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What does a cat eat?

Grey cat eating dry food advice
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Understanding your cat's needs is vital for their long-term health and wellbeing. And there's no better place to start than their diet. So let's have a look at what cats eat.

By Ashley Murphy

A high-quality cat diet needs to have the right balance of essential nutrients, including proteins, fatty acids, and even a few good carbs from foods like brown rice. Today's cat owners have lots of options when it comes to feeding their beloved pets. You can opt for high-quality cat food brands or dry food. Alternatively, you can mix up their diet with some feline friendly human food; You can even include small amounts of their favourite sweet treats

What does a cat eat? 

Cats are obligate carnivores, which means they get most of their nutrition from high-protein meat sources. In fact, meat is a biological necessity for the feline digestive system. A cat can consume many other food sources, but they won't survive for very long without enough protein. 

Other obligate carnivores include some of your kitty's biggest relatives like jungle cats and lions. Unlike herbivores or omnivores, these cats don't have the ability to produce amino acids and other essential nutrients. Instead, they get everything they need from meat and other animal parts. For example, all cats need arginine, which is found in animal flesh. They also require vitamin A in a preformed state, so they ingest it directly from the animals they consume.

Mother nature doing her job

After thousands of years of a meat only diet, cats have developed a digestive system specially designed to process meat. They have one of the shortest digestive tracts of any mammal. This means the meat gets through their system quickly and efficiently. It also saves valuable energy. You don't need to have a complex, high-calorie burning digestive system if you only eat one type of foodstuff.

An important source of energy

Humans get most of their energy from fats and carbohydrates. The body breaks these down into glucose which fuels the human body. But cats do it differently. They use protein as a main energy source. This highlights just how important meat is for cats.

The best sources of protein

A cat’s diet should be built upon natural,  animal-based protein like chicken, beef, and turkey. In fact, almost all cat food is made from a combination of meat and offal.

If you're thinking about switching to a home-cooked cat diet, then make sure you stick to these essential protein sources. And never feed your cat uncooked meat. Cooking meat releases much of its nutritional value; it also kills off bacteria that can lead to food poisoning and even parasites.

Other sources of good protein include: 

  • Salmon
  • Trout
  • Herring
  • Mackerel
  • Cooked eggs (never feed them raw eggs or raw meat!)

Make sure all of these foods are cooked properly before serving. When preparing fish, remove all of the bones so your cat won’t swallow any by accident. Fish can be good for cats, but only in moderation. Generally speaking, it shouldn't make up more than 10% of their diet. Any more than that and they may develop nutritional deficiencies and other related health issues.

What else can my cat eat?

Cats can also eat grains, vegetables, and fruit. Whether they will or not is a completely different matter! Cats are fussy eaters with very unique tastes and needs. Some will enjoy a bit of vairy to their diet. Others will partial to the odd l cat treat. And then some cats will only eat meat or meat-based cat food. 

If you're thinking about changing your cat's diet,   then you need to know what foods to stay away from. Remember, fish is OK, but only in the right amounts. Things to avoid include onions, chives and garlic. Most cats will have a bad reaction to mushrooms and tomatoes, but the biggest no-no is chocolate. Even a small amount of chocolate can be toxic for your cat; the consequences can be very serious, and even fatal. Remember: avoid feeding your cat chocolate!

How much food does my cat need? 

This really depends on the cat. Factors like age, health, and size, will affect how much food they need per day. But generally speaking, an average sized cat needs about 250-300 calories per day. You can feed them once a day, or split their food into smaller meals throughout the day.  But try to avoid free-feeding. This is when owners keep the cats bowl full at all times, allowing the cat to decide how much it wants to eat and when. This is convenient for owners, but it can also contribute to feline obesity.

 

Cats are born meat eaters, and even our domesticated felines need lots of protein. So whatever you decide to feed your cat, make sure their diet is based on natural meats high in protein. It's essential for their early development and long-term wellbeing.