What should I feed my cat and what should they avoid?
As they are strict carnivores, cats should eat a meat-based diet, but that doesn’t mean they can live off of your leftover chicken.
In addition to lots of protein, they also need the right balance of vitamins and minerals to keep them happy and healthy.
To ensure your moggy gets all the nutrients they need, it’s best to feed them a commercially complete cat food that will have been specially formulated to meet their dietary requirements.
Your local pet store or supermarket will have lots of varieties to choose from, just make sure it says it’s a ‘complete’ cat food on the label.
Wet vs dry cat food
Complete cat food comes in the form of wet food (tins or pouches of meaty chunks in jelly) or dry food (bags of meaty kibble). You can feed your cat one or the other, or a mixture of both, as they each have their benefits:
- wet food has a high water content that can help to ensure your cat is getting enough fluids. This is particularly useful if your cat has a medical condition requiring them to drink lots of water
- dry food can be good for oral health as chewing on the kibble can help clean your cat’s teeth. It’s also ideal for putting in puzzle feeders that will encourage your cat to exercise while they eat and keep them from getting bored.
How much should my cat eat?
Cats have evolved to eat little and often so ideally their daily food ration should be divided into at least five portions and fed to them throughout the day.
To find out how much to give them, follow the advice on the food packet, but monitor their weight closely and speak to your vet if you notice either an increase or decrease in body weight and condition.
It’s okay to give your moggy the occasional tasty treat. There are lots of cat food treats available, or you could give them a piece of well-cooked chicken or fish. You could even have a go at making your own cat treats.
However, it’s important to remember that these will not contain all of the nutrients your cat needs, so should only be given alongside a complete cat food.
Too many treats can also lead to weight gain, so when treating your cat it’s best to set aside a small portion of their regular food so that you are not adding calories to their daily ration.
Foods your cat should avoid eating
If you do decide to treat your cat, here are some items that should not be on the menu:
Although cats feed on their mother’s milk as kittens, when they’re weaned they lose the ability to digest it properly and become lactose-intolerant. Therefore, eating dairy products such as milk and cheese is likely to give them an upset stomach. Cat milk also contains a lot of calories, so could cause your puss to pile on the pounds.
It may be a tasty treat for us, but chocolate is lethal for cats. It contains a substance called theobromine which is toxic for both dogs and cats and even in small amounts can cause heart problems, seizures and even death.
While most cats would happily eat a raw food diet, it can pose many problems. Firstly, raw meat contains bacteria and parasites that could make the cat, and the owner preparing the food, ill. Secondly, many raw food diets do not contain sufficient nutrients to keep your cat healthy.
Garlic and onions
A common cat myth is that feeding them garlic will help get rid of parasites such as fleas and worms. In fact, garlic and onions are very harmful to cats and even small amounts can lead them to develop life-threatening anaemia. You’re much better off dealing with parasites using treatments prescribed by your vet.
Liver is high in vitamin A and can make your cat seriously ill if they eat it too frequently. If you do give your cat liver, make sure they do not have it more than once a week.
Tuna that is specially formulated as a cat food is fine to feed your moggy, but tuna meant for human consumption is best avoided as it can cause digestive upsets.
Dogs and cats have very different dietary needs, as dogs are omnivores while cats are carnivores. Therefore, dog food will not contain enough meat-based protein or the right vitamins and minerals to keep your cat healthy and so should not be given as a substitute for cat food.
Newborn kittens need milk, but when they're older it can make them ill
What should your cat drink?
The only thing your cat needs to quench their thirst is water and it’s important that they have access to a fresh, clean supply at all times.
You can find more tips on keeping your moggy hydrated here.
If you have any concerns about your cat’s health or diet, speak to your vet for tailored advice.
You can also find lots more general cat diet advice on our website.