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Is a Grain-Free Diet Safe for Your Cat?

Cane Bay Summerville - grain-free dietWhether a result of celiac disease, an effort to stay healthy or just the desire to cut out gluten, many people have started the gluten-free diet. It’s a popular trend among people, but it has recently been gaining popularity among pet cats as well. If you’ve heard of it, you may be wondering if either a grain-free or gluten-free diet is safe for your feline. Furthermore, you may be asking yourself, “Is there a difference between gluten-free and grain-free?”

Below we’ll discuss the benefits and potential drawbacks of cutting out either gluten or all grain in your pet’s daily intake.

Gluten-Free versus Grain-Free Cat Food

While the terms “gluten-free” and “grain-free” are often used interchangeably, they actually mean two different things. Gluten is a protein that is frequently found in grains such as wheat, barley and rye. However, it is not found in all types of grain, so some grain may still be consumed in a gluten-free diet. On the other hand, absolutely no grain is consumed in a grain-free diet.

Therefore, a grain-free diet is also gluten-free, but a gluten-free diet is not necessarily grain-free.

Benefits of a Gluten-Free or Grain-Free Diet

While gluten and grain allergies in the feline population are very uncommon, there are rare cases of a gluten or grain-intolerant cat. If this is true for your pet, a grain-free or gluten-free diet may be the right choice. If you suspect your pet might have an allergy, several signs to look for according to PetMD include:

  • Bald patches
  • Excessive hair loss
  • “Hot spots”
  • Inflamed skin
  • Itchiness
  • Sores and scabs

If any of these symptoms are present, it is recommended your furry friend go to the vet where food trials can be conducted to see what, if anything, she is allergic to. If no food allergies are found, other underlying health issues may be present.

Drawbacks of a Gluten-Free or Grain-Free Diet

According to a study conducted by Tufts University, feeding your cat a grain-free diet doesn’t mean she necessarily consumes fewer carbohydrates. Some grain-free diets had “similar or even higher amounts of carbohydrates as diets with grain.” This may be because some pet owners switch out other carbohydrate-rich foods, such as potatoes, in place of grain.

Additionally, if a cat is put on a grain-free diet for health reasons, oftentimes, the foods that replace the grain in her diet are no more natural or healthier than the grain. Frequently, replacement foods include tapioca, potatoes, sweet potatoes and peas.

Furthermore, the study found that the calories consumed in a regular versus grain-free diet were essentially equivalent. Ditching grains in an effort to scale back calorie consumption may not be the most effective method for shedding pounds and losing weight.

At the end of the day, several veterinarians told The Washington Post that grain-free diets, for the most part, are just a marketing strategy, noting that grain-free diets are not necessarily healthier than other diets. Moreover, they said, most cats have allergies to meat before they have allergies to grain.

Their recommendation? Work with your veterinarian to find the proper diet for your pet. Unless your cat has a specific allergy to grain or gluten, it may be beneficial to keep feeding your four-legged friend a well-rounded, well-balanced diet, including grain.

Thanks for stopping by! We hope you were able to gain new insight into the emerging trend of grain-free diets for your cat. If you enjoyed our article, please feel free to share it.

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