What is biologically appropriate cat food?

While looking for cat food, you may have come across the words “biologically appropriate” stamped on bags of kibble or canned wet food. 

So what is biologically appropriate cat food anyway?

In a nutshell, biologically appropriate cat food promises to meet the nutritional needs embedded in your domestic kitty’s DNA from their wild feline ancestors. It is a cat food diet designed around what cats naturally eat: fresh meat and whole foods.

What is a biologically appropriate diet?

A biologically appropriate diet is centered around feeding our obligate carnivores cats, fresh and raw meats, organs, and muscle tissue.

Designed with an attempt to replicate your cat’s ancestors’ natural diet, biologically appropriate cat food focuses on providing cats with whole prey animals.

Also known as a raw food diet, a biologically appropriate diet contains raw animal meat ingredients rather than processed foods like ground yellow corn and bone meal cooked at high temperatures. 

What is a species appropriate diet for cats?

Species appropriate and biologically appropriate diets are often used interchangeably. There’s a tiny difference between the two: species-appropriate diets don’t necessarily include raw meat in their recipes. 

As with biologically appropriate foods, most species appropriate pet foods are wet cat food. This is because most canned cat foods are closer to the nutritional profile of the prey cats eat in the wild, like mice and birds. They’re naturally low carb with moderate fat content. 

Dry foods with corn gluten meal and meat and bone meal are seldom authentically fresh. They don’t have a place in the strictest and most literal species appropriate wild diet. 

Is biologically appropriate food balanced?

Biologically appropriate cat food is balanced when you buy it from commercial pet food companies. All cat food brands on the market must supply all the vitamins, minerals, amino and fatty acids domestic cats need.

Some cat parents might think homemade cat food could be a better option than a raw diet centered around store-bought canned foods or dry food.

But, making your own food could result in nutritional deficiencies. As we explored in our article on the dangers of vegan cat food, synthetic food supplements don’t guarantee your cat will get the nutrition they need.

The pet supplement industry is unregulated and often not recognized by veterinarians or cat nutrition experts as a sensible option. 

What is a BARF diet for cats? 

We don’t mean vomit when we say the (unfortunately named) BARF diet. 

biologically appropriate raw foods

It simply means Biologically Appropriate Raw Foods. The idea behind BARFs is that because they’re crafted from whole animal ingredients, they have higher digestibility and are gentler on your cat’s intestines and digestive tract. 

Eating foods that include organ meat, muscle meat, and bones rather than meat by-products provides higher amounts of amino acids, healthy fats, and nutrients cats need to function and thrive.

Is biological appropriate cat food safe for all cats?

Just because biologically or species appropriate cat food is deliberately designed to reflect what cats will naturally eat, that doesn’t mean it’s the best for all cats.

Assuming the BARF diet is a one size fits all approach to nutrition may harm your cat in some cases. 

Veterinarian-nutritionists caution cats with certain health conditions may do better on non-raw prescription diets. Felines with weak or compromised immune systems, cancer, or who take certain medications or corticosteroid drugs like Prednisone, may face negative consequences from eating a strict BARF diet. 

Are there alternatives to the BARF diet?

If you’re hesitant about making the switch from classic commercial cat food with its cooked meats and meat meals to a raw meat diet, you’re not alone!

Some alternatives provide the same benefits. Freeze-dried and dehydrated cat food can also be biologically and species appropriate. These foods are made without high heat cooking, preserving the same nutritional value, and containing the same whole animal ingredients as more traditional raw wet food. 

How to choose biologically appropriate cat food

The best way to choose a biologically appropriate cat food for your feline friend is to recruit an expert. A veterinarian who’s also a certified animal nutritionist would be a good option. Preferably one with a focus on cats. 😉

Animal nutritionists can give you advice and insight into what foods your cat will do well on. These professionals recognize that every cat is an individual and, as such, has individual dietary needs.

If you can’t consult one right away, on your own, you can start to look around pet stores, supermarkets, and online retailers to find pet food that’s labeled complete and balanced.

Biological and species appropriate cat foods sold in stores have to have the same nutritional profile and provide all of the essential vitamins, minerals, and amino acids as other commercial cat foods.

Always scan the ingredients list to make doubly sure the food meets the definition of a biologically appropriate diet.

Takeaways on biologically appropriate cat food

The idea behind biologically appropriate and species appropriate cat food is that it provides optimal nutrition while also being highly digestible.

While you may not necessarily find canned food with fresh mice or birds on pet or grocery store shelves, these prey-inspired foods contain whole animal ingredients your cat needs to be healthy.

Raw meat, freeze-dried, and dehydrated bio appropriate cat foods are created without nutrient-depleting high heat cooking and are made to mimic the high protein and highly palatable diets cats eat in the wild.

Many domesticated cats do well on these ancestral diets, but that doesn’t mean the BARF diet is appropriate for all cats.

Before making any big changes to your cat’s food, always be sure to meet with a veterinarian-nutritionist to come up with a customized meal plan for your cat.

Felines with certain health issues or on certain medications may be harmed rather than helped by these foods, so make sure to educate yourself before overhauling your cat’s diet.

Victoria Tomis