It’s no lie that some cats can be fussy eaters. Difficult even. Here we discuss the cat's diet, including favourite food, to help you manage any challenging behaviours.
The cat’s diet: a strict carnivore
As you’re probably aware, cats are carnivores, meaning they eat meat. If your cat has access outside, it will likely feed during the day on small mice or various insects it is able to hunt. Indoor cats will rely solely on the food provided to them by their owners.
Grain or cereal-free cat biscuits are a popular choice of cat food and are a good supplement for non-meat-eating cats. Unless your cat has specific allergies, you may also like to give them some meat, but it is better to cook it first to avoid any health problems.
Even if your cat eats and prefers meat, it will still be necessary to supplement their diet with good quality cat biscuits to ensure an adequate intake of nutrients and vitamins. Not surprisingly, these nutrients can be lacking in various meats and meat products found in shops and butchers.
With regard to fish, it’s often a cliché to think that cats love it. Although they will enjoy receiving tuna, salmon or other cooked fish, it is not needed with every meal. In fact, it is better to consider these foods as treat foods. When choosing tuna, for example, select one with as little salt as possible.
Milk: good or bad?
In most people’s minds, cats drink milk. And in truth, most cats love it. But it’s not always good for them.
Like some humans, lactose is not very well digested in adult cats. It should also be noted that some cats may also develop allergies as a result of drinking milk.
However, if your cat loves milk, and has no allergy or difficulty digesting it, special cat milk can be purchased and given as a treat from time to time. You can usually find this at a pet store or at your vet's. Again, if able to tolerate some lactose, you can also give your cat a small piece of low-salt cheese.
However, if you notice your cat has diarrhoea soon after ingesting cheese or milk, stop with all forms of dairy products immediately.
For further reading: Cats and milk: what you should know.
Does my cat like grass?
You may well have noticed that your cat nibbles on blades of grass from time to time. No, they haven’t suddenly switched to vegetarianism, but rather the grass provides various additional nutrients and fibre for your animal.
Additionally, grass enables a cat to purge, which aids in the process of ridding themselves of hair balls accumulated in the animal’s stomach.
If your cat does not have access to the outdoors, or grass, you can buy catnip for your animal to help this process.
A cat’s taste preferences
Cats have only 473 taste buds in their mouths (compared to 9,000 in humans). However, there will still be certain food preferences for them based on the foods and flavours a cat was introduced to by its mother (via her milk and any solid foods provided). Therefore, your cat will be particularly sensitive to the flavour and texture of foods. This includes temperature.
Wet or dry food?
Cats typically love either wet or dry food. Wet food in cans or pouches, or fresh, and dry cat biscuits (kibble) will likely be well received. You can provide them with just one or both.
In fact, the crunchy texture of cat biscuits may remind your cat of eating the bones of wild prey (an important association for them), whilst at the same time possibly helping to clean and scrape their teeth. Fresh meat will also provide an association of a fresh kill.
If you're uncertain which is best suited to your cat, talk to your vet who will consider their age, gender, and overall health in determining the best food choices for them.
The temperature of food also plays a role in being appealing or unappealing to cats.
Our feline friends prefer food at either room temperature or slightly warm. If you keep any wet food in the fridge, remember to leave it out in advance (away from prying kitty eyes and noses) so that it warms up a little before feeding them. But be sure to throw away opened wet food after two days. It may absorb odours from other foods and/or dry out, which may render your cat disinterested and reluctant to eat what you present before it.
The responsibility lies with us!
It's important to take charge of your cat’s diet and avoid letting them eat whatever they want or like, including the leftovers on your plate. It’s not because you don’t love them, it’s because it's the best thing for them!
And we all want our cats to live the happiest and healthiest lives possible!
For further reading: Understanding how cats eat
What's your cat's favourite food? Share in the comments below!