Cats as Carnivorous Predators
Throughout the course of evolution the cats ability to survive in the wild has become extremely dependent upon its hunting ability. In order for feral, or undomesticated, cats to survive on their own in the wild they have developed hereditary traits and instincts from their ancestors throughout time. Though these hereditary traits that they have inherited are helpful for undomesticated cats, they can often cause problems when domesticated house cats revert back to the ways of their ancestors, often influencing the ways that cats kept as pets are managed. Cats are carnivorous predators and pet owners must accommodate this lifestyle by feeding them a meat-based diet with high protein, providing them with a play outlet to avoid predatory aggression, as well as keeping them inside or monitoring their activities while outside to avoid the unnecessary killing of birds or any other type of animal.
As carnivorous predators, cats require a high protein, meat-based diet. The need for a meat-based diet is essential because the meat is often high in not only proteins and calories, but it also has a great deal of amino acids, especially taurine, which is important in the development of eye sight. Pet owners must be aware that the protein requirement for maximal growth for kittens is 24 % when the diet exceeds all of the essential amino acid requirements (Journal of Nutrition, High Dietary Protein and Taurine pg.2228). Carnivores need this amount of protein at a young age to build muscle for hunting and to keep them well nourished.
The diet of the cat is based on development and they should be fed according to their stage of development towards an adult cat. In the wild, cats eat just about anything they can get their paws on; rats, mice, birds, and reptiles. Kittens have a need for higher levels of protein and calories for proper development until they reach the age of 18 months, when the levels of protein drop to just the right amount of protein to sustain themselves. Another reason why cats need to have a healthy meat-based diet is because they have a shorter digestive system than most omnivores and herbivores. They have to absorb more nutrients in a shorter amount of time, thus the need for a lot of protein because they have a very short time to digest it.
Being a carnivorous predator, the cat needs some sort of play outlet besides its usual habitat or the owner may become the object of play predatory aggression. All animals need stimulation of some kind to guard against boredom. The inquisitive nature of the cat causes them to often times become destructive reverting back to ancestral behaviors in search of attention. Once the cat receives the attention that it desires they often times will continue to display the traits of a predator and stalk its owner like prey and bite or attempt to tackle anything that moves. There are many ways to keep a house cat from reverting to its predatory instincts such as; providing the cat with play toys, squirting that cat with water whenever it makes an attack, as well as getting a second cat to keep each other company.
A third and final challenge in owning a carnivorous predator is the fact that owners must often consider keeping the cats inside in an effort to avoid the unnecessary killing of birds, rodents, reptiles, and other small mammals. Contrary to what seems like common-sense-that a cat with a full belly has no reason to hunt-the evidence is overwhelming that even contented well-cared-for house cats are often instinctive, prodigiously effective predators (Luoma, Audubon: Catfight. pg.86). Cats hunt as a survival mechanism. Through evolution the cats ability to survive depended upon its hunting ability. The cats hereditary instincts are a major factor in the reason why cats are often willing to kill, even on a full stomach. As an attempt to decrease the number of deaths that cats cause in the population of rodents, reptiles, birds, and other mammals, cat owners should try to keep their pets inside and monitor their activities while they are outside or in play outlets because, roaming cats in general-including friendly house-hold tabby-cumulatively do far more damage to wildlife, birds, small mammals, and reptiles than anyone ever expected (Luoma, Audubon: Catfight. pg.86).
Pet owners must accommodate the lifestyle of their cat as a carnivorous predator. A meat-based diet will give the cat high proteins, calories, as well as a good amount of amino acids to help the cat through the stages of development and keep the cat well nourished and healthy. A play outlet is essential for keeping the cat busy and helps keep cats out of mischief and avoids misdirected predatory aggression from the cat to the owner. Also, cat owners must be aware of the activities of their pet while the cat is outside or in play outlets to avoid the meaningless killing of unneeded prey in birds, rodents, reptiles, and other small mammals. Keeping carnivorous predators as pets can often times be difficult and time consuming but with the correct managerial tactics, keeping a cat as a pet is very low maintenance.