One of the most important jobs you have as a cat owner is feeding your cat. Your cat relies on you for all their nutritional needs, and the foods you choose must contain the right balance of protein, carbohydrates, and other vital nutrients. When evaluating the many cat food options available to you, you may feel overwhelmed or confused. In this guide, we’ll break down the four different types of food you can feed your cat, as well as human foods that are (and are not) safe for your cat to eat.
The 4 Different Types of Food You Can Feed Your Cat
As you plan your cat’s diet, the right foods are key. You need to choose pet food that your cat enjoys, but is also right for their age and lifestyle. Remember, kitten food will have a different nutritional profile than adult cat food, and an indoor cat may have different nutritional needs than one that lives outdoors. Regardless of your cat’s age or habitat, all food needs to be high in nutrients and protein content. High-quality pet food supports health and limits the risk of obesity, so it’s a good idea to spend some time assessing your options. As you evaluate what’s on the market, you’ll find that cat food falls into one of the following four categories:
1) Dehydrated Foods
Dehydrated food is made from wet food ingredients that have the water content removed through a low and slow heating process that removes bacteria and retains more nutrients. When you feed your cat this food, you will add liquid to it — typically water or broth.
Dehydrated foods take up less space than fresh food, but use human-grade ingredients with fewer fillers than kibble and even canned foods. The water you add in when feeding your cat this food helps with hydration. The main drawback of dehydrated food is the time it takes to add the water and rehydrate, and the fact that it’s slightly less convenient than an open-and-go food.
2) Freeze-Dried Foods
Freeze-dried cat food and cat treats are made from raw food that is freeze-dried to be shelf stable. This makes it a great food option to pack for trips or to stock up for feeding your cat at home. Like dehydrated food, you should add some warm water to freeze-dried food before serving it to your cat.
This food choice provides the same benefits as raw food for cats, with the added perk of being shelf stable — and it’s lighter than other food options, too! However, you will need to take the time to rehydrate the food to avoid dehydration. Also, freeze-drying machines are costly, so this type of food can be one of the pricier options.
3) Wet Cat Food
Wet cat food can come in cans or bags, and often has quite a lot of whole-food ingredients. Before being canned or bagged, this food gets cooked, and often contains a mix of many different foods including meat, vegetables, and grains.
One benefit of wet cat food is the high moisture content. Cats often don’t drink enough water, and moisture in wet cat food helps prevent dehydration. However, commercial cat food often gets cooked at a very high heat, and this can eliminate some of its nutritional value.
4) Dry Food (Kibble)
Dry pet food, also known as kibble, is one of the more common commercial cat food options. It contains a mixture of ingredients, including added vitamins and minerals in a shelf-stable, dry, bite-sized format.
The main perk of dry cat food is how affordable it is. It’s also quick and easy to feed this food to your cat. However, because it’s dry, it can create problems with constipation and dehydration. Additionally, some kibble brands are very low quality, made from sub-par ingredients instead of human-grade ingredients.
Human Foods That Are Safe for Cats
There are some human foods that you can feed your cat, including several fruits and veggies. However, cats are carnivores and 90% of their diet should be protein based. Also, cats don’t have sweet taste receptors, so they may not be interested in foods with a high sugar content. If you do choose to add a new food to your cat’s diet, always start slow and increase gradually to watch for any adverse reactions. If you want to give your cat an occasional treat, there are some human foods that are safe, including:
Blueberries are nontoxic for cats and can be a good treat. They have antioxidants and vitamin K. They also have high levels of potassium and vitamin C. Keep in mind that, though they are considered a human superfood, they should only be an occasional treat for cats.
If your cat has problems with constipation, adding a bit of broccoli to their diet could help. Broccoli’s high fiber content makes it a good option if your cat needs to get things moving in their digestive tract.
If you look closely at the ingredients list of many commercial cat foods, you will likely see peas as an ingredient. This high-fiber food is healthy for cats and can help limit digestion trouble. It’s also a low-calorie food, so your cat can enjoy them as treats without risking too much weight gain.
Cucumbers are a good option for cats who seem interested in human food. The high water content can help with dehydration. If you do feed your cat this food, be sure to remove the peel first, as it can be hard to digest.
Mango is safe for cats. If your cat seems to like it, make sure you peel it first to prevent digestion problems. Mangoes don’t contain many particularly necessary nutrients for cats, but if they enjoy it, it won’t hurt them.
The manganese, fiber, vitamin C, folate, and potassium in strawberries can be beneficial for cats. However, use moderation when feeding your cat food with a high sugar content like this one. It can lead to problems like diabetes or abdominal pain if you feed too much of it.
Raspberries contain vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, dietary fiber, manganese, and potassium. Serve raspberries fresh or frozen, but be cautious about preserves or jams containing raspberries — they could have dangerous sweeteners like xylitol that your cat should not consume.
Human Foods That Cats Should Never Eat or Drink
There are some human foods that your cat should never eat or drink. They can cause a wide range of health issues and can even be fatal, especially if your cat ingests a large amount of them.
Garlic and Onions
Garlic and onions can cause anemia, or low red blood cell counts. This is a very high risk for cats, even more so than dogs, so avoid these foods at all costs.
Raisins are dangerous for cats and can cause a number of health problems, including kidney failure. If your cat eats raisins, you may notice lethargy, a reduced appetite, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. Contact your veterinarian right away if you suspect your cat has eaten raisins.
Like raisins, grapes are toxic to your cat. Even just a few bites of this fruit can lead to kidney failure. Adverse reactions to grape consumption will develop quickly, often within 12 hours of eating the grapes, and include lethargy, lack of appetite, and diarrhea.
Milk and Other Dairy Products
Many people associate cats with drinking milk, but milk and other dairy products are hard on your cat’s digestive system. Cats are somewhat lactose intolerant, so if they drink milk, they will struggle to digest the lactose in it, which can cause stomach aches or diarrhea.
A Note on Raw Foods for Cats
Cats are obligate carnivores. This means that healthy cats require meat in their diet. In fact, a grain-free diet can be beneficial to cats because it limits the amount of carbohydrates they consume (which cats don’t need in high quantities). They need more meat than dogs, but that doesn’t mean they should have a lot of raw meat. Unlike a wild cat, which hunts its prey and eats it immediately, house cats rely on their human owners to feed them.
If you buy raw meat at the grocery store and feed it to your cat, there is a high chance that it has salmonella or E. coli in it, which could make your cat very sick. The same is true for raw eggs, which could also be in bread dough or raw baked goods. In addition, raw foods could have listeria and parasites in them. While a whole-food diet is great for cats, if you choose healthy meats, always cook the meats first.
Feed Your Cat Meals and Treats They’ll Love With The Honest Kitchen
If you are looking for foods that offer a balanced diet for your cat and have all of the nutrients and meat they need for a healthy life, consider The Honest Kitchen. Our cat treats and cat food are carefully balanced and contain human-grade ingredients, so you can be confident that your cat is getting the right nutrients. Check out The Honest Kitchen‘s line of cat food and cat treats to find tasty options for your cat.