Grey cat eating out of a food bowl

Your cat's diet affects her overall health, and understanding what cats eat can help you choose the right food for your particular feline. 

What Do Cats Eat? 

Cats need protein in their diets, and there are plenty of appropriate protein sources to appeal to even the most finicky felines. Some common protein-rich meats found in cat food include:

  • Beef
  • Chicken
  • Salmon
  • Tuna
  • Whitefish
  • Pheasant
  • Turkey
  • Herring
  • Mackerel

What Should You Feed a Cat?

The healthiest food for your cat is a commercially prepared, fully balanced cat food that has all of the essential nutrients your feline friend requires. Purina offers a wide range of cat food options, including grain-free foods, kitten foods and foods designed for senior cats.

Are Cats Omnivores or Carnivores?

Cats are obligate carnivores, which means that they require meat to stay healthy. Meat contains essential amino acids that cats require, and going even a few days without these amino acids can cause significant health problems.

While at least part of their diet has to come from meat, cats also often enjoy some plant-based foods included with their protein. Cat food often contains grains, fruits or vegetables in addition to meat. These boost the flavour of the food and add extra nutrition to your cat's diet.

Can Cats Eat a Vegetarian Diet?

Because of their requirement for amino acids found only in meat, cats can't survive on a strict vegan or vegetarian diet. Some commercial vegetarian cat foods have synthetic versions of these amino acids, but homemade vegetarian diets aren't suitable for cats.

What Can Cats Eat in Addition to Cat Food?

You can feed your cat treats in addition to her regular meals. Offering packaged cat treats or a small sample of cooked fish or meat to your cat on occasion is fine in moderation. If you offer your cat meat or fish, be careful to check for small bones beforehand. Avoid giving your cat too many cat treats, since overfeeding could lead to health problems. One particular treat to be wary of is fish since giving your cat too much fish could lead to a vitamin E deficiency.

What Do Cats Like to Eat?

Some cats like eating things you wouldn't necessarily think of as a cat treat. You can safely offer your cat a small piece of melon, a blueberry or a piece of egg and see if that appeals to her.

What Types of Cat Food Are Available?

There are plenty of cat food options, and the right one depends on your cat's age, physical condition and individual preferences. The main two types of cat food are wet and dry foods.

Dry foods help keep your cat's teeth healthy and can be weighed out into specific portion sizes to help keep your cat at her optimal weight.

Wet foods come in cans or pouches and can be in a variety of forms, such as pâté or chunks of meat in gravy. Cats who don't drink much water can get extra moisture from wet food, and veterinarians sometimes recommend wet food for cats with kidney disease.

Many pet owners feed their cat companions a combination of wet and dry along with occasional treats. Just make sure that whatever you feed your cat during regular meals is complete and nutritionally balanced for feline health.

How Can I Deal With a Picky Eater?

If your feline tends to get finicky when served something that's not quite up to her standards, there are some tricks you can use to get her interested in the food you've provided. One big reason cats get picky about food is because they find it boring. Liven up your cat's meal by serving her a small amount of wet food along with her regular allotment of dry food. Wet food tends to have a stronger scent and taste than dry food, and the variety of wet food flavours lets you easily change up what she gets from day to day.

Do Cats Need a Feeding Routine?

Cats can generally graze on dry food throughout the day, but they also adapt easily to feeding routines. If your pet is overweight, a regular feeding routine can help you monitor how much she's eating. You can measure out the precise amount of dry or wet food you give her and limit her intake to the exact amount she needs.

Can You Leave Cat Food Out All the Time?

If your cat is a healthy weight, it's fine to leave dry food out all day for her to snack whenever she wants. Avoid leaving wet food in her bowl for long periods of time, though. Wet food can spoil if she doesn't eat it all, so make sure to clear away any leftovers before refilling her bowl with dry food.

What Attracts Cats to Specific Foods?

Cat food preferences are individual, but most cats approach a new food in the same way. If you've given her a new flavour or style of food, she will probably investigate it by sniffing it first. Her decision on whether the scent is appealing or unappealing helps her decide if she should take a bite. After the food passes that first scent test, a cat often takes just a small lick or bite to check the taste before deciding whether to eat a whole piece. Once the piece of food is in your cat's mouth, she might chew a bit to determine whether she likes the texture before continuing to eat the rest of what you've put in her bowl.

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