Cat owners all over the world know it: those little fur balls can be very picky with their food. Beautiful as they are, they can drive you up the wall with their finicky appetite and strange eating habits. They’ll have you open up cans of cat food, and they won’t even dare lick it. Or maybe you’re a new feline parent and you find yourself asking, What do cats like to eat and other questions.
The answer isn’t as bizarre as your kitty friend would like you to think. But before you feed them the following treats, make sure that your cat is just being a picky eater, and not actually sick, by bringing it up with your vet. However, if your cat has no problem eating every day and somehow maintains a decent weight, then chances are, he or she just doesn’t like what you’re serving.
If ever you find yourself at the mercy of your kitty’s eating habits, here are a few facts about them, which may help you answer the questions ‘What do cats eat?’ and ‘What do cats like to eat?’
- Fact 1: Like humans, cats can also have odd food issues. They may prefer eating alone, or with their kitty friends (or you). Introverted eaters prefer to have their own bowl, and even their own place at the table. While it’s important to take note of these behaviors, knowing them is only half the challenge. You still have to deal with their peculiar food preferences such as fish, eggs etc.
- Fact 2: They can have extreme food leniences or eat anything you offer, including the ones meant for your dog. Many cats prefer to be fed with the usual, so giving them a whole new variety of foods may be a bit overwhelming for them. On the other hand, obesity is a serious problem in the pet world. The next time your kitty purrs at you, begging you for food when you just fed them, don’t give in.
- Fact 3: Feline suicide through hunger is strike is real, and it’s no joke. Many cats can (and will) test your patience by not eating unless you give them what they want. They can even go for days without touching their food. When cats starve, they can develop a fatty liver syndrome called hepatic lipidosis, and obese cats are even more at risk. If your cat hasn’t been eating for the past 24 hours and he looks or acts sick (or is actually sick), bring him to your vet right away. However, if he refuses to eat because you’re trying to change his diet, try giving him a little of what he wants after 24 hours, subsequently feeding him with his new chow.
Are you a parent of multiple cats? While it is a joy to see them all cute and cuddly, feeding them can be quite a challenge. Generally, individual feeding stations is the best approach. Free-feeding is not really a good idea since it will not be easy to monitor each cat’s intake and appetite. Even more so, cats with more assertive behaviors may even block access to their feeding bowl. Don’t expect them to get into a cat fight a la Animal Planet, however. Indoor cats communicate largely through eye contact, body language, and facial expressions.
If you are dealing with an overweight cat (in contrast to your other slimmer cats), it is hugely important that a separate feeding plan be established. How and what can cats eat usually differ based on their nutritional needs. The slimmer cats may be fed on a higher surface (where they can simply jump up), while the, ahem, fluffier one can be fed on the floor, where he will be given less food. Either way, consult your vet as to the amount of calories each cat should be receiving.
Dealing with a stubborn kitty? Here are surefire ways to make sure they eat, or play by your rules:
- Making your finicky cat really hungry helps – No free-feeding for the CatBrat. Leave your cat at home while you go to work. That way, there will be no ‘Puss in Boots’-like stares, and when you get home, his natural hunger will work wonders in your favor.
- Set up a feeding schedule with your cat – Here’s another way to eliminate the ‘feed me when and what I want’ mindset from your kitty’s brain. Try feeding them just two meals a day, not every time they feel like it.
- Kitty going on hunger strike? – Try serving their food with a tiny dash of tuna or chicken. If they like it, start putting it into the canned food. Canned food is the better choice for your furry family member as it is nutritionally more complete than average dry food. Be sure to read the labels for complete nutritional information, however.
- Parmesan cheese sprinkle is a hit with many cats. Try sprinkling them on top of the food you want them to eat, and watch them chomp it down like a dog.
- Play with your cat. Strenuous exercise promotes appetite in cats, and more often than not, he’ll be eating whatever you give him. Kitty still prefers the crunch? Try ‘Work for Food’ instead. Scatter 6-8 pieces of dry food all around the kitchen, then give canned food a try again.
- Do not feed your cat right after you wake up. Wait for about an hour or so. It will not affect your cat’s health negatively, but it will prevent him from waking you up every time he’s hungry.
- Additionally, plan the last meal before your bedtime. Kitties usually take a nap after their meal time, and when you give them their food right before you go to sleep, it will make your cat less active during the night time, and therefore, you can sleep well. This will work even better if you play with your cat 15-20 minutes before his last meal.
- Make water readily available. Regardless of what do cats eat indoors or in the wild, they need water with their food. Water is an extremely important factor in a healthy diet, even for humans. Cats do not have a necessarily strong thirst for water as compared to other animals, like dogs, which is why they need to have a water-rich diet. This is also another reason why canned food is the better option. Think of it as ‘flushing out’ your cat’s bladder several times each day, which keeps it healthy and well-functioning.
Now that you got your cat to eat and abide by your house rules, you are wondering: what can cats eat from my pantry? You don’t actually have to go far to find what you can feed your feline. In some cases, the answer is just there in your fridge or cupboard. Check out this list of feline-friendly human foods that you can feed them:
- Salmon – If you don’t mind shelling out extra cash for your cat, why not? Dr. Tina Wismer, medical director at the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center, said that, ‘A good source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids, salmon can be a delicious and tasty treat for cats and is often already found in commercial cat food.’ But be careful not to give your kitty a portion of your sushi because, ‘While some cat-friendly human foods can be fed to your cat raw, make sure to give her only cooked salmon,’ Wismer added.
- Eggs – They’re a good source of protein and B vitamins, plus they can also be found in many cat foods. Again, just make sure to cook the eggs well before feeding them to your cat to reduce any foodborne illnesses.
- Chicken – Yes, chicken. According to Jeff Werber, an Emmy-award winning vet, cats’ bodies aren’t able to digest fibrous foods as well as dogs do, but any type of meat, like chicken, will do just fine. As long as the meat is cooked thoroughly (with the skin removed), they can be a good choice for your cat, since they contain great amounts of protein.
- Oatmeal – Having breakfast with your pet just got a little more fun. Oatmeal is a good source of energy and B vitamins, however, while they may be feline-friendly, there’s no guarantee that your cat will jump at the thought of sharing your breakfast. You may want to introduce this food slowly before you incorporate it to your pet’s diet.
- Cantaloupe – It’s high in antioxidants and beta-carotene, which helps your kitty maintain healthy skin and eyesight. They’re sweet too, which makes it perfect cats who have sweet teeth.
- Spinach – Oozing with vitamins and minerals, including Vitamins A, C, and K, plus iron and calcium, spinach can be a healthy, cat-friendly treat, according to Wismer.
- Banana – They’re a great snack for your cats because they contain great levels of potassium and soluble fiber, said Wismer. However, they shouldn’t take up more than 10 percent of your cat’s daily calorie intake. And of course, you have to slice them up.
- Blueberries – ‘A good source of vitamins A and C, blueberries can be found in some cat foods and some felines may even like to snack on frozen blueberries’, according to Wismer. However, she’s quick to point out, ‘Limit treats to 20 calories each day, [which] would be two teaspoons of cooked salmon or chicken or 25 blueberries, but you wouldn’t want to give them all of those berries. You can mix and match human food treats with cat treats to reach that number.’ Pet obesity, people.
- Peas – You can give these to your cat frozen or raw. They are high in fiber, vitamin A, and vitamin C, plus they can also be found in commercial cat chows.
- Fish Oils – This is something that can benefit your cat AND your dog, if you are a parent of both. The Omega 3 in fish oil helps prevent dry skin in the winter and helps keep their coat healthy all throughout the year.
Now that you know which foods you can feed your cat, here are the items you should not even think of giving them:
- Onions, Garlic and Chives – Onions in all forms (raw, cooked, dehydrated, or powdered) can break down a cat’s red blood cells, leading to anemia. Garlic and chives, on the other hand, can cause gastrointestinal problems.
- Milk – Contrary to what Cartoon Network would have you believe, most Toms are lactose-intolerant. Their digestive systems cannot process dairy products, and this can cause stomach problems inclu diarrhea.
- Alcohol – Any form, including beer, wine, spirits, and even foods containing alcohol… none of it is good for your cat. It takes a lot less amount of alcohol to do the same damage to a cat’s liver and brain. Two teaspoons of whiskey can induce a coma in a five-pound cat, and one more teaspoon of that can kill it. Careful, careful.
- Caffeine – While it will do wonders for your productivity, large amounts of it can be fatal to your cat. And nope, it does not have any antidote. Watch out for symptoms like rapid breathing, muscle tremors, and heart palpitations. Caffeine isn’t only found in coffee and tea. Cocoa, chocolate, colas, and Red Bull have it too.
- Chocolate – No, it’s simply not a treat for your cat or your dog. It is lethal to the two because it contains a toxic agent called theobromine. It causes abnormal heart rhythm, seizures, tremors, and death. By any means, do not feed it to your pet.
- Fat Trimmings and Bones – Fat, uncooked and cooked, can cause intestinal upsets leading to vomiting and diarrhea. Cats can also choke on bones. Other than choking, bones may also splinter and cause lacerations on your cat’s digestive system.
- Candies and Gums – While they are sweet to a human’s tooth, gums, candies, toothpaste, and baked goods contain xylitol, and they can cause an increase in the insulin circulating through your pet’s body. The cat may even have seizures soon after consuming xylitol, and liver failure may soon follow after a few days.