The most epic post ever written about how to feed your cat

September 24 | Guest post by Ariel van Spronsen
By: Jamie McCaffreyCC BY 2.0
I think cats are great. If you're lucky enough to have been adopted by a cat, you're now her source of food! Many people think cats are self-sufficient, but by definition no domesticated animal can survive without human intervention. We made it that way, and we get to reap some fabulous rewards. If you think about it, cuddling a small lion is a pretty cool thing!

I've lived with cats all my life and spent a lot of time volunteering at my local animal shelter, and I've learned a thing or two in that time. I'm also one of those people who reads everything I can about things in my purview, and I'm obsessive about optimizing my systems. So here are a few cat feeding tips and tricks from my experience:

Feeding Times

The most convenient way to feed cats (for us humans) is to put out fresh food every day and let the cat decide when she will eat. This can work really well, depending on the cat. Some cats will self-regulate, but most will not. Younger cats especially are often bored when they're home alone, and will walk their circuit trolling for something to do. Food is something to do.

If you want to try free-feeding make sure your cat has lots of activities her daily path (cat fort!), and see how it goes. If your cat starts gaining weight, you'll have to switch to feeding once or twice a day at a fairly consistent time. Fat cats may be cute, but just like humans the extra weight puts a strain on their health, leading to more vet bills.

Dishes and Location

Cats are not terribly picky about what they eat out of, but you should be. Here's why:

  1. Did you know that cats get acne? It's not pretty. The primary cause of cat acne is their face rubbing on the greasy sides of their cat food bowls.

    To prevent this, use bowls that are made of a non-porous material like stainless steel, glass, or ceramic, and keep them clean. I switch out Zena's dry food bowl every other day, and use a clean bowl for wet food at every feeding. Also make sure the bowl isn't too deep — no deeper than the depth of the cat's muzzle. The idea is to minimize contact with the sides of the bowl.

 

  1. Cat farts. Also not pretty. Cat digestion is sensitive, and both the shape and position of their dishes can affect how they take their food in, and how much stink they make.

    Bowls should be big enough to hold the food portion, and have somewhat upright sides. This makes it easier for the cat to "corner" her food and get it in her mouth without gulping. Some folks recommend elevated bowls to make the eating position more natural, too. I think it's a great idea. I don't use elevated bowls myself because most of the ones I've shopped tip over too easily, but this one looks pretty good.

Cats are, however, a bit sensitive about where they eat.

Ideally you can feed your cat in a location where she can get some privacy while she eats. If a cat is at all anxious she'll tend to wolf her food, which makes for digestive badness. The kitchen is often a preferred feeding location, but I recommend against it if it's generally a busy place in your home. Personally I like to keep food happenings in the kitchen because I'm a clean freak, so I feed my cat there, but I also am willing to leave the kitchen for a few minutes after I plunk down her food.

On the cleanliness tip: In the past I've put placemats on the floor under my cats' dishes. I'd shake them out every couple of days and launder them every week to keep things neat. Nowadays my cat actually has an elevated dining table of her very own, which keeps crumbs off the floor and looks darn cute.

Food

This is a big topic and merits a separate discussion, but here is my opinion in brief: Feed both canned and dry food. And unless you are financially unable, buy high quality food for your cat.

By high quality, I mean food made from actual meat. Most of the stuff you see in grocery stores is made from meat processing by-product — what I like to call "lips and assholes". There are people who truly can't afford more than 59 cents for a can of Friskies. If that's your situation you are a wonderful human being for sharing some of your limited income to feed a feline friend, and by all means buy the Friskies. But barring poverty I say pay the extra $5-10 a month for decent cat food. To me it's worth cutting a few dinners out to keep my cat happy and healthy.

There are many great brands of cat food out there. A store like Mud Bay here in Seattle specializes in carrying only high-quality foods, and the staff are often super knowledgeable. Stores like Petco usually carry both the good stuff and the stuff made from lips and assholes, so do your research. Here is a good place to start learning more.

Sometimes cats have medical conditions for which vets will prescribe special diets. Vets also often sell prescription foods from their offices. Most of these foods are relatively high quality but still contain meat by-products (though several natural food companies like Wysong are starting to make prescription diets as well). In my opinion, if the medical issue is serious, like pee crystals or renal failure,  you go with the prescription diet.

Food storage

I find that feeding dry food out of the bag is a pain, so I've invested in an airtight container. I spent $13 on a plastic container a few years ago, and if I keep it away from light in a cupboard, it seems to work just fine. Someday I hope to upgrade to the beautiful stainless steel simplehuman container. It has the added bonus of being opaque, which helps keep food fresher by blocking light, and the liner is BPA-free.

There are many ways to store unused canned food, and the relative merits of each have been debated (yes, really). It definitely needs to be refrigerated, and the most common way of handling this is to slap a lid or some tinfoil on the can and plunking it in the fridge. This can be ok IF the cans are lined, and IF you use the food quickly, otherwise you risk metals leaching into the cat food. Personally, I take a few seconds to put unused cat food in a small glass storage container before I put it in the fridge. I have used plastic containers in the past, but glass has even lower leaching risk and cleans up so much easier.

If you feed your cat raw food, glass containers can also be used to rotate portions from the freezer through refrigerator for thawing. With raw food it's super important to use it within 2-3 days of thawing, so when I've fed it to my cat in the past I've used masking tape to write the date I pulled a portion from the freezer on the container.

As an extra kindness to your cat you may consider adding a teaspoon or so of hot water to her wet food when it's been refrigerated. Most cats are just grateful to get the food, but if you think about how they eat in the wild, the meat is body temperature — not refrigerator temperature. As an added bonus, adding some hot water increases your cat's moisture intake, something they are not always great at managing themselves.

  1. Thank you for a great article! Do you have a suggestion for a multi cat household where one cat is eating most of the food. I feed them a small amount at a time, 3 times a day to try and alleviate this but I am sure she is scarfing down everybody's food.

    7 agree
    • Hi Angela – that's a tough one, and I've been there too. It depends on the cats, I think. If your cats have a peaceful and relatively well-established hierarchy, you might find that they work it out on their own. As long as everyone seems healthy and happy, it may not be worth adding work to your routine. But if your food scarfer is also aggressively alpha, and you're concerned she is becoming overweight or that the other cats aren't getting enough, you might try feeding your cats in separate rooms if you have them, or on different levels (one cat on the floor, another on top of the fridge). Good luck!

      5 agree
      • We have a very aggressive fatty in our household and a more timid kitty. We have to feed them in separate rooms which is a bit of a pain, but less annoying than hovering over them to make sure the fatty doesn't eat everything.

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    • I was just about to reply to you the vague memories of a project I saw that is the most brilliant fat cat skinny cat solution ever, but the person who made it is here and three comments down* and I just wanted to make sure you saw it.

      *Apparently everyone cool on the whole internet reads this blog.

      6 agree
      • Just a little addendum to the which food bit, when choosing food look at the protein content first and foremost. Even the cheap food can have variation in protein amounts. Cats are obligate carnivores, they require as much 'meat' (not just any old protein, animal protein, particularly taurine) as you can give them.
        Also in multi pet households ferrets, hedgehogs and cats can share food but dogs need their own. So you can save money on bulk bags for multiple pets but just be sure they're compatible. Bonus tip for herbivores guinea pigs need vitamin c added to their diet but rabbits don't so they can't share food. Rabbits can eat guinea pig food but it tends to be more expensive. However g pigs can eat vit c rich fruit such as kale and dandelion greens (fruits are too sugary).
        Another brilliant cheap way to boost any carnivores diet is offal. Humans don't like it so it's cheap but it's full of amazing nutrients. Not a food replacement but our ferrets got some at least once a week and they couldn't get enough of it.

    • there are cat feeders made to slow them down. that can stop the problem. look up foraging feeders. i adopted a scarfer myself & i bought the feeder balls by slim cat. it stopped it THAT DAY. zero extra work for me

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      • We got the feeder balls because a couple of our cats would get fat by scarfing, and the other two wouldn't get enough. Wouldn't you know it, the scarfers learned the system of barely rocking the ball to get food out, so they didn't even have to move to continue eating, whereas the other two NEVER figured out the balls and hate to wait for the leftovers. Sigh.

        1 agrees
        • mine has adjustable holes. the bigger the hole, the faster/easier the food comes out. so, at first, i left the holes big so they got the concept. then, i made the holes smaller & smaller so it has to be batted around a bit to get food. even if the effort is little, it helps them emotionally. another trick i used was to put cat nip in w/ the food to attract them at first.

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          • I did this too! My cat is a stress eater, but now I fill the ball around 6pm and he eats a single serving over the next 5-6 hours instead of scarfing. I started him on easy mode as a kitten, and over time I've set it to the smallest holes to make it a bigger challenge. He doesn't play much, so this gives him exercise, and watching him go after the ball is the funniest thing on earth. He's learned to rock it back and forth, slap it across the room, roll it in circles with one paw, walk it in a straight line with his nose, bat it back and forth like a basketball player dribbling, use the office chair like an obstacle course, etc.

            As a side note, my neighbor has an egg shaped food ball for his cat and says he wishes he'd gotten the round one like mine, because the random factor of the egg shape gives his cat less control and makes it less of a game.

  2. Fantastic article! I was always "taught" that wet cat food is the Devil's juice, because it doesn't make the cat chew anything, leading to tooth issues. However, after doing my own research, I found several benefits to wet food. First is that even low-quality wet foods often have more protein than dry foods. Also, cats in the wild don't need to drink too much water, as they prey they eat has most of the moisture they require. As a consequence, cats have a low "thirst drive", meaning that they won't necessarily drink enough water on their own. So the wet food increases the amount of water they ingest. This will help stave off kidney problems in the future, which is a huge health issue for older cats. I love the tip about adding hot water to cold food! We also feed a combination of wet and dry food.
    Now to convince my husband that the cat needs her own little table!

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    • Second this. My family's cats always got dry food only, which they supplemented on their own with mice from outside. After I moved out and acquired my own cat, I just continued the dry food only. Ollie has been 100% perfect about using his litterbox until about a week ago…suddenly he peed on some laundry and on the floor. Uh oh. Took him to the vet, and found out that he has bladder irritation caused by having urine that is too concentrated from not having enough water. He got a fluid injection, and I swapped to putting people-grade water in the pet water dispenser (as opposed to the sulfurous water from the tap), and now Ollie gets a wee can of wet food twice a day (with a little extra water added for good measure). He seems to be feeling much better now. Lesson learned: give the kitty canned food! Ollie will still get good-quality dry food as an option in a gravity dispenser…but now he gets the gravy too.

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      • This happened to my little guy too. I had been taught that kibble is addictive to cats the way Doritos are to people, because they are covered in a salty powder. For a variety of reasons we had to move in with a cat who was free fed kibble, and he ended up getting addicted to the other cat's food and stopped eating his own wet food… which resulted in less moisture in his diet, and eventually a blockage that took weeks of fluids, antibiotics, pain meds, etc to treat.

        We switched both cats to wet food on Doctor's Orders and the switch made him lose about 5 lbs of body weight from simple lack of interest in his new food. We started supplementing with Urinary SO kibble in a food ball, and it worked like a charm. The great thing about the prescription kibble is it makes him thirsty, so he'll have some dry food then stop and eat his wet food or drink some water after a few minutes of munching. He gets kibble, and I get a hydrated kitty.

    • I got 2 senior cats from a rescue. One was obese and liked to scarf down her food, the other cat was a couple of pounds overweight. I switched both cats to a quality canned food. I scatter the food all over a 10 inch plate and add warm water to make it soupy. One cat is fed on her own table and the other is fed on the floor. No more scarfing down food since it takes them time to slurp up the broth and food. In the 3 weeks I've had them, their dry flaky skin has disappeared and their fur is shiny. They are both slowly reaching a more ideal weight. I feed them twice a day. At age 11 and 12, I think this is the best way to insure they get the right amount of protein and sufficient water.

  3. Thanks for this! I've been trying to get better food for our cat since he had a bad skin reaction to one my mother-in-law bought for him! A big basic I've learned is– BEEF IS BAD! Poultry and fish are the best things for them. Mr. Tenchi is much happier since I've been buying his food and not just getting what is least expensive! I look forward to finishing some work on the house so I can have a better place for him to eat and try out some of your other tips!

    1 agrees
    • Thanks Julia! A lot of times cats with allergies need really simple foods, and chicken seems to be the least allergy-producing meat. Beef isn't necessarily bad for cats, but it can definitely be the wrong thing for sensitive cats. Some allergic cats will respond miraculously to raw food too. Good luck finding the right stuff for your kitty!

      1 agrees
      • Strangely, we seem to have the only cat I know that is allergic to chicken. After much trial and error we figured out she does best on a prescription salmon or venison product, otherwise she gets red sores on her skin. Crazy kitty!

    • My cat refuses to eat the beef flavored canned food. I don't know if she's allergic, but she does not like it. Little princess :-P

      1 agrees
    • My vet advised against feeding fish as cats can develop an allergy to it…presenting as an infection (ear, in my girl's case). When have you ever seen a cat near a lake (outside of cartoons of course!) attempting to catch a fish!!! I've been feeding poultry and just wish they'd catch the mice in the house and eat them as well!

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    • I actually was just about to post about your project and how brilliant it is. The door is small enough the fat cat can't get in! It's so simple, it's astounding.

    • Holy enchilada. This is what we have always needed.

      Thank you!

    • I have a somewhat low-fi version of this, I feed the skinnier of my two cats under my dresser drawers. :P The fatty can't get in and that has worked really well.

      2 agree
    • Wow, I am a bit astounded at how many people in the comments over there decided you were abusing your bigger kitty and starving him to death, without reading any of your thoughtful explanation.

      Anyway, this idea is so clever, with good execution! Having had a few different cats over the years who jumped to eat each other's food at the slightest chance, that seems like such a great way to be able to simultaneously feed the smaller, pickier ones and prevent health problems for the big ones. Nice job.

      2 agree
  4. What a nice post! I wanted to add a bit about my experience with kitty diets and quality of food.

    A year and a half ago we found out one of our two kitties had bladder stones and required immediate surgery. After a lot of emotion and a big expense from the surgery, our vet recommended a dry prescription diet to prevent future stones. He was pretty insistent that whatever we were feeding her before was the problem, even though we were buying high quality food.

    I did as much research as I could, and after reading a lot of accounts of bladder stones returning even while on prescription diets, I came across a website from a vet who strongly advocated for wet food as a preventative measure. We switched both cats to a mostly wet food diet to ensure they were getting enough water. The stones didn't return, our once sick kitty is in much better health overall, and both are thriving on an a (mostly) all wet diet. (We give them occasional dry food when we know we're going to not be home for a wet meal time, as well as dry dental treats.)

    The only thing is, they won't eat good wet food! We are feeding them wet food from the grocery store because it's the only thing we've found that they will eat (we've tried slowly mixing it with higher quality stuff, etc., so far to no success). Even then, they're picky about which ones and don't seem to like changes.

    Our experience is anecdotal and I in no way want to challenge the many diverse good health decisions that others make for their cats – I truly believe that different cats thrive in different conditions, just like how human bodies are different from one another – but I did want to share. For us and our furry friends, cheap wet food has been a better health decision than expensive dry food.

    2 agree
    • i just recently found something interesting- i use blue buffalo wet food, and they have a new "bistro" kind, where its like flakes of food in a sauce, and now my cats like that way more then the regular pate style! so could it be the texture that they like about the cheap stuff?

      2 agree
    • My cat will eat just about any kind of wet food but he will clean up the Friskies whereas the remnants of the Science Diet will be left to dry out and crust in the dish. I'd prefer to feed the Science Diet but at 19 years old, kitty gets to call the shots and he prefers Friskies.

    • For anyone struggling to tempt their cat with good food, go to the baby food section of your grocery store, and pick up some of the Gerber chicken baby food. The ingredients are just pureed chicken and water (or sometimes chicken gravy). This stuff is like crack for cats. I've used it to tame feral kittens that I've fostered in the past. I mean, if it can take a wild cat from 100% fearful to purring on my lap in three days…it can get your friendly cat to eat quality food.

      2 agree
      • My vet also recommended it to me when one of my cats was in the end stages of renal failure. He turned his nose up at everything else, but would still eat the turkey or chicken baby food. Just make sure there are no onions or onion powder in the ingredients–onions are toxic for cats.

        3 agree
      • We used to feed chicken baby food to our kitties when they were sick.

  5. My cat had been eating only dry food for about 6 months, but then we got a new, very young kitten. She was used to getting wet food, so now they always have a bowl of dry food out and I split about a can of wet food between them twice a day. They don't seem to be bad about over eating luckily. Mostly because the kitten always wants wet food over dry, and the cat has already worked out that food comes on a schedule and if she's hungry between that… Well, she can have some dry food.

  6. I give my kitties dry food to have whenever they want, and then a scoop of wet food at dinnertime everyday. the last time i went to the vet, she even told me i could increase the wet food to twice a day. wet food is much better for the kitties.

    anyway, about the water- get your cats a good quality fountain! animals instintively know that running water is cleaner and better then standing water. i got mine on black friday last year.. $80 fountain for like $25. it has a motorless filter, UV germ killing, carbon filter, ect… the cats love it! they drink a lot more water now. i figured this out by watching my cats trying to drink water out of the faucet when i would brush my teeth.. so watch what your kitties do! they will often tell you what they like if you pay attention.

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    • I got my kitties a moving water dish too! I watched my cat try to drink out of the toilet too often, just after I flushed it. And since toilet water is gross, I figure it would help to get the moving bowl instead. It was just a cheap bowl, and gets really loud if the water level is low, but that just means I'm really careful about keeping it topped up.

      1 agrees
    • I SO need one of these moving water fountains for my cats! My cats WILL NOT stop putting their dry food in their water dish. They aren't trying to eat it after putting it in their water dish either. I can only figure that they are trying to tell me they want new, fresh water. One of the cats likes to drink out of my water cups. She also likes to eat yogurt. Haha.

      They have done well with the better quality dry food but I tried feeding them the real meat, non-lips-and-assholes food. They threw it up. :(
      I think I'll try the baby food since the one thinks she needs to eat yogurt anyhow!

      I started feeding them better after moving out of my Dad's after college. He fed them Fancy Feast wet food every morning. Now my cat with one eye meows in the morning until I either feed her wet cat food or give her cat treats. The other one is content with my yogurt and water left-overs! She is the skinnier one.

      I love my goofballs of fur!

  7. We have two cats that we cook food for. It's not 100% raw but it's boiled in a bag at 170 degrees for about an hour and then pureed with an immersion blender. It's mainly chicken thighs with chicken hearts and livers as well as bone meal for calcium. They love it, and our vet says they're the healthiest cats she's seen. Our German Shepherd loves it too, so we actually mix some of the cat food up with her Taste of the Wild kibble so everyone's happy!

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  8. One more plus for expensive food: usually the portions are much smaller because nutrition-wise it's more compact. It probably won't totally make up the cost, but it might be cheaper than it seems.

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    • sooooooo true! friskies compared to iams … it's like 7 times the amount w/ some versions. don't end up saving money. especially when it comes to the vet bill later.

      1 agrees
    • i've experienced this too! the grocery store brand we started with was purina, and we'd go through it soooooo quickly. we switched to wellness core dry food (which now comes in different formulas, so they get the "indoor" formula), and it takes us 6 weeks to go through a 12-lb bag (although it's not a direct comparison, because we started giving them wet food as well when we switched). i'm probably buying cat food half as often as we did before. i'd say between the wet food and the better dry food and having to buy it less often, i'm probably only spending about $10/month more than i did before. totally worth it. i have three of the softest, healthiest, most energetic and playful cats i've ever met.

      3 agree
  9. I have a cat who has a habit of eating non-food items. He started out with wool which made sense to me since wool comes from an animal. After several hand-knit items were ruined, I learned to keep them out of his reach.

    But then he branched out to cotton, polyester and plastic! Fortunately this behavior is very rare but I'd still like to know why he does this.

    Has anybody else encountered this problem?

      • if a cat prefers a certain type of material, it's usually not pica. it is a self soothing stress related thing. it's easy to solve. you just play with them more, give them private spaces, etc

    • one of our two cats has this …. thing …. for plastic. mostly plastic bags: grocery store-type bags are his favorite. he starts out licking them and then progresses to eating them. he can put away an entire grocery bag overnight, if a stray one makes its way into our house. (we actively try and avoid using these bags in the first place; this gave us another reason to avoid them.)

      our vet told us it was pretty much just a quirk.

      it's crazy – i swear he can just SENSE it when a rogue plastic bag of some sort has been left out on the counter. we are now hyper-vigilant about it, because the GI consequences certainly are NOT pretty. :P

      2 agree
      • I thought this was a pretty common cat thing? I think almost everyone I know with cats has at least one that loves plastic bags. I bought my cat a toy that is basically a mat that makes the same noise and that got her to lay off any stray bags that might be around. She chews it but it has held up well. Leaving some newspapers out for her to crumple helped too and she doesn't seem to chew on paper.

    • One of my kitties is obsessed with rubber bands and hair elastics. Unlike a lot of cats, she doesn't try to play with them at all. She hunts them down, eats half or more and then moves on to any others she can find. To a lesser extent she also likes bits of plastic and cardboard. It has taught me to pay more attention to little things around the floor and in open bags.

      1 agrees
    • My boy cat does this, he chews plastic bags or anything that makes the same noise as a bag.

      He does it when his tummy is empty or he has an upset stomach. Sometimes we think it's because he wants to eat grass other times is just cause he's being naughty.

      He's also the fatty cat who was 8kgs now down to 6kgs we did through routine and just being tough and ignoring his pleas for food. 6kgs might sound bad but he's a ig bombay anyway so he can't get much thinner or he'll start getting other issues.

  10. Yes, the epic cat food post has happened! I've never thought to add some hot water to the cold wet food, I'm going to try that next time. In my area there's a store that has lots of high quality cat food, so I tried some of them out: tuna with tuna consomme and tiger prawns, venison, duck, etc… We also give him Friskies when we're short on cash though.

    Also, our cat would throw up a lot and he has rarely thrown up since we stopped giving him dry food, but when I gave him wet food with brown rice in it he threw up again, so I'm more careful.

  11. I like the tip about adding hot water. Ironically, I wanted to comment that we have two cats, one of whom *loves* ice cubes. So, we put out a bowl of water, and a bowl with a a tray's worth of ice cubes in it each morning. He loves licking the ice. Hey, i figure if it makes him drink more water, then great!

    2 agree
  12. Don't knock the Friskies automatically — many of its varieties have a higher percentage of protein than expensive brands like Iams, Science Diet, Blue Buffalo, Natura, & even some raw food kits sold. Protein is crucial for cats in avoiding feline diabetes. So many friends' cats have been pre-diabetic or gotten diabetes, & it's primarily due to too much carbs in their food.

    But you can reverse the trend with protein-rich foods. The links here http://www.felinediabetes.com/diet.htm have tons of excellent stats rating protein levels in cat food.

    Our older female cat was pre-diabetic, but simply switching her from dry Iams kibble to wet Friskies food changed her bloodwork back to healthy levels. And it probably kept our younger male cat from ever having that problem (he as *other* problems that now require prescription food & meds, so they have to be fed separately – you can't save them from everything, alas).

    1 agrees
    • My vet actually told me that of the cheaper cat foods, Friskies was the best one. And when I checked the ingredients myself, it does pass the "Meat as the first ingredient" test, or at least Meat By-Product. But well, it looks like actual meat when I serve it to the kitties.

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  13. Totally trying the hot-water thing too. I'd been microwaving (food straight from the fridge is Unacceptable unless the ambient temperature is above 75) but the cat's current dishes are metal.

    1 agrees
  14. when we first got our cats, my partner at the time came from a family with 15 years of cat ownership experience, and i had zero experience, so i looked to him and his family for advice. his parents will still tell you, to this day, that wet food is bad for the cats and will make them fat, and that if we wanted to keep our cats in shape, we needed to give them dry food and just make sure they always had water. well, we learned that this was not the case the hard way (through kitty IBS in one of ours, chronic constipation and gut sensitivity issues making her poo everywhere every so often…it could have been far worse). his parents still haven't learned, in spite of having lost three of their cats to kidney failure. no amount of gentle enlightening on either of our parts can sway them, because their vet says otherwise, and if their vet says it, it must be true.

    i've also learned that unless you have a crunchy/holistic vet, changing your cat over to any of their prescription diets that you buy through the vet's office is a shady deal. a lot of vets get kickbacks from the manufacturers, and popular prescription brands like science diet really aren't any more nutritious than your garden variety grocery store brand of dry food. the only real difference is whatever medication is hidden in it.

    anyway, i kind of went crazy and did a TON of research on cat diet when our one girl developed the sensitivity issues, and found the right foods for our three cats that struck an awesome balance between nutrition, budget, and minimal prep time. they get a high quality dry food that's got about the highest (grain-free) protein content you can get in dry food, and then a grocery store brand wet food ONLY because for some reason all of our cats won't eat the pate varieties. even then, i read all the labels and found that meow mix market select actually has real meat in it. a couple flavors have meat byproducts in the ingredients as well, but real meat is always listed ahead of it. and then because they will ALL get fat if we let them self-feed, they get measured dry food in the morning, wet food at dinner time (the girls split a container and the boy gets a whole one all to himself…he's the largest, most active, and still pretty lean), and a little dry food snack before we go to bed. otherwise they wake us up around 2am wanting food.

    i'll have to look for the newer blue buffalo stuff that's more like chunks in gravy. if they like it, i'll definitely switch. i kind of feel like feeding them what i do for wet food is a lot like researching the best brand of hot dog to feed your kid at every meal.

    1 agrees
  15. To anyone living in Cincinnati, or the greater Cincinnati area, my wife and I buy a locally-made cat food for our three kitties that we absolutely LOVE. And they do too. Seriously, our most food-loving cat turned her nose up at her old food when we tried to integrate it with the new, and would only eat her new food.

    The store is called Pet Wants (http://www.petwants.com/home.php), and their food is made in Ohio, and as much as possible they use locally-sourced ingredients for their food. Our cats absolutely love this food, and their coats have never been softer. If you live in the area, I can't recommend it highly enough.

    And, if you live inside of the 275 loop, they deliver for free. How much more awesome can it get?

  16. I would avoid any cat food with grain as a significant ingredient – cats are obligate carnivores and their bodies aren't designed to eat it. Obviously finances influence this, but I personally favour a raw meat diet for cats. Whole ground rabbit for example, including skin, bone and organ meat, will be close to what cats would eat in the wild and what their bodies are designed to digest. As a result, stinky farts and poops are pretty much nonexistent. Raw bone is fine for cats to eat as long as it is finely ground, it's cooked bone that is dangerous, and they get nutrients from the fur/feathers of their natural prey. If you have any farmers nearby I'm sure they'd have a ready supply of fresh rabbit :p

    4 agree
    • Wow as well as being an epic post the number of replies are also epic. I do have to respond to the whole "obligate carnivore" thing – vets give that advice because meat does provide the right things in the the right ratios and it's easiest for most people to do this. However, ALL of the nutrients your cat requires can be supplied by other foods (although it is a lot more complicated) and balanced vegetarian pet foods are available on the market. So if you are an ethical vegetarian, you can look into this if it interests you. I am about to do my PhD in animal nutrition and will be attempting to prove that cats can get the Omega3 they need from plant sources in order to spare our oceans from being overfished. It is a very interesting area of pet nutrition but most of the big companies won't touch this subject yet.

      • While I don't doubt that all of a cat's nutritional needs can come from plant sources, I figure there's kind of a reason cats in the wild eat an all or almost all meat diet. I understand the concerns an ethical vegetarian would have about supporting the meat industry, but personally I would think that the answer to that is to source wild meat (like wild rabbit). I don't think it's fair to feed an animal food they wouldn't naturally eat in order to conform with a human's ethical standards.

        17 agree
        • Well in that case, everyone who is feeding their cat kibble, food from a tin, beef (cat's can't catch their own cattle now, can they?) food from the fridge, food enriched with vitamins, prescription diets, or for that matter any animal that is presented dead to the cat is not being "fair" because nothing about this is "natural". Speying your cat isn't natural, but it's still the best thing to do. Giving it medication isn't "natural". The cat is a domesticated creature who now depends on you for all it's food – it's nothing like life in the wild. There is a great lot of misconception that natural is automatically better and that just isn't so. I don't know anyone who feeds their cat on a diet of live small birds and rodents so I think it is safe to say natural is not really achievable for most of us nor particularly relevant.

          • I feel like you missed the point here. It's not that cats have to eat in the style of wild cats, but the food should be similar to those of wild cats. I have met plenty of vegetarians who find it cruel to feed cats a strictly veggie diet because that's not what a cat is meant to eat. Wild cats don't hunt down a stalk of broccoli. Yes, maybe the nutrients are the same but the compounds are not. Veggies are much more fibrous and stringy, which most cat digestive systems don't know what to do with. I know this is just my opinion but I definitely feel that if you want to own a kitty, you should know the diet and deal with it. Don't want an animal that eats meat? Don't get a cat my friend.

            2 agree
          • It's more the moisture content and the fact that cats can't digest plant protein. In nature their prey would be about 80% moisture. Kibble only has 10% moisture. Cats lack a natural thirst drive, so by eating kibble they may develop kidney or urinary tract infections. So animal based proteins in canned foods with lots of water seem to provide optimal nutrition.

      • I'm curious where you got your information. The number 1 allergy in cats is fish, and there are many omega 3 and 6 products on the market (veterinary and human grade) that are not made from fish. The reason why cats are obligated carnivores is because They need a nutrient called taurine which is not a plant based nutrient.

        1 agrees
    • I second the plug for a raw diet. It makes so much sense to feed a carnivore, um, meat.

      Plus, since switching to raw, our kitty has been so much healthier, and her poop went from oh-dear-lord stinky to virtually odorless.

      Grinding food is totally unnecessary, as gnawing through chunks of meat does wonders for their dental health, as well as being entertaining for the cat. Our vet always compliments her teeth, and she's gotten quite efficient at shredding and crunching through whatever we give her. Bone (raw ONLY) is fine in whole form, and there's no need to grind it. Kitty loves crunching through chicken wings. The yahoo group 'rawcat' is a fabulous resource for those curious about raw feeding.

      Keep in mind that, as Ariel pointed out, vets get kickbacks from pet food companies. Also, I'm given to understand that most (if not all) of the nutrition training they get is quite literally sponsored by said companies. So while yes, veterinarians are a good resource, it's best to do your own research too.

      4 agree
      • Oh yes, raw bone doesn't NEED to be ground, but some cats won't take to eating whole bones if they've been on a mainstream diet before. I don't have cats at present because of accommodation reasons, but I've managed to locate a UK-based seller (I am in the UK) who sells ready-ground whole wild rabbit in individual portion sizes, as well as things like chicken hearts to use as treats. The seller supplies farmers with meat for their sheepdogs!

      • Yeah, I've worked in animal shelters and at private vets and you're correct. Many shelters use Science Diet almost exclusively because it's the brand that gives them the best bulk deal on fair nutrition – not great food, but better than most in their price range.

        Vets usually prescribe Hill's prescription diets because they're pretty much the only ones out there – I think Royal Canin has a few but there's not much competition and some of the textbooks literally say "if the animal has ___, give them XY food". Generally it works, especially for urinary/renal issues where they need reduced levels of magnesium, but it's still a lot of byproducts and corn, wheat, and soy.

  17. I wholly advocate for the raw movement (much to the dismay of most veterinarians)! However I have the means/time/resources to do it. I understand most people don't. I love having a local holistic pet store that supplies me with the raw diet I feed all my animals. That's not to say that plenty of other diets aren't perfectly acceptable to feed cats – I just find, from experience that giving cats something they can't digest year after year doesn't always work out.

    I also foster kittens with a rescue, and feeding all those hunger meowing mouths is financially impossible on raw. But they do get Wysong or Blue buffalo soft food until they're old enough to chew hard stuff.

    All in all I have recommended feeding raw to many friends whose pets have had varying skin problems, allergies, and liver/kidney issues before and switching them to a fully digestible diet really makes a huge different. Smaller, odorless poops, less hair balls, silky coat and bright eyes and by far the cleanest teeth you'll ever see. It's pretty awesome :)

    4 agree
    • You can also just feed your cat (or dog) plain ol' raw meat from the butcher. Throw in some raw meaty bones, some organs, and try and provide a nice variety of meats over time, and you're good to go. It's super economical. His food costs me roughly $20 a month, and would cost less if I had enough freezer space to buy in bulk a la Costco.

      http://rawfedcats.org/ is a great resource, as is the rawcat email list on Yahoogroups.

      I've been feeding my cat raw for 2 years now, and he's one of the healthiest kitties I know. In addition to the benefits Gen listed above, my kitty also seems to have a lot less dander. My cat-allergic friends have no problems around him.

      3 agree
      • Okay, now I feel better about my ca6ts consuming raw meat by accident. I'm a first time cat owner, and I was a little bit worried about their antics last night.

        Last night, I accidently left s chicken on the counter to defrost (it was frozen solid). While my hubby and I were sleeping, both cats pulled the chicken off the counter, and I'm guessing did a victory lap with it around the kitchen floor (chicken juice/blood was everywhere) and then decided to rip off the packaging and take a few bites. :face palm:

        To the OP: Thank you for this post! Other than the raw, frozen chicken incident, I'm starting today with scheduled feedings for my kitties. One is starting to get a bit fat, so I'm hoping that the twice a day feedings will help with that a bit.

      • Did you find the process of switching your cats over to raw meat troublesome? Our cats won't even touch canned food they are so picky. At one point they started eating the dog's food because they decided it was somehow better than their food even though it was the same brand O_o I would like to try the raw diet with them but I feel like it'll just be an exercise in futility.

        • You can gradually introduce it, a teaspoon or so in their normal food at first, and just increase the amounts bit by bit. You might even find that they love the raw meat!

    • We just got our first kitten and called our local fancy pet store (Urbanimal in Minneapolis/St. Paul) for advice. They had me convinced on the merits of raw food, but our freezer didn't have an inch of extra space and I don't have time to cook it myself.

      Turns out there's a great brand of freeze-dried raw pet food called Sojos, and it's made just 1.5 miles from our home. We just use a rotating set of containers to mix up a one-day batch and soak it overnight in the fridge.

      Our kitty loves it. He's healthy and happy, and his breath and poop smell much better than when he was eating low-end dry food. The cost is about $20/month for an adult cat.

      I know cats and their owners have a wide range of needs, but raw food is definitely worth looking in to. It's easier and cheaper than I expected it to be!

  18. Wow you guys, love the conversation here, and I'm so happy to read that you guys care about your cats as much as I do! Two things I just wanted to follow up on real quick:

    1) Your comments are making clear something I didn't say in the post, which is that cats are definitely *not* all cut from the same cloth. They're pretty unique and sometimes downright weird little beings (plastic lickers!).

    2) Which food to give is such a huge topic, right? There's been some great information shared in this comment thread! But referring back to 1, the ideal for each cat is going to differ. Consult your vet or other trusted nutrition expert, read up (but of course be critical and make sure you trust the source), and most importantly – listen to your cat's signals. A shiny coat, bright eyes, good energy, consistent poops and pees that don't smell like rotting things, and skin that moves in a sort of watery way are all signs your cat is doing well.

    4 agree
  19. i HIGHLY suggest you guys & the writer start following jackson galaxy's blog. he's a cat expert. jacksongalaxy.com

    as someone who's first major was vet (yeah, i left but nutrition was in the first semester lol), i have some issues w/ one tiny piece of the advice in the post.

    free feeding is a biiiiiiiig no no. cats are hunters & we need to give them that. it's best to feed them after a play session. another option is foraging feeders. you can buy them online http://www.amazon.com/PetSafe-SlimCat-Food-Distributor-Ball/dp/B0018CG40O they measure out portions & make it so the cat has to move & explore in order to eat. not to mention, it slows them down. this is best for a cat's emotional state.

    but please please check out jackson's blog. that guy can't be MORE offbeat.
    >^.,.^<

    3 agree
    • Hi Mariegael, thanks for that blog link, I'm so glad that resource is out there. And the foraging feeder is super cool! I wish I'd known about that with my last cat, Ducati, who needed all the motivation he could to move.

      I don't free-feed because it doesn't work for my cat (she gets fat), but free-feeding is not as big of a no as you're indicating. There are different schools of thought on it, and the one you mentioned makes sense, but some natural feeding experts are actually *against* feeding once or twice a day because it's not "natural" for a cat to consume all of their nutrition in one sitting. The theory behind it is that cats in nature eat by making many small kills. Even large cats who make big kills don't eat all of it all at once, they hang out and eat small amounts over the course of a day.

      My point in the article was not to advocate one theoretical perspective over the other. I think on a day to day basis it just comes down to a combination of what works for the pet's health and behavior needs, and what works for your lifestyle. Happy, healthy cat and owner = good quality of life = good cat stewardship.

      So glad you shared this perspective. It's really a fascinating topic to those of us who geek out on such things. :)

      • i mean, free feeding won't kill your cat or anything, but i for one, after having cats my whole life … once i heard about it … i tried the other method. & i could see an EMOTIONAL improvement in them. i don't think it's really the amount or even the size of the meals really, i think it's something about eating AFTER A HUNT. that's the point, really. like if you can play w/ them (or if you don't have time, turn on one of those automated toys) before they eat, they just feel better. granted we all don't have time for that, but i challenge everyone to try it for even one meal a day or try the food toys that force them into it & see if you don't notice a change in your cats' mood.

      • There's also 2 different types of free feeding- fill the bowl to the top when it's empty or measure out the proper amount of food for your cats weight for the day and leave it in the bowl. The first way is one of the main causes of obesity. The second way ensures that your cat does not get excess nutrition. If your cat is a glutton and will eat it all in one sitting don't give in- in a few days or a week your cat will start to learn to self regulate their feeding. Which is better for them in the long run

  20. So glad I can free feed my dog and my cat. Bowl empties, bowl gets filled with kibble. Occasionally they get a few chicken livers or the trim off a steak I'm prepping (other than that it's Blue Wilderness kibble). And they both stay at their fighting weight.

    After reading all these posts I feel very lucky.

  21. Our first vet told us to feed our cats only dry food for their teeth, but when some health problems cropped up (turned out not to be related to the food) they told us that new research has shown that wet food only is the way to go. They said that dry food isn't as nutritious (they compared it to surviving on potato chips) and could dehydrate them or irritate older cat's stomachs. We switched to Wellness brand wet food and my one cat's terrible dandruff cleared up within a week! If you want to give your cats a little extra water to make sure they aren't dehydrated give them a bowl of the water you strain from a can of tuna. It's an excellent way of tricking them into drinking more water.

  22. We actually consciously feed our two beautiful cats (aged 10 and 3) "lips and arseholes" for environmental reasons. A non-native animal had to be raised (which has a massive environmental impact, especially for large animals like cows), then considerable resources are used for its slaughter (not to mention the moral stuff about killing animals etc), it is a terrible waste to only use the 'good bits' and throw away the rest. I figure respect that whole animal by feeding it to other animals (who we love dearly).
    We also refuse to feed our cats canned food with fish due to the environmental impact. The oceans are being overfished, especially of large species like tuna. Why waste these precious resources on animals who are genuinely happy and healthy eating a mix of lips and arseholes, and dry food flavoured from meat byproducts?

    4 agree
    • I actually rather agree with this. I sure don't want to eat it, and cats would definitely eat lips in the wild. Probably arseholes, but there's a concept I don't want to think about much.

      2 agree
      • the issue is that it's nots just lips & butts. that level of food is skin, nails, hair, etc.

        would they eat this in the wild? yes

        BUT they would also be eating the high quality cuts as well. the issue is the nutrition here. some cuts are nothing but fat & fiber. some cuts offer better nutrients. that simple. you need to make sure this is not the focus of the cat food b/c it's just not much in the way of FOOD, it's edible, but so are twinkies. in food, the best ingredients in the food need to be first. that's all. just be careful. a little skin here & there certainly isn't gonna hurt, but you don't want it to be the nutritional focus.

        1 agrees
    • For fish-loving cats, look into sardines; they're super-sustainable and healthy. Plus, since they're often canned whole, le chat gets bones to crunch, too. (I'll confess, I, myself, love to crunch ze bones; they're like bubble wrap for your mouth!) Not to mention the ability to gross out your roommates when your share your cat's lunch.

      2 agree
      • wouldn't the salt content be too high?

        I'd actually be very interested in seeing cat food made from invasive fish species such as Asian Carp in the Midwest or squaw fish in California – fish that are not really desirable for human consumption but are nutritious, plentiful, and crowding out/killing off endangered native species.

  23. We really WANTED to feed our kitty boy high-quality food. Got him on Blue Buffalo, he was happy, doing good. (Well, he'll eat anything. He's a piggy.) Then he got crystals. So, prescription food for him. (I worry about how much corn it has, but what are you gonna do.)

    So then we get a kitten. We get her good kitten food. She won't eat it. Call the shelter, they say she used to eat a mix, including what we're trying to give her now. Doesn't seem to matter. Wet it and microwave it to make it mushy. She won't eat it. (I've NEVER had that not work.) Take the mush and mix it with some tuna. Picks out the tuna, leaves the rest. So we're freaking out, it's been like a day, and she's barely eaten a thing. Go to the store, try something else… she'll only eat Kitten Chow. Yup, only the cheap stuff for our girl. (She'll only be on it for a few more months, then the vet said to just go ahead and let her eat the same prescription food as big cat, it won't hurt her, and if the crystals with him were from something environmental, it'll prevent it with her.)

    Yep. So…we tried??

  24. I just wanted to pass along an experience I had with holistic, organic, (expensive!) cat food.

    While I definitely agree that higher-end food is better for your cat, please be careful when buying them and do your research first. They often advertise that their food contains organic fruits and vegetables. While this sounds delicious to us, cats have little need for fruits and veggies in their diets. After getting a nice raise at work I decided to start investing in quality cat food for my kitties. However, the $50 bag of organic cat food I bought my cats made one of them extremely sick. I took her to my incredible vet who specializes in cats and found out that she had developed crystals in her urine because of the potatoes and tomatoes in her fancy cat food. My vet said that, while many of the high-end foods are better for cats, what is more important is to look for the AAFCO statement on the bags. Specifically, look for, "animal feeding tests using AAFCO procedures," as opposed to the food saying it uses "AAFCO-approved ingredients" or something like that.

    The feeding tests are the important thing, he said, as the brand has then proven throughout the life of a cat that their food is good for kitty's health.

    I had no idea of any of this information before going through this with my own pets, so I thought I would pass it along to others as well! A lot of the high-end and holistic foods do these feeding trials, so just make sure you're buying a food that has proven it's quality.

    2 agree
  25. Loved your article, you definitely know a lot about cats!! I adopted my cat 5 months ago & I feed him wet & dry. Is it true that I should stay away from feeding my cat fish flavored food because it is suppose to be bad for cats? Do you know of any good natural dry & wet food brands to feed my cat? I live in Canada & currently am feeding performatrin ultra grain free dry food & blue buffalo wilderness, wellness, merrick grain free & almo wet food. Thank you again for your article:)

  26. this is by far the best elevated cat food bowl I have ever used. Easy clean up and keeps the food from getting all over the floor. I have four cats and still no mess! Hallelujah! http://www.neaterfeeder.com/

  27. This is great advice! I would add that incorporating wet food is also important because cats need a high level of moisture for their livers especially, but for overall health and digestion too of course. The average cat, like the average person, does not get nearly enough water each day, and many common but deadly feline ailments are thought to be related to this. I have recently started mixing wet and dry for this reason. Best of both worlds as far as the little guy is concerned.

  28. I left a big bag of canned cat food in my trunk for 2 days and I live in a climate that it gets 110 plus degrees in the car. Can this heat effect the cat food? I'm sure the food wasn't shipped in a refrigerated truck, so I have to assume that it was this got during transition from the factory to my city. Any thoughts?

  29. Just a short reply our 7 month kitten daisys favourite food is me preferably my thigh when i least expect it and have my back to her. Great post very interesting reading thanks x

  30. Hello I was wondering what to do with my kitty Ginger. She weighs about 14-15 lbs and the vet told me to feed her only 1/4 c of food twice a day. I feel its not enough because she is ALWAYS coming into the kitchen when Im in there looking at her bowl, waiting for me to feed her again. I feel bad, but dont want to condone to her weight issue and provoke any illnesses to come along.
    Its hard for me to watch her as she eats her food up so quick, because there's hardly any in her bowl and then she seems hungry 1/2 hour later. I also feed her wet food (1 TBS) every other day to keep her hydrated and for a nice treat for her. Again…she wolfs it down! I DO try to get her to excercise every day a few times a day and sometimes she'll play for about 5-10 minutes. But She isnt very energetic at 6 years old and seems to be gaining more weight. is there another solution Im not aware of?

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