Pets are part of our family, but that doesn’t mean they can live large on the same calorie-rich foods humans do.

A cat’s diet should be especially well balanced because cats are obligate carnivores, which means their nutritional needs are best met by animal proteins. Even animals raised for food are not subjected to the cramped, unsanitary conditions in which the majority of pet food animals are raised. They are not given growth hormones or antibiotics, either.

The best way to ensure your cat gets enough protein is to feed her a diet that contains at least 30 percent animal-based proteins. Protein requirements for dogs are less rigid, but most dog foods contain between 10 and 30 percent protein.

“In general, the diet of a cat should be about 60 percent animal-based proteins and 40 percent fats from vegetables,” says Dr. Oscar E Chavez , a board-certified veterinary nutrition specialist at the University of California-Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. “Cats need a large amount of energy in their diets in order to be in good condition. Otherwise, they will not only become malnourished but also overweight.”

Many cats can’t digest grains well and this causes a loss in nutrients in the body that prevents your pet from remaining energetic. Cats’ natural diet does not consist of carbohydrates or fiber, which means they don’t process these foods easily.

As a result, the majority of carbohydrates in cat food should come from vegetables and not grains. Cats can’t ferment fiber like humans do so they shouldn’t eat many fruits because these foods contain high amounts of sugar.

“Feeding your pet anything other than meat may cause nutritional secondary hyperparathyroidism,” says Dr Chavez . “This is a condition that occurs when the body tries to compensate for the lack of calcium by taking it from bones.”

Cats can’t make vitamin C on their own therefore pet owners need to ensure they will get enough of this nutrient in their diet. The best way to do so is with meat and fish, which are high in ascorbic acid. If you can’t provide a diet with enough ascorbic acid, your pet might develop scurvy and may be more prone to infections.

Your cat’s teeth should show some scuffing and staining on them at the very least because this is not only normal but also happens when pets eat dry food, which is more natural for them. In fact, dry food is the only type that doesn’t stick on a cat’s teeth and cause plaque accumulation.

Cats can’t digest fat well so too much of this substance may lead to obesity and heart conditions. Animal-based fats are better for your pet than plant-based fats because these latter ones promote inflammation.

Most cat owners know they need to give their pets a balanced diet, but cats’ nutritional needs are much different from dogs’ and you might not be providing them with what they actually need. Cats can’t digest fiber well, for example, so if you feed your pet mostly plant-based foods it may become malnourished because of the lack of proteins, fat and minerals.

Cats require a lot of energy and protein in their diet and this is difficult to achieve if you feed them only dry food because they need water to dissolve this type of kibble. Cats can’t acquire vitamin C on their own so it’s important for pet owners to make sure they get enough of this nutrient in their diet and with animal-based proteins and fat.