Cat and a food bowl

Nutrition for Dogs and Cats

A balanced diet is a key component to the welfare of a pet

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Feeding your pet in a good way

A balanced and species-appropriate diet is one of the key factors to a pet's welfare. Responsible pet owners are aware of this and pay attention to good (high-quality) food that contains all essential nutrients their dog or cat needs.

Keeping your pet healthy and happy through nutrition

Whether you are a dog or a cat owner, each animal species requires a specific nutrient profile at different stages of its life (e.g., young, adult, pregnant, lactating or old animals). A responsible pet owner will ensure that their pet is given an appropriate diet for their different life stage. This means that dogs and cats need to get all necessary nutrients such as proteins, amino acids (e.g., taurine), vitamins (e.g., various vitamins as vitamin A, B, K, D and E), minerals (e.g., calcium, iron, zinc, iodine and copper), and certain fats in sufficient quantities. 'Sufficient' and 'appropriate' represent 'not too much' but also 'not too little', because both imbalances can make an animal sick. Pet owners who want to prepare their pets’ food themselves face a major challenge in this regard and should do so only with the help of veterinarians who are specialized in animal nutrition. Anyone who feels overwhelmed with this, should seek high-quality ready-made pet food from companies whose products are composed based on recognized nutritional guidelines for pets (and disclose them in the product description).

Development over the years

Pet owners love their pets because they bring a variety of benefits to them, including companionship and a positive impact on their physical as well as mental health. Many owners' love for their pets is reflected, among other things, in how they are fed: pets no longer just get the leftovers from the table/daily human food or meal preparation. In 1860, the first commercially manufactured pet food appeared: a dog biscuit produced from meat, vegetables, and beets. In the 1930s, canned cat food was introduced, and later dry cat food. With an increasing trend, the special diet of pets became more and more prominent. We can now offer our dogs and cats dry and wet food, as well as special diet food for different life stages and situations i.e., illnesses or weight problems. Additionally, some pets are fed "BARFed" (i.e., feed Biologically Appropriate Raw Food) or fed vegetarian or vegan diets.

What's behind the choice?

Behind every form of feeding is a necessity or an ethical choice – necessity comes into play when the diet should have a positive influence on the health of the animal; ethics when it comes to the welfare of 'farm animals' that are slaughtered to feed our pets.

The 3Rs Principle

Regarding human nutrition, FOUR PAWS promotes the so called 3R’s: Reducing the consumption of meat and other animal-based products, refining one’s diet by choosing products from facilities with certified high animal welfare standards, and ultimately, replacing animal-based products with plant-based alternatives. The 3R’s can in some ways also be applied to feeding pets. But reducing the consumption of meat is only possible for dogs and not cats. Dogs are omnivores and can eat both meat and vegetables. Dogs are capable of being on a vegetarian or even vegan diet, if vital nutritional supplements are added. In contrast cats as carnivores are not suited to a vegetarian or vegan diet as they require animal protein to stay healthy. Each of the different pet feeding types must be carefully considered, and ultimately, the nutritional needs of pets must have the top priority.

Learn More

In order to shed a light on the vast area of pet nutrition, FOUR PAWS has produced the following guides on different dietary considerations and the different type of diets available for dogs and cats.


Food Allergies in Pets

Common symptoms and how you can help your pet

Fruits and vegetables

The Barf-Diet

A raw food diet needs to be tailored to your pet


Vegetarian and Vegan Diet for Pets

What you need to consider for dogs and cats 


Climate Change and the Diet of Our Pets

Conscious pet feeding can have a positive effect on the climate 

Dog looking at food

Feeding Your Dog Properly

Important points regarding a healthy nutrition for dogs 

Cat eating

Feeding Your Cat Properly

Important points regarding healthy nutrition for cats 


See More of Our Guides for Responsible Pet Owners


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