyme activity leads to an immediate breakdown of muscles and the activity of the liver enzymes can no longer be regulated. One-sided or protein-reduced feeding can lead to fatty liver, also known as hepatic lipidosis. Fat deposits are melted down to generate energy. These fats get into the liver cells, which are then completely overwhelmed and store the fat there. This impairs their function and causes liver failure. It is therefore particularly important that cats always eat several meals a day. Sufficient fluid intake is importance because the cat’s bladder and kidneys are also very sensitive.

The next articles will explain how to decide what type of feeding would best suit your own pet.