What Kind Of Food Can Cats Eat?

Cats should be eating a high-quality cat food for regular meals (check for the Association of American Feed Control Officials claim on the label).

Cats can eat canned wet foods that are high in protein, low fat and low carbohydrates.

If you give them food that’s meant for people, talk to your vet about what and how often you should add to his diet.

I would advise just to not give your cat any “human” food.

So, let’s get into it…

Setting The Stage For What Cats Can Eat

An important part of owning any pet is ensuring they get the proper diet for their needs.

If a cat is in a natural setting, it must have meat in order to get all the proper nutrients.  

In a household setting, a cat is still an obligate carnivore, and its nutritional needs do not change.

However:

With the addition of certain supplements to take the place of ones found only in meat, a cat can live on a plant based diet.   

Most experts agree, however, that it’s best to use commercial cat food for the bulk of your pet’s diet, and then use some human foods for treats.

Below Dr. Karen Becker from Health Pets talks about her tips on the best-to-worst types of pet food:

 

What About the Commercial Cat Food Controversy?

Over the years, a lot of debate has arisen over commercial pet food ingredients.  

While some matters may be settled, others are still affecting pet food recipes and your cat’s health.   

As a case in point, the rise in struvite urinary stones led to the adjustment of commercial cat food formularies to include lower magnesium and lower pH levels.  

This, in turn, seems to have led to an increase in calcium oxalate urinary stones.  

Today, there are both prescription and non-prescription cat foods for urinary health that have even lower magnesium levels.  

There is considerable controversy over whether these foods are safe in the long term because the decrease in magnesium creates other health problems. 

cat eating a piece of raw meat

Many cat nutritional experts claim you must use commercial cat foods because this is the only way to guarantee your cat gets enough taurine (an amino acid cats must have in their diet).  

If you stop and think about this claim, you will soon realize it may be wrong because cat food ultimately comes from the same place as human food.  

In fact:

All the processing used to create commercial cat food actually leads to a situation where the manufacturer has to add taurine back into the mix.

In the absence of these foods, to get the right amount of taurine:

  • Choose foods like shellfish or dark turkey and chicken that are high in easily digestible taurine
  • Be aware of fiber fillers and other foods like rice bran that inhibit taurine uptake.  (This is also very important when evaluating commercial cat food because high levels of fiber will still make it hard for your cat’s body to take in the taurine present in the food.)

In reality, your cat has as many complex nutritional needs as you do.  

Each cat also has a unique health profile, just as you do.

Learning more about which human foods are good for cats can make it easier to choose a diet and treats that will increase the chance your pet will live a long, healthy life.  

Healthiest Diet For Your Cat Study:

Interesting Study By Journal Of Experimental Biology < click here for nerdy details.

I saw this study from an article by Dr. Becker on the HuffPost highlighting the most interesting parts.

The study was conducted to determine if adult domesticated cats, given a choice, would deliberately select food that is biologically appropriate for them (similar to the prey they would hunt and eat if they lived in the wild).

One thing that stood out to me was the fact that “cats and carbs” don’t mix!

Fascinating Results

• Given the option, the cats exclusively chose high-protein food over high-carb food even when there was less of the high-protein food available.

• Cats offered a choice of three foods with variable amounts of protein, carbs and fat mixed them to achieve a daily intake as follows:

100 calories or 52 percent from protein 
67 calories or 35 percent from fat 
24 calories or 12.5 percent from carbs

• When the cats were restricted to a high-carbohydrate food, they did not eat enough of it to get the targeted amount of protein (52 percent).

• Experienced cats eating dry food increased their protein intake and ate fewer carbohydrates than naïve cats offered the same choices. This indicates that given the option, cats learn to avoid eating excessive amounts of carbs.

Again take a look at her article if you want to dig deeper. I’m just trying to inform you here about the best foods to give your cat.

What About Treats For Cats?

A food formulated to meet the requirements established by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) will provide your cat with all the nutrients it needs.

However, everyone loves treats and we should make sure our pets get them in moderation.  

cat eating an ice cream treat

In general, try to avoid dairy because adult cats are lactose intolerant and may get nausea and diarrhea.   

Foods Cats Can Eat/Food Cats Can’t Eat:

Here are some common food types to either consider or avoid:

✔ Chocolate:

In medium to large amounts, chocolate is poisonous to cats.

Darker chocolate is more dangerous than milk chocolate and your cat’s weight/overall health can also have an impact on whether even a small amount of chocolate will prove lethal.

✔ Peanut Butter:

Since cats love foods that have a strong smell and taste, don’t be surprised if your cat wants peanut butter.  

This particular legume will not kill your cat, however it can upset your cat’s stomach and cause vomiting.

Limit to once a week.

✔ Eggs

Whole eggs are perfectly safe for your cat to eat as long as they are cooked.  

If you aren’t concerned about bacterial diseases, you can also feed your cat raw egg yolks, but do not use the white because it contains an ingredient that inhibits B7 uptake.

✔ Coconut Oil

Many vets agree that coconut oil can help reduce hairballs and may have other health benefits for cats.

Since many cats enjoy the taste of coconut oil it can also be used as a treat in moderation.  

This oil, however, is still high in fats and can cause diarrhea and pancreatic inflammation.

It is also best to  avoid other oily and fatty foods   such as sausage, pancetta, and bacon.

✔ Garlic and Onion

Garlic is more poisonous to cats than onions.

It is best to limit your cat’s exposure to both.

This includes as flavorings to human foods you may offer as a treat.  

Since many food include broths and gravies that feature garlic or onion, they should never be fed to cats.

While some people claim that feeding cats garlic can also be used to get rid of fleas, it is very dangerous.  

✔ Raw Meat

When your cat catches a mouse, bird, or insect, they don’t cook it before eating it.  

Since your cat evolved in a natural setting, it also has the stomach acid and immune system to safely handle most pathogens found in these meats.  

Your cat also has natural instincts for specific prey that indicate if it is safe to eat or not.

On the other hand, meat and fish used for human consumption have different kinds of bacteria.  

Since these foods are not native to your cat’s diet, he/she may not be able to make a determination based on scent, and will have to rely on your judgment.

It is best to cook these foods for your cat first and also remove the bones.

✔ Cooked Meat

If you are determined to home cook for your cat, cooked meat will form the bulk of your cat’s diet.  

Work with a veterinarian that will help you choose the right foods as a baseline, and then perform blood work and urine tests to make sure your cat is getting the right balance of nutrients.  

✔ Fruits and Vegetables

Since your cat’s tongue does not have receptors for detecting sweetness, your cat may or may not want a lot of plant based foods.  

That being said:

Your cat still needs some carbohydrate and sugar in their diet.  

  • Watermelon (must remove the seeds)
  • Pumpkin
  • Peas
  • Cucumber

… are all safe for your cat to eat.  

As long as you cook white potatoes and remove the skin, it is also safe to use a few times a week.  

Woman sharing pie with cat

Here are some other edibles that you should NEVER give to your cat:

⭕ Raw dough

Even though your cat enjoy a small amount of baked bread, spaghetti, or crackers, they should never consume raw dough.  

Bread, cake, and cookie dough can all expand in your cat’s digestive tract and cause a life threatening blockage

⭕ Grapes

(Banfield Pet Hospital has a great article on why you shouldn’t feed grapes to your pets)

Anything with added sugar or salt should all be avoided:

  1. Candy
  2. Gum 
  3. Chips
  4. Fast food (basically what we consider “junk food” is junk for cats too.
  5. No soda
  6. Sports drinks
  7. Alcohol
  8. Juice
  9. Tea
  10. Coffee
  11. Houseplants – (see ASPCA’s list of toxic and non-toxic plants.)

When you bring a cat into your life, you have a responsibility to make sure that it has proper nutrition.  

Today, many people are becoming curious about using foods for human consumption either as a complete diet, or as treats for cats.

If you choose to try these kinds of foods, work closely with your veterinarian so that your cat has a chance to flourish and enjoy a healthy diet.

Additional Resources:

For more information on foods that your cat can eat, see: Safe, Healthy People Foods Your Cat Can Eat

Written/Edited By: Annie Jacobs:

“I was literally born with a cat in the cradle. Over the years, I have rescued, taken in, and fostered dozens of cats of all ages, shapes and sizes. From nursing newborn kittens to taking care of cats with cancer and kidney failure, I have never lost my sense of awe at the feline mind and spirit. It is my hope to share what I have learned over decades of sharing my life and home with cats so that others can benefit from it.”

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