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Nutrition of the Domestic Cat, a Mammalian Carnivore


Nutrition of the Domestic Cat, a Mammalian Carnivore

M L MacDonald et al. Annu Rev Nutr.


From the foregoing discussion of the nutritional requirements and some of the metabolic anomalies of the cat, it is clear that the cat is adapted to eating a carnivorous diet. It may, however, have less capability than omnivores and herbivores to adapt to wide ranges in dietary composition. For example, the lack of ability to synthesize sufficient vitamin A from carotene, ornithine from glutamic acid, arachidonate from linoleate, and taurine from cysteine results from a complete deletion or severe limitation of the enzyme or pathway that makes each nutrient. Other nutrient requirements, such as the absolute requirement for niacin and the high protein requirement, appear to result from the high activity of one or more enzymes and the fact that these enzymes are not adaptive in the cat. For example, the cat cannot decrease picolinic carboxylase in order to force tryptophan toward the niacin-synthetic pathway (244) nor can it decrease the urea cycle enzymes when dietary protein is decreased in the diet in order to conserve nitrogen (209). Indeed, the cat appears to have less capability to adapt to most changes in dietary composition because it cannot change the quantities of enzymes involved in the metabolic pathways (209). This evolutionary development has resulted in more stringent nutritional requirements for cats than for omnivores such as the rat, dog, and man. What little evidence exists for other carnivore species leads us to suggest that this pattern may well be common among other strict carnivores. The metabolic differences between the cat and omnivores provide the researcher with a useful animal model for studying the biochemical basis of some nutrient requirements. For example, because there is no significant conversion of linoleate to arachidonate in cat liver (101, 150, 231), the physiological functions of linoleate can be determined independent of it having a role as a precursor of arachidonate (150). This has not been possible with other species. It is anticipated that further studies of the nutrition of the cat will increase our understanding of metabolic adaptation and nutrient functions.

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