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Cat Nutrition

Can Cats Eat Cheetos?

According to a staff writer for the website PetConsider, cats can eat Cheetos in the sense that Cheetos are not poisonous to cats. On the other hand, it’s still a bad idea to give a cat Cheetos.

Cheetos are junk food even for humans, and they provide even less nutrition to a cat. Cats are obligate carnivores, which means they need to eat meat and can’t fully metabolize anything that isn’t meat. As obligate carnivores, cats need foods that are high in protein and low in carbohydrates.

Cheetos, unfortunately for cats, are mostly carbohydrates and fats. What little protein they contain doesn’t have the proper ratio of amino acids that cats need.

Cheetos also contain lots of calories, which means they can make both cats and humans fat – and fat cats can develop many of the same health problems that fat humans do, including diabetes, heart disease, and arthritis. Cheetos contain unhealthy vegetable fats as well, which can also make a cat fat.

Worst of all, Cheetos are loaded with salt. A diet high in salt can have the same effect on cats that it does on humans: It can cause them to develop high blood pressure, and that, in turn, increases the risk of suffering a stroke.

A cat’s small size means they have far less tolerance for salt than do humans. They are thus more susceptible to salt poisoning, which is also known as hypernatremia. Hypernatremia is caused by an excess of sodium.

Symptoms of salt poisoning include the following:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Confusion
  • Lethargy
  • Swelling
  • Extreme thirst
  • Loss of coordination
  • Lack of appetite
  • Seizures
  • Tremors

Untreated hypernatremia can lead to coma, irreversible kidney damage, and death. A cat that shows symptoms of salt poisoning needs to be taken to a vet immediately.

Why is salt bad for cats?

Small amounts of salt are actually good for cats. According to a writer for PetCoach, sodium, and chloride, the molecules that makeup salt, provide cats with certain health benefits.

Both sodium and chloride, for example, help keep a balance between fluids that move within cells and fluids that move between cells. Sodium also helps remove waste products from cells and transports nutrients to cells.

Chloride helps acids and alkalis in the body stay in balance with each other. It also helps produce the hydrochloric acid needed to digest protein. Sodium and chloride can be bound to nutrients like potassium or Vitamin K. 

Thus, cats do need some chloride and sodium to stay healthy. In fact, cat foods are required to contain at least 0.3 percent chloride and 0.2 percent sodium; most contain more than that, for salt does improve the taste of many foods, whether human or feline.

According to the “Eat This Much” website, a single serving of Cheetos, which is roughly one ounce, contains 250 mg of salt. That means salt makes up 11 percent of the Cheetos. That is far more than a cat needs or should have.

What amino acids do cats need?

Dr. Jennifer Coates, a veterinarian who writes for PetMD, states all proteins are made from different combinations of 23 amino acids.

A cat’s body can synthesize twelve of these amino acids but not the other eleven. Those amino acids are described as “essential amino acids,” for the cat needs to obtain them through its diet.

The essential amino acids are the following: valine, tryptophan, threonine, taurine, phenylalanine, methionine, lysine, leucine, isoleucine, histidine, and arginine.

Deficiency in any of them can cause serious health problems. A diet deficient in taurine, for example, can eventually cause blindness and heart disease.

Like many human foods, cat foods have a nutrition label. The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) require cat food to be at least 26 percent protein. When offered a choice of foods, cats will choose items that are as much as 50 percent protein.

In addition, meat, eggs, and dairy products are better sources of protein that are planted. Animal-based sources of protein are more likely to be “complete proteins,” which means they contain all eleven of the essential amino acids.

According to the SELFNutritionData website, a serving of Cheetos contains only trace amounts of amino acids – and cats need amino acids.

Can cats digest carbohydrates?

Yes, at least to some extent. According to Dr. Claudia A. Kirk at the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine, the prey animals that cats eat are around 55 percent protein and 45 percent fat with only trace amounts of carbohydrates.

Some dry cat foods, however, can be as much as 40 percent carbohydrates, and healthy cats have no trouble digesting such foods.

There is some evidence, however, that foods high in carbohydrates might worsen the symptoms of cats with diabetes, just as they can in humans with diabetes.

On the other hand, fiber, which is a carbohydrate, can help control a cat’s blood sugar levels. It’s believed that fiber slows or reduces the number of carbohydrates absorbed by the gastrointestinal tract.

While a high-carbohydrate diet might increase the chances of a cat developing diabetes, obesity is an even greater risk factor.

A cat with diabetes will often need to be put on a diet that will help it lose weight. Carbohydrates should make up between five and 26 percent of the diabetic cat’s diet.

The difficulty with a low-carbohydrate diet is that the percentage of fats or proteins will have to be increased – and some cats with diabetes also have conditions that make such increases potentially dangerous.

Proteins, fats, and amino acids all stimulate secretions from the pancreas, which may cause problems in cats with pancreatitis or some types of kidney or liver disease. 

Can cats eat people food at all?

According to a staff writer for the “Pets” section of WebMD, there are some human foods that cats can safely enjoy.

Different types of meat top that list and include turkey, chicken, beef, lean cuts of deli meat. Cats can also eat fish and eggs, but they should be cooked first. Cats can also eat whole grains, providing they have been cooked, so the cat can fully digest them.

While many cats are lactose-intolerant, some can eat cheese, which has a lot of protein. There are even a few fruits and vegetables that cats can safely eat, and they include cantaloupe, cucumber, asparagus, and steamed broccoli.

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