If cats need to eat meat, how can insects be a source of protein for them?

If cats need to eat meat, how can insects be a source of protein for them? | Lovebug Pet Foods

This seems to be the question on everyone’s lips, and don’t get me wrong, it’s a good one!

A blog post, by Dr Rory Cowlan. 

It is absolutely right to say that cats need to eat meat to survive, as a general statement. There are even those out there that go as far to feed 100% meat diets to their cats. What we really mean when we say cats ‘need meat’ is that cats are defined as ‘Obligate Carnivores’.

Okay...big words, but what exactly do they mean?

Most of us will be familiar with carnivores. Those meat eating animals who, by definition, “derive their food and energy requirements solely from animal products.” 

Less familiar may be the term ‘obligate’, which from a biological perspective means: “Restricted to a particular condition of life. For example, those organisms that can only survive in the presence of oxygen.”

Simply put, carnivores eat meat, and ‘obligate carnivores’ are those animals for whom it is 100% necessary to eat meat in their diet. This is due to an ancestral diet in cats containing high quantities of meat. It is accepted that our feline friends, over many years, have lost the ability to form certain vitamins and amino acids due to getting high quantities through their diet. There is a list of these elements but the ones you may have heard of are:

  • Vitamin A
  • Niacin
  • Taurine
  • Arginine

These are vitamins and amino acids that cats cannot produce themselves, so we have to make sure they get them from their diet instead. A lot of ‘conventional’ foods, even those with meat in them, supplement these in cat foods to make extra sure that they are getting everything they need.

Let’s take Taurine for example. Over 40 years ago, cats were believed to be commonly afflicted with a condition called “Dilated Cardiomyopathy”(or DCM). This is essentially where the heart muscle dilates, leading to thinned walls, weak muscle contraction and essentially, death. Eventually, the tragic disease was actually found to be strongly linked to the taurine levels in cat food. This finding revolutionised pet food production and with the introduction of routine supplementation, DCM became a much, much rarer condition. 

That’s why in the pet food world the ‘obligate carnivore’ definition is so important. It means that when we are developing diets for cats, we must be extra careful to make sure there are exactly the right amounts of certain amino acids and vitamins, to make sure we don’t harm our beloved pets!

Scary stuff, huh!?

So when people started asking about Lovebug and whether it was a safe diet for cats, we COMPLETELY understood people's worries! After all, insects and meat are two different things, right?

Well, actually, wrong…

Insects are part of the animal kingdom too. As such, they are a great source of lean protein and bring many of the benefits of the more ‘normal’ meat sources, and even some added extras! After a lot of very clever people started analysing black soldier fly larvae, they realised that the amino acid profile in these guys is fantastic. Not only are there really high levels of some essential nutrients in these larvae, but they also have loads of other benefits – like being low in fat and using up to 80% less land, per kilo of protein, than beef.

Lovebug harnesses the nutritional richness of these insects to produce a kibble that is perfectly balanced for your cat. And although the insects themselves are packed full of goodness, like a lot of other foods, we add some extra essentials such as taurine and arginine to ensure it tastes great and delivers everything cats need in a meal.

So no, our favourite little ‘obligate carnivores’ aren’t missing out on their biological need for meat by eating insects with Lovebug. Instead they’re getting a complete, nutrient rich food that tastes great, and is good for them and for the planet. Of course, my advice will always be to consult your vet before making any changes to your cat’s diet, whether to insects or any other pet food. It’s all part of being a good pet parent!

However, the innovation of foods like Lovebug is offering us a chance as pet parents to make new choices, more sustainable choices, where cats can enjoy a nutritionally complete meal, which tastes great, whilst also helping to make a positive change for the planet.