The Difference in Nutritional Requirements for Cats and Dogs

Cats & Dogs; How Similar Are They, Really?

It’s undeniable; dogs and cats have captured the hearts of millions. Whether you pair ‘em together or think of them as opposites, the two undoubtedly go hand in hand. Or do they? Even though they have many similarities, they have less in common than one might realize. That’s because many of their differences are hiding beneath the surface and these differences impact many things. Today, we’re going to highlight nutritional requirements for cats and dogs. Understanding nutritional differences allow us to make better choices when deciding what to feed our pets. This is important because, despite their differences, their whole health is what matters - inside and out. 

A quick overview of their physical appearance shows us similarities between cats and dogs; ears that rotate to pick up sound undetectable by humans, long, sharp teeth designed for ripping and tearing meat, and body structures built to catch live prey. All of these are physical markers of a carnivore. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. 

Dog Nutritional Requirements

Though both species hunt and prefer a fresh kill, how successful they are at hunting has affected their evolution. Dogs are actually known as opportunistic hunters, meaning they’ll scavenge or eat fresh berries and flowers when they are unable to catch fresh prey, which happens often. The plant foods they consume contain carbohydrates, and over time the dog’s pancreas evolved to produce the digestive enzyme amylase which helps break down the carbohydrates into energy. Because of this, some claim that the dog is actually an omnivore and unfortunately, many kibble makers have latched onto this idea.

Even though dogs are equipped to utilize some carbs, the amount is very important. On average a dog can readily digest between 4-14% carbohydrates in their diet, but most kibble on the market today contains between 46-75% carbohydrates. It’s very taxing on a dog’s body to continually process such a high carb load day in and day out and it can actually lead to many ailments, such as obesity because eventually, those extra carbs start getting stored as fat. 

Cat Nutritional Requirements

Cats, on the other hand, are obligate carnivores meaning their food and energy requirements are derived solely from animal tissue. They need a diet high in meat, especially because cats are extremely successful at hunting and therefore never developed the need to scavenge like their counterparts. In turn, their pancreas hasn’t developed the ability to produce enough amylase to convert carbohydrates into energy. Instead, carbs are stored as fat, which is why feline obesity is so common in our house cats.

The high meat diet of the cat is absolutely crucial in providing necessary amino acids, fats, and pre-formed vitamins.

Let’s take a look: 

  • Arginine- A building block for protein, this amino acid is critical for an animal's internal chemical factory functioning
    • Dogs: produce enzymes internally that aid in the production of arginine
    • Cats: are sensitive to even one meal without arginine. Cats require a lot of protein and arginine aids in the elimination of protein waste products
  • Niacin-An essential B Vitamin that must be obtained through diet
    • Dogs: can convert the amino acid Tryptophan into Niacin or obtain it by eating it already pre-formed
    • Cats: cannot convert Tryptophan into Niacin and must obtain it already pre-formed in their diet
  • Taurine- An amino acid that is found throughout most body tissues, necessary for healthy functioning of the heart, retina, reproduction, and bile function
    • Dogs: can make their own taurine
    • Cats: cannot make their own taurine, it must come from a diet high in meat protein
  • Vitamin A- Also called Retinol is required at a cellular level for both cats and dogs
    • Dogs: have an enzyme in the lining of their intestine that can convert plant carotenoids into active Vitamin A
    • Cats: must obtain theirs pre-formed through a prey animal


Nutritional requirements are just one of many differences between cats and dogs, and we’ve only scratched the surface here. One important takeaway is that both species are classified as carnivores. The amount of meat in their diet plays an important role in their health. Equally important is that their diet be low in carbohydrate content which is exactly what we did at Steve’s Real Food. Our entire original lineup consists of a high meat/low carb ratio and is an ideal diet for the canine. We actually boosted this lineup with extra taurine to satisfy the nutritional needs of cats as well, but we didn’t stop there; our Quest cat food line goes one step further in replicating a feline’s prey, appropriately coined a “prey-model” diet consisting of 95% meat/organ/bone is the optimal diet choice for a feline. Whichever you’re feeding, you can do so with confidence! 

Benefits of Chia Seeds for Your Pet!

Walk into any health food store, or shop the natural food section of your local grocer and you will find many products that contain chia seeds. They are sold in bulk bins, added to yogurts, baked into desserts, included in drinks, and often found in granolas and cereals. With so many products made for humans that include chia seeds, it only makes sense that we would also see them show up in pet foods. But why? What does this little blackish seed have going for it that makes so many people, and pets, want to add it to their diet?

First cultivated around 2.600 BC in Mexico and Central America, the tiny seeds have long been a staple in those cultures and it is said that Mayan warriors were able to sustain their energy and endurance on only a tablespoon a day! Let’s look at how this seed benefits our furry friends.

Chia seeds are very nutrient-dense and contain calcium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, copper, zinc, and magnesium. They also contain Vitamins B-12 and B-6. They certainly deserve the title of “Super Food”. They may be small but pack a big punch, with each seed containing between 19-23% protein, 34% oil, and 25% fiber. They are rich in Omega 3 fatty acids They can help boost your pet's nutritional intake and support a variety of systems within the body. 

Because chia seeds can absorb water, they help keep your pet well hydrated and the absorbed seeds can help to remove toxins from the digestive tract. They assist in balancing electrolytes and are considered an immune system booster. The seeds can be useful for diabetic pets as well because they help to regulate blood sugar and lose excess weight. 

The chia seeds we use at Steve’s Real Food come from Argentina and are certified Organic. We seek out suppliers who grow responsibly and provide superior products. We use these chia seeds in our ChiaFreeze Frozen Goat Yogurt. The yogurt is an excellent source of probiotics, fiber, Omega 3 and increases the hydration level in your pet, which can be especially helpful for our feline friends. We also include the chia seeds in our pork formulas, which is a highly digestible, palatable option for both your cats and dogs.  

Give Your Dog a Bone!

Benefits of Bones for Dogs

Dogs have both a physical and psychological need to chew. If not provided with a safe, approved chewing option, they will seek out and find things that we may not want them to!

Puppies start exploring their world with their mouths and will chew on almost anything they can find. As they grow, chewing can help with pain caused by incoming teeth. The action of chewing is also a great exercise for the jaw and helps the teeth grow in proper alignment.

As puppies become adult dogs, chewing is no less important. It keeps the jaw strong and the teeth clean. In fact, chewing on raw bones is one of the best ways to keep your dog's teeth bright and the gums healthy. There seems to be a lot of misconceptions out there that a dog needs to eat a food that is crunchy to keep the teeth clean, and certainly there are a lot of kibble companies that market to that belief, but let’s think on that for a minute. Try chewing on crunchy pretzels, or crackers, or cereal, and see how afterward your teeth feel a bit sticky and starchy. This is what contributes to dental plaque and decay. Now try chewing on a crunchy apple and feel the difference in how your teeth feel.

Raw bones not only have dental benefits but also provide calcium and minerals for your dog. They are rich in healthy essential fatty acids, amino acids, and raw enzymes.

Besides the physical benefits of raw bones, there are also psychological benefits. Chewing and licking on the bone can help alleviate anxiety by releasing endorphins that can calm and soothe your pet, and also can help to alleviate boredom. Also, giving a frozen raw bone on a hot summer day can help cool down and entertain your pup.

At Steve’s Real Food, we have three different raw bone choices. We have a 2” marrow bone, a 4” marrow bone, and a 4” split marrow bone. The bone is split lengthways so even small dogs can get to the tasty marrow.

***We recommend getting to know your dog’s chewing style. Recreational bones may not be appropriate for extreme chewers with strong jaws, as tooth fracture is a possibility. Always supervise your dogs while they chew.***

Cats Need Moisture

Cat Drinking a Lot of Water

“My cat is fine, he drinks a lot of water”. I have heard this so many times when I bring up cats and their unique need for moisture in their diet. If a cat is constantly at the water bowl, that is a pretty good indicator he is dehydrated!

Our modern house cat is a direct descendent of the African Wildcat. In fact, they have indistinguishable DNA, so we know our cats developed in a very arid climate where freshwater wasn’t easy to come by. They evolved to get their moisture needs met through diet rather than by drinking water.

How Cats Drink Water

Cats do drink and need to have fresh water available at all times, but they are not highly efficient at drinking. Unlike a dog, whose tongue curls backward to lap water into its mouth, a cat's tongue dips relatively straight down into the water and is pulled up quickly. The rough spike-like papillae on the tongue fling tiny droplets of water into the air and the cat catches them as they fall. It takes between 2200-2400 dips of the tongue for the cat to get a quarter cup of water!

Hydrate Your Cat Through Their Food

Part of the reason they didn’t evolve to be more efficient at drinking water is because they are such successful hunters. They have always been able to hunt and kill fresh prey and utilize the intracellular moisture within the prey animal. This is the most effective way of hydrating the cat, and it also balances electrolytes and aids the digestion process.

Though our house cats no longer rely on their hunting skills to secure their meals, they can still rely on the moisture of raw meat to stay well hydrated. Our Quest line of cat diets is full of the intracellular moisture cats need. Steve’s original formulas are also an excellent choice for keeping cats (and dogs) naturally hydrated. If you are primarily a kibble feeder and would like to continue being one, we have something for you as well! Our ChiaFreeze yogurt and our PurrGurt are both goat milk-based products that are sold frozen, thawed at home, and then poured over the kibble at feeding time.

Summer is hot, make sure your favorite feline is well hydrated, healthy, and happy!

Emu Gotta Hear About This!

Steve’s Real Food now offers an Emu diet as part of the Quest line of cat-specific formulas and as part of Lamu, our new complete and balanced diet! Why emu, you ask? Let’s take a closer look at the flightless “bird” to see why it is such a good choice for your pets.

Why Kelp is Great for Dogs

Benefits of Kelp for Dogs

The bounty of the sea has long provided humans with much-needed nutrients and supplementation. Fisheries and aquaculture produce over 140 million tons of plants and animals for consumption annually. We consume everything from fish, to mollusks, to shellfish, to sea plants. While it has long been known the many benefits of an aquatic diet for humans. We are now recognizing their benefits for our pets. 

One of the aquatic foods that have the most benefit for our pets is dried sea kelp. It is rich in iodine, natural salts, amino acids, and a variety of helpful vitamins and minerals. Sea kelp is easy to digest, low in fat, and rich in protein. 

The Importance of Pet Food and Pet Treats with Made in USA Ingredients

If you want to upgrade your pet's nutrition, start by looking at the packaging. Do you see 'Made in the USA' on there? 'Made in the USA' is a powerful designation that means the product has been created to high safety standards, and all or most of the ingredients are from here in the USA. If you still aren't sure about paying a little extra for quality pet food, read on.

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Steve's Real Food

2034 East Fort Union
Cottonwood , UT 84121
United States