Understanding the KatKin Nutrient Mix: What We Add and Why
Dr Justin Shmalberg
All cat foods contain some level of vitamins and minerals, but if you look closely you can find significant differences in what form they take, the amounts, and the number of individual ingredients. This can understandably cause real confusion for cat parents trying to make sense of how best to feed their feline companion.
Let’s talk first about the KatKin philosophy and how it informs the KatKin Nutrient Mix, and then expand into what you might consider when evaluating vitamin and mineral inclusions. I’ll try to do this without getting too far afield into the depths of nutritional science!
KatKin’s current recipes are formulated for all life stages, in spite of differences across the range in protein and fat. We took this approach in recognition that the stricter nutrient requirements for kittens and pregnant cats are not harmful for most adult cats, and in many cases can be beneficial to maintaining nutrient balance.
Growing, pregnant and lactating cats require higher amounts of calcium, some trace minerals, and essential vitamins due to the demand to make new tissue at a higher rate in these life stages. With some rare exceptions (namely, cats with advanced kidney disease who benefit from phosphorus restriction) any excesses will be safely excreted by the cat. In some adult cats, a higher level of nutrients may be incredibly beneficial.
Consider an overweight cat that needs a calorie restricted diet, with portion control (this can be precisely achieved with the benefit of KatKin's personalised portioning). If this cat was given less food from an average cat food, he or she may not get enough of the critical nutrients that they need. With an all life stages food, there’s an embedded safety factor which allows calories to be reduced without risking deficiency of essential nutrients.
Does this mean that all essential vitamins and minerals are added to the food? Well, from a formulation standpoint, that would have been the easy way out. Cats very rarely develop toxicity from these essential nutrients, and when they do it often takes massive amounts. So, some pet food companies will just use an “everything and the kitchen sink” approach. Kind of like not paying any attention to your diet every day but remembering to take your vitamins!
At KatKin, we have a different approach. Through careful analysis of the food we select ingredients based on what are most necessary and most beneficial in reaching our targets for specific vitamins and minerals. Most of the nutrients are provided by the food itself, and we then tailor the amount of our proprietary KatKin nutrient blend to each recipe. This approach is more technically challenging but one we feel is healthier for cats, which, at the end of the day is our driving principle.
From a regulatory standpoint, cat parents should recognise that pet food makers, no matter the type, have certain standards they have to follow. In Europe these are the European Pet Food Industry Federation (FEDIAF) guidelines. Does every cat's diet need to meet all of their criteria to survive or to thrive? Certainly not, but they are based on the best available information for the complete nutritional requirements of the average cat, and most cat foods require some supplementation to meet them (even if the ingredients are very nutrient-rich, like KatKin’s carefully selected, human-grade foods). Over time, some of these regulatory guidelines change as more information becomes available, and they are reviewed by teams of nutritionists.
At KatKin we designed our Nutrient Mix to complement our ingredients rather than the other way around. So, here is what we have included and why:
- A carefully balanced amount of calcium unique to each recipe. We use a combination of calcium carbonate and dicalcium phosphate based on the particular recipe. We might need one or the other, or a combination, to achieve the correct balance of calcium and phosphorus in a particular diet based on what is provided by the fresh meats.
- Vitamin A - cats as obligate carnivores need vitamin A in retinol form and while the organ meats are a rich source, we provide an additional safety factor.
- Vitamin B1 - this is a critical B vitamin that aids energy metabolism and cats are sensitive to deficiencies so we add an extra boost.
- Folic acid - we’ve all heard of the critical role of this nutrient in foetal development but it is equally important to a number of biochemical processes that occur on a daily basis.
- Vitamin B12 - this B-vitamin helps with a number of reactions in the body and to maintain normal red blood cells. Cats with certain conditions may benefit from excess supplementation, but all cats need adequate amounts and a safety factor has no harm.
- Vitamin D - the amount in organ meats can vary from batch to batch in ingredients and therefore we add a small amount of this critical vitamin for bone health.
- Vitamin E - this fat-soluble vitamin protects cells from oxidative damage and also is required in higher fat diets like some of those in the KatKin range.
- Zinc, Iron, Manganese, and Copper are all minerals present in the ingredients which may again vary naturally in foods. We’ve topped up our formulas with just the right amount to ensure consistency. They are critical to the production of cells, biochemical reactions, and the health of many tissues in the body.
- Iodine - this critical nutrient is necessary for thyroid hormone production, which is a regulator of metabolism. While hyperthyroidism in cats is prevalent, iodine restriction is not appropriate for all cats and would cause issues in healthy cats. We carefully monitor and control iodine levels for thyroid health.
- Taurine - taurine is an essential amino acid in cats, unlike in dogs, again due to their obligate carnivore nature. This amino acid helps with normal bile function, heart health, and vision. We have added an additional safety factor beyond the adequate amounts in the diets.
- Choline - this nutrient doesn’t get the attention it deserves but is critical for membranes of your cat’s cells, for neurotransmitters, and for moving fats around the body.
The type of vitamin or mineral form may be important as some are less digestible than others. For instance, certain forms of iron may be highly absorbed whereas others are less so. When creating a nutrient blend, many suppliers also use inactive ingredients for a variety of purposes such as preventing clumping and ensuring uniform composition in the mix. These inactive ingredients may not be labeled, and are extremely common in blends made for the pet food industry. The KatKin Nutrient Mix is carefully mixed by a human supplement manufacturer, ensuring the highest quality human-grade sources of the vitamins and minerals in absorbable forms for cats and without any unlabeled ingredients. We carefully mix concentrated vitamins and minerals into each batch of fresh food and test to ensure uniform distribution.
When thinking about nutrient blends, it’s important to recognise that research has taught us a great deal about feline nutrition, which is unique compared to many of the other pets we feed. KatKin is committed to a fusion of science and whole foods nutrition. Our aim is to deliver a consistent, fresh product with the bulk of nutrition from the best ingredients available while supplementing with only those nutrients that are needed to achieve the ideal overall diet composition and under the guidance of scientific and regulatory input.
So, rest assured that we’re always at work evaluating ingredients, nutrition blends, and the latest research and data - it’s the KatKin way.
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