What can cats eat? A guide to what you can- and CAN’T- feed your feline friend, along with a helpful printable list of treats.
Cats have been our companions since ancient times, and though they have evolved to live a softer life alongside us, they have not forgotten the fierce predators that they once were. Their digestive systems, however, tell a different story. After a few thousand years of human domestication (and less than two centuries of eating commercially produced cat food), these majestic creatures have evolved delicate digestive tracts that need to be catered to with a strict diet.
Read on to learn more about what the modern day cat can (and can’t) eat.
What Can Cats Eat?
Dry Cat Food
Dry cat food is an overwhelming favorite among cat owners for a few reasons: it’s the most convenient option and their cat seems to enjoy it. It’s also the most widely available form of feed made for our feline friends. Not all brands of cat food are made with cat-friendly ingredients, however, and there’s more bad than good on supermarket shelves.
When looking for high-quality cat food for your high-quality cat, the first thing you should do is check the ingredients list. Cats are naturally carnivorous, so the first ingredient on the list should be a specific source of protein. A mystery meat blend is enough of a red flag that you should put down the bag and walk away. If, however, you check the bag and it lists turkey, chicken, salmon, beef, lamb, etc, as the first ingredient, you’re off to a good start!
Other important ingredients in a dry cat food are complex carbohydrates (think sweet potato, peas, rice), high-quality fats, added vitamins, and taurine. Taurine is an amino acid that has been found to be crucial in feline eye and heart health.
Keep an eye out for filler ingredients. Grains are an especially popular source of cheap filler in many cat foods, and one they can’t digest properly. Ingredients like corn, soy, and wheat should be kept to a minimum, if not avoided entirely.
To quickly assess whether or not a cat food is up to par, check for a statement of compliance to the American Association of Feed Control Officials guidelines. AAFCO maintains strict guidelines for balanced pet nutrition, making it easy to tell the junk foods from the more wholesome brands at a glance.
Wet Cat Food
Wet cat food, fed alone or in combination with dry kibble, is a great option for your cat’s primary feed. If you follow the same guidelines listed above, you’ll reap all the same benefits of the balanced diet that dry food offers, but with the added benefit of supplying all the hydration your cat needs. Cats in the wild fulfill a majority of their daily water requirements with moisture from the prey they catch throughout the day. Many house cats may not drink water on their own and keeping them hydrated is important to carry out their bodily functions.
Though canned food is often more expensive than dry kitty food, many cat owners find it well worth it (and for some, it’s necessary as their feline can’t or won’t eat dry food regularly). You will also have to set aside extra room for storage and make room in your fridge should you need to save an open can for later.
.Just like people and other pets, it may sometimes be necessary to add supplements to your cat’s daily regimen to make sure all of their needs are met. Some cats may require a probiotic to aid in digestion, while others may need to supplement a healthy fat source (such as salmon oil) to keep their skin and coat shiny. Talk to your vet before adding any supplements to your cat’s diet and ask for their recommendations.
Commercial cat treats are also a known hiding place for fillers and junk, but just as with cat food, there are options that are nutritionally appropriate for your fur baby. Just follow the same guidelines as above: stay away from filler grains like corn, soy and wheat and make sure the primary ingredients are specified animal proteins, healthy fats, and complex carbs. Look out for artificial colors and preservatives as well as added sugars, which are all harmful to the long-term health of your feline.
Fruits and Vegetables
Did you know that cats can eat (and greatly enjoy) lots of different kinds of produce? Now you do! Fruits and veggies offer a wide variety of essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that your kitty is otherwise missing in his or her diet. Supplying a wide variety of different produce will ensure your feline friend gets a full spectrum of nutrients while also exposing them to different tastes and textures they may enjoy! Fruits should have harmful seeds, pits, and stems removed, and should be peeled and cut or shredded to an edible size. Veggies should be chopped finely or grated, steamed or boiled, and cooled completely to help your cat digest them, as cats can have difficulty digesting some plant matter.
Here are a few different kinds of produce your cat might enjoy:
- Peeled apples
- Squash (including pumpkin)
- Broccoli florets
- And more!
Toxic Foods to Cats
Not all produce is safe for your kitty to eat, and ingesting the ingredients in the following list can have dire consequences for your cat. Always double check before offering your cat a new food to ensure it’s non-toxic.
If you have questions about other safe foods, talk to your cat’s veterinarian to discuss other options. Always keep your pet’s specific allergies in mind when introducing new foods, and only do so under constant supervision to monitor for choking hazards and allergic reactions.
The following list includes things that your cat should never have access to, as they range in toxicity and can cause ailments ranging from digestive issues to life-threatening reactions.
Never let your cat ingest:
- Alliums (onions, garlic, leeks, shallots, chives, etc)
- Artificial sweeteners (especially xylitol)
- Cooked bones
- Macadamia nuts
Voila! Now you are a master of the basics regarding what cats can eat. For more tips on taking care of your feline pal, check out the pet section.
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