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Food & Your Cat's Mood

A recent survey by Mars Petcare showed:

  • 32% of you cat owners are confident in knowing what dietary requirements your cat has.

  • 19% of you don’t know what food will give your cat the nutrients they need – and less than one in five know that cats actually require more protein in their diets than dogs.

We humans understand food is a vital tool in stabilizing our mood and energy levels, and for maintaining overall health – and this is also true for cats. As meat-eaters, one of the dietary cornerstones for cats is protein. Evidence increasingly supports the role of protein in the effects of serotonin in cats. Serotonin is a chemical that serves to regulate an animal’s mood, sleep-wake cycles, level of arousal, and sensitivity to pain/stimuli. An eventual deficit of serotonin may manifest as hyperactivity, aggression, hypersensitivity or restless sleep.


Before serotonin can be produced, there must be adequate levels of its precursor, Tryptophan (think turkey-induced post-thanksgiving coma) which comes from meat sources.  Many pet foods include corn and other simple carbohydrates as a primary protein - these are not readily digestible for cats and also lack tryptophan. 


Additionally, commercial foods may be comprised of controversial by-products and/or chemicals.  Preservatives and dyes in human food have been linked to allergies and behavioral difficulties, and there is increasing evidenced to support this relationship in animals. 


How do you know what to buy? Here are some tips:

  1. The first 3 ingredients are those present in the highest amounts - look for unambiguous statements such as "chicken", "lamb meat", rather than "meat product" or "by-product".

  2. Preservatives such as vitamin C and E (tocopherols) may be safer than artificial preservatives - especially for cases of hyperactivity, cancer and self-injurious behavior.

  3. Avoid carbohydrates - these are wheat, various grains and vegetables.  Wheat and other grain allergies are becoming increasingly common in pets and may contribute to gastric sensitivity, scratching, self injurious behavior or irritability of skin or mood.  Additionally, carbohydrates provide an energy surge for a couple of hours following mealtime, creating the potential for hyperactivity/mood irritability cycles of behavior.  We may see this in our pets as destruction, rough play or overzealous biting.