What Do Cats Eat?

Cats can be quite tricky when it comes to food with some happily eating anything and others turning their noses up at everything. Read our article on what cats should eat and what they need in their diet to ensure they’re healthy and happy.
Cat eating
Cat eating
Cat eating

Some cats can be finicky eaters, sticking their nose up at foods that don’t satisfy their taste buds, whereas others will happily gobble down the same dish day after day. Each cat is unique in their preference and it’s important to understand what cats like to eat to ensure that they’re getting all the nutrients they need to thrive.

Whether you’re new to feline parenthood or a seasoned cat lover, there’s a lot to know about what cats like in their diet and the notorious question – are cats carnivores or can they survive on a vegetarian or vegan diet?

Are cats carnivores?

Cats are obligate carnivores. They gain essential amino acids from animal protein and these are vital to their health. Cats can develop complications even after one or two days without these amino acids in their diet. High quality complete cat foods should be fed as these will contain the right balance of nutrients for your cat, including high protein levels.

cat with a bowl of food

What about vegetarian or vegan diets?

You should never feed your cat a home-made vegetarian or vegan diet, although there are some commercial options available which have artificial versions of the essential nutrients. However, there are no natural veggie or vegan diets suitable.

What do cats eat?

Domesticated cats should eat a good quality, commercial cat food that’s appropriate to their lifestyle, age and health. Currently, there are three main groups of cat food on the market:

  • Wet food: this will generally come in tins or pouches and includes pâté‎, or meat chunks in gravy or jelly. Wet food is often recommended if your cat doesn’t tend to drink much especially if they have kidney disease.

  • Dry food: dry food is often referred to as kibble and may be designed to promote good oral health. It is also easy to weigh out portion-size at mealtimes.

  • Complementary food: this category tends to encompass treats and will not be a complete and balanced diet in itself. Food in this category is only designed to be fed alongside your cat’s diet and should never be given as a whole meal

If you’re unsure about whether a wet or dry diet will best suit your cat, we recommend speaking to your vet as they’ll be able to discuss the available options. Pet owners often feed cats a combination of both.

What do cats like to eat?

There are certain foods that cats like to eat that can be suitable as a treat alongside a complete and balanced diet. However, these should always be cooked properly and given in moderation:

  • Salmon

  • Trout

  • Herring

  • Mackerel

  • Whitefish

  • Chicken

  • Turkey

  • Pheasant

  • Beef

owner giving the cat a bowl of food

All of the above should only be given as a treat for your cat and should never be fed in place of a suitable complete diet. Fish in particular contains high levels of fatty acids and feeding too much can lead to a vitamin E deficiency. Always ensure that there are no small bones present.

What do cats look for in their food?

There are three main components your cat will look for in their food: odour, taste and texture. There is a huge amount of individual variation in what cats enjoy and find palatable. Cats can also be neophobic or neophilic. Neophobia is a fear of new things, and these cats will really dislike trying new diets. They may prefer to be fed food that is similar to what they were given as a young kitten. Neophilic cats like new things and will be happier with a variety of flavours and textures in their diet. A cat may have a preference for meat flavours rather than fish flavours, or the other way around. They may also have a preference for wet or dry food, although many cats enjoy access to both at meal times.

Watch our video ‘what do cats like to eat?’ to find out more about how the Purina team create high-quality cat food that your cat’s sure to love.

Whether your cat enjoys wet or dry food (or a bit of both!) there are a number of things they look for at mealtimes. Find out how they decide what food is yummy with our video guide.

Looking to find out what you cat can’t eat? Read our guide on harmful foods for cats next and discover what you should be leaving out of your feline’s diet.

 

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If you’d like more information on what cats look for in their food, or if you have any other queries, contact our PETCARE EXPERT TEAM