What Do Cats Eat?

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ats are picky eaters. They know what they like and certainly don’t mind letting us know know their preferences! If you tend to buy bags or cans of cat food from your local store – how many times have you got home to feed the cat and they decide that it is just ‘not right’ for them’? So, what do cats eat? What is their ‘ideal’ food?

As we all know, just because a cat shows interest in a particular food does not mean that it’s the best for them, either. I always recommend checking the labels on your cat’s food! Be cautious about what you give them (levels of carbohydrates, fat etc.), because just like humans – what a cat enjoys eating is likely to be very different from what is the healthiest option for them. Cats need food packed with protein, vitamins and nutrients in order for them to maintain their delicate metabolism.

Finding a food with the right mix of healthiness and tastefulness can be difficult be, but your cat will only benefit from meals they love if they are also good for them.

What Should Cats Eat?

Since cats are carnivores, every cat’s diet requires some form of meat. They require protein from meat to maintain their heart, vision, reproductive systems, and overall health.

Along with protein comes taurine, a key amino acid for cats. While some mammals’ bodies can produce taurine, cats cannot, and they can only get it by consuming animal-based protein. A taurine deficiency can result in severe health problems for your feline friend, including blindness or tooth decay.

Before buying any food, make sure it exceeds the standards set by the Association of American Feed Control Officials to ensure that your cat is getting much more than the minimal nutritional needs set.

Watch out and don’t be tricked by subjective terms that cat food companies use like “premium” or “gourmet”. They don’t mean anything when it comes to your cat’s underlying health. These companies use these words to describe anything and everything that they’re trying to sell. Labels marked “complete and balanced” do actually meet AAFCO regulations.

>> Learn about the best cat foods <<

Different Kinds Of Cat Food

Commercial cat food comes in three forms: dry, moist, or wet.

Dry food, often called kibble, is unfortunately the most popular (and cheapest!) cat food available. Some dry foods are designed to promote good health for your cat’s teeth and gums, but generally it provides the least amount of nutrition. Moist food is much better for hydration and has a lot more nutrients than dry food. Wet food is usually the healthiest and most palatable for cats, but it’s often the most expensive choice. Wet food provides a good dietary source of water, but some brands of canned food may be lacking in nutrients. As always, check the label if you’re unsure.

Some people choose to create their own cat food at home, but it can be difficult/time-consuming to track whether or not your cat is getting exactly what it needs. Cats require a specific amount of vitamins and nutrients, which may be harder to figure out if you make your own cat food.

Satisfying Your Cat’s Appetite

Many brands offer a variety of flavors with both dry and wet cat food, including fish, poultry, and beef, among others. Those are simply just recreated flavors, as the nutrients cats need are in the food itself.

As mentioned, even after you find food that seems both nutritious and tasty, there’s a chance that your cat may not like it. The only way to tell is by offering some as a taste test. If your cat enjoys the food and doesn’t show signs of diarrhea or other gastrointestinal issues, you may have found your feline’s new food.

If not, you can only try again with different options. There’s no way to force your cat to eat the food you have chosen, and they are known to even go on hunger strikes if you don’t provide a worthy substitute.

The Danger Of Hunger Strikes

Serious conditions could arise if your cat goes too long without eating.

Fatty liver disease, or hepatic lipidosis (HL), is a condition caused by starvation. When a cat goes hungry, the body reacts by sending fat to its liver for processing. Other animals and humans can handle that, but for a cat, it means they aren’t receiving the necessary proteins. The fat accumulates over time and can eventually cause serious damage.

Cats can also develop anemia if they don’t eat. Anemia in cats comes from a lack of folic acid they get from their food, and it can result in reduced energy for your feline. Anemia is often a sign of other underlying illnesses, as well.

How Cats Prefer To Eat

If given the option, cats will often choose the food that is most nutritious for them. That isn’t always the case though, since a cats’ diet is determined by us (the owner!)

Domestic cats inherited the traits displayed by their ancestors in the wild. Food supply was never guaranteed, so they ate whenever they could. If cats are given unrestricted access to food, though, they tend to eat frequent small meals instead of everything at once.

Cats inherently know what’s best for them, but it’s up to us to find the foods that meet their very high standards.

Foods To Avoid Giving Your Cat

Even though cats know what they need, they can still be tempted with treats or other unhealthy foods. Sometimes we may be tempted to share our human snacks with our cats for a cute and fun bonding experience Lots of people ‘treat’ their cat human foods – some are fine, others are REALLY NOT.

Some common consumables to avoid giving your cat include:

  • Onions or garlic
  • Grapes or raisins
  • Sugary treats
  • Salt
  • Chocolate
  • Cow’s milk
  • Caffeinated drinks
  • Yeast or dough

Verdict – What Do Cats Eat?

For meals, cats will enjoy eating commercial food. If given the choice, felines prefer high-protein, low-carbohydrate meals that contribute the most to their diet.

Cats are known to be finicky eaters, so there is no exact list of foods that all cats enjoy. It may take a few different tries before your cat settles on something that they like to eat. For more practical tips, visit My Healthy Cat.

If you’re unsure of where to begin, your veterinarian should be able to make a recommendation that meets your cat’s nutritional needs, and you can go from there.

What does your cat like to eat?

About the author

Lucy Swinton

I am cat mad...I have 4 cats of my own and have looked after cats for as long as I can remember. I am passionate about healthy cat food and contribute towards this site to share my knowledge with as many people as possible. Enjoy!

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