Feeding your cat right is not necessarily the easiest part of being a cat parent. It can be hard to satisfy a carnivorous animal's nutritional needs and demanding palate. By nature, your cats want to eat mice. By necessity, they usually choose dehydrated kibble and bits or moistened meat and meat by-products in a can.
Of course, cats can get the nutrition they need and be content with pre-packaged food. The best way to keep your cat healthy may be to avoid choosing just one type of cat food and explore other varieties.
Dry vs. Wet Cat Food
Commercially prepared cat food is divided into two basic categories: dry kibble, containing about 7-10% moisture, and wet canned food, consisting of 75-85% moisture. The moisture content of food is essential because cats should get considerable amounts of water for urinary tract health.
Canned food from the best cat food brands like the Merrick Purrfect Bistro Turkey Pate cat food will provide this, so if you’re serving only kibble, you’ll need to watch your cat’s water intake. Beyond the moisture content, there are other considerations regarding the best dry cat food and best wet cat food:
Price: Canned cat food is, generally, more expensive than dry because it usually has more protein -- but check labels to be sure.
Freshness: Kibble can be left out for your cat to graze on all day. Canned foods spoil within a couple of hours after opening. So unless you have an automatic feeder that keeps wet food fresh, you’ll have to rely on dry food when you’re gone for the day.
Oral health: Dry food is better for cats’ teeth. However, if you adhere to good dental care routines, wet cat food shouldn’t cause problems.
Cat appeal: Pet owners often say that cats prefer canned food, but many felines also enjoy the crunchy texture of dry food.
Semi-Moist Cat Food
At one time, your local grocer offered a third type of cat food, semi-moist cat food. Sold in convenient pouches, semi-moist cat food looked like kibble but contained more water. It was more affordable than canned, and cats seemed to like it more than dry food. Cats devoured the food.
Unfortunately, the leading semi-moist cat food brands were pulled from the shelves when it was found that the preservatives used caused some health problems for cats, namely anemia. The high caloric density and added sugars were also criticized. Today, commercially prepared semi-moist cat foods are limited to treats, which can’t be used as daily food. Veterinarians recommend giving these treats, and all treats, sparingly.
While semi-moist cat foods were discontinued, the idea of a middle-of-the-road alternative to dry and wet food is something many parents still yearn for. There are two ways to mimic the texture of semi-moist food. You can add water to dry cat food or make your cat food using recipes for a semi-moist dish.
Both options have their plusses and minuses. You can change the consistency of the dry food, but it doesn’t improve the nutritional value. Homemade cat meals should meet dietary recommendations from your veterinarian or a board-certified veterinary nutritionist, and making sure the food matches those standards can be time-consuming and expensive.
Mixed Food Options
Of course, there’s no reason to limit your pet solely to a dry or wet food diet. In fact, according to the Waltham Centre for Pet Nutrition, offering both wet and dry food may be most beneficial for your cat.
Among the findings of pet nutritionists is the discovery that, when given a selection of dry and wet foods, cats will instinctively select the right amount of food and the right balance of nutrients to meet their dietary needs. Cats also prefer a mix of dry and wet food (as long as you have the flavor and brand your cats love).
Before serving up large quantities of food for your cat to feed freely on, discuss your cat’s diet with your veterinarian to ensure you’re paying attention to any special needs. For instance, if urinary tract health is a concern, your vet may insist on mostly canned or moistened dry food like Hill's Prescription Diet c/d Multicare Urinary Care Canned Cat Food to ensure your pet’s food contains between 53.2% and 73.3% moisture.
Since cats can be notoriously finicky about food, it’s best to start introducing a mix of wet and dry food when your pet is a kitten. This will help acclimate your cat to the different textures and tastes and offer you more options when planning a nutritionally rich diet.
Trying Cat Food Recipes at Home Starts Here
Do you have a finicky feline who just doesn’t care for the grocery store stuff, Or maybe you just want to provide some down-home love by making cat food recipes yourself? Although not routinely recommended by vets, going for a home-prepared diet for your cat is not too tremendously hard. With time and commitment, you can make a home-prepared meal to see how your furry friend takes it.
A word of caution: the recipe below is deficient in many essential vitamins and minerals, so it’s not recommended for long-term use. In other words, it’s a special “tester” meal for you and your cat to try out some home cooking. Overall this diet is sufficient in protein, fatty acids, calcium, and phosphorus, but cats need many other vitamins and minerals -- which is why you see many chemical-sounding ingredients on a bag or can of cat food; these are essential nutrients.
If your cat takes to this recipe or another you find on the internet, talk to your veterinarian or a board-certified veterinary nutritionist to help balance the diet for long-term use. Since nutrition is so complex, you’ll want an expert to help you get all the details right for your specific cat.
- 3 ounces of cooked dark meat chicken food (like thigh meat), deboned
- ¼ cup of cooked long-grain brown rice
- ½ teaspoon of vegetable oil (Did you know This is usually soybean oil or a mix of corn and soy.)
- ¾ teaspoon of feed-grade powdered bone meal (Solgar is a good brand)
First, it’s a good idea to use a kitchen scale to measure the amounts you will be using. Shred the chicken and mixed it thoroughly with the rice, oil, and bone meal.
TIP: If your cat seems to be picking out the chicken or the rice, you can use a food processor to chop the food finely and mix the ingredients well. You can also warm the food slightly by placing the meal in the microwave for 10-20 seconds and mixing well, which will help bring out the aroma of your freshly prepared meal.
How to Feed This Meal?
This meal is appropriate for an 8-pound cat. This could be easily scaled up for a larger cat and cut back for a smaller cat.
This meal has about 220 kilocalories and has 40% of the calories from protein, 41 % from fat, and 19% from carbohydrates. This essential diet also contains approximately 2.5 grams of bone meal which helps the diet supply plenty of calcium and phosphorus. (A 1 to 1 ratio of calcium to phosphorus is vital since many home-prepared diets do not provide enough calcium.)
Modifications: This diet has ample essential fatty acids for coat and skin. Yet, the omega-six fatty acid content is high due to the use of chicken as the primary ingredient. To help balance out the omega-six to omega-three ratios, add fish supplies like ¼ teaspoon of fish oil or utilize a 1000 mg soft gel capsule of fish oil (use scissors to clip the end of the capsule and squeeze the oil into the food).
If your cat takes to this diet, then maybe you are onto something that will help build a stronger bond between you and your cat!
This article was written by PetCareRx Consulting Nutritionist Dr. Joe, a board-certified veterinary nutritionist and graduate of Cornell University's program for Veterinary Medicine. The information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment by your veterinarian.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a superfood for cats?
Examples of healthy foods for cats include lean protein sources such as cooked chicken, turkey, or fish; small amounts of cooked vegetables such as spinach or green beans; and fruits like blueberries or cantaloupe. Additionally, some cat owners choose to supplement their cat's diet with small amounts of natural supplements such as omega-3 fatty acids or probiotics, which can help support their immune system and digestive health. Salmon, anchovies, and sardines are all healthy and nutritious foods for cats when given in moderation. These fish are rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which can help promote healthy skin and coat, reduce inflammation, and support heart health. When feeding fish to your cat, it is important to ensure that it is fully cooked and boneless, as raw or undercooked fish can contain harmful bacteria or parasites. Additionally, feeding too much fish can lead to an imbalance in your cat's diet, so it should be given as a treat or supplement to their regular food rather than a main meal.
What are 3 foods you should never feed your cat?
There are several human foods that can be toxic or harmful to cats and should never be fed to them. Chocolate contains a compound called theobromine, which can be toxic to cats and can cause symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, and even death in severe cases. Onions and garlic contain compounds that can damage a cat's red blood cells, leading to anemia. Symptoms can include lethargy, weakness, and loss of appetite. While cats may enjoy the taste of milk and dairy products, many cats are lactose intolerant and can experience digestive upset such as diarrhea and vomiting if they consume too much. In some cases, it can even lead to more serious health issues.
Are scrambled eggs good for cats?
Scrambled eggs can be a healthy and nutritious treat for cats when given in moderation. Eggs are a good source of protein and essential amino acids, which can help support muscle growth and maintenance. When feeding scrambled eggs to your cat, avoid adding any seasonings or ingredients that may be harmful to cats, such as onions or garlic. Additionally, cats have specific dietary requirements, so eggs should only be given as a treat or supplement to their regular food rather than a main meal. Some cats may be allergic to eggs, so it's important to introduce them gradually and monitor your cat for any signs of digestive upset or allergic reactions.
What is a healthy vegetable for cats?
Cats are obligate carnivores, which means that they require a diet that is high in protein and low in carbohydrates. While they don't require vegetables in their diet, some vegetables can be a healthy addition to their diet in small amounts. Green beans are low in calories and carbohydrates, and they can provide a good source of fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Cooked green beans can be given to cats as a healthy treat in moderation. Carrots are a good source of beta-carotene, which is important for eye health. Cooked carrots can be given to cats as a treat or mixed into their food in small amounts. Sweet potatoes are a good source of fiber, vitamins, and minerals, and they can also provide some natural sweetness to your cat's diet. Cooked sweet potatoes can be given to cats in small amounts as a treat or mixed into their food.
Is canned tuna OK for cats?
Canned tuna can be given to cats as an occasional treat, but it should not be a regular part of their diet. While tuna is a good source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids, it can also be high in mercury and other contaminants that can be harmful to cats in large amounts. In addition, many types of canned tuna are not nutritionally balanced for cats and may be too high in sodium or other additives that can be harmful to their health. If you give your cat canned tuna as a treat, choose a low-sodium option that is packed in water rather than oil. You should also limit the amount of tuna that you give your cat to a small amount, such as a tablespoon or two, and make sure to provide plenty of fresh water to help flush out any excess salt.
More on Cat Nutrition
Human Food That's Safe for Cats
Trying Cat Food Recipes at Home? Start Here
Tips to Avoid Your Cat's Stomach Upsets
References and Resources
"A Game Of Cat And Mouse: Cats Found To Favour Food Similar To Their Natural Prey,” MARS. Feb. 2011
Hewson-Hughes, Adrian K. et. al. (2013) “Consistent proportional macronutrient intake selected by adult domestic cats (Felis catus) despite variations in macronutrient and moisture content of foods offered,” Journal of Comparative Physiology (183.4) 525-536
“Scientists discover dietary moisture window that boosts urinary tract health in cats,” MARS. Oct 2011
This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis, or treatment by, your veterinarian. It has however been reviewed for accuracy by Dr. Joe, a board-certified veterinary nutritionist and graduate of Cornell University's program for Veterinary Medicine.