Cats need a combination of a healthy diet and regular exercise to stay in shape and live a long and healthy life. When your cat reaches adulthood, you can change from a kitten growth diet to normal adult cat food.
- what to feed your cat
- the different commercial diets available
- homemade food
- vegan cat food
- raw feeding your cat
- whether cats can drink milk
- how to safely switch your cat's food
- how to feed your cat
- how much to feed your cat
- what to do if your neighbour is feeding your cat
Best cat food
There is a lot of choice in pet shops, supermarkets and from your vet. We can help you decide which is best for your cat.
Dry cat food
Out of all the foods available, we would recommend a high quality complete, dry food brand.
There are some great benefits of feeding your cat dry food:
- Complete dry foods usually have a variety of life stage options, from kittens through to old age
- They are widely available and convenient
- Dry food is much more hygienic than wet food if you want to leave it out all day for your cat to graze on
- It's better for puzzle feeding
How to store dry cat food
It's best to keep dry food in a sealed bag or container. Be sure to keep an eye on expiry dates too!
Will feeding my cat kibble keep their teeth clean?
No, it won’t. Dry food does not have any cleaning effect on a cat’s teeth. The best way to maintain dental hygiene is to keep up with vet checks and clean your cat’s teeth regularly.
Wet cat food
Wet foods come in:
- foil trays
They are usually tasty for your cat and look nice. But they are usually smellier than dry foods and can be unhygienic. If you want to leave food out constantly for your cat, wet food tends to attract flies in the summer.
Some choose to feed a mix of both wet and dry food. This is absolutely fine for your cat. Just be sure to feed them the right amount of each food, store them correctly and introduce any new food slowly.
How to store wet cat food
Open packets and tins should be covered and stored in a fridge. But, as many cats will not eat cold food, it needs to return to room temperature before feeding.
We do not advise homemade diets. They are very difficult to get the right balance of nutrients.
Homemade diets are prepared at home from human foods such as:
- raw meat
- cooked butchers’ meat
If you are considering a homemade diet, be sure to speak with your vet or a veterinary nutritionist beforehand.
Vegan cat food
Some people ask about vegan or vegetarian diets for cats, but domestic cats are obligate carnivores. This means they need nutrients that can only be found in meat for their bodies to function properly.
There is currently no evidence that cats can get the nutrients they need to live a full and healthy life from diet purely made up of plants.
More on vegan cat food.
Raw cat food
This can come as a 'complete' meal from a pet shop, but many also make it themselves at home.
Typically raw food will be made up of:
- raw meat
- uncooked bone
- offal (the waste parts of an animal which include organs like heart liver or brains)
- tripe (stomach lining)
The measurements have to be incredibly specific to be a 'complete' diet. There are also concerns around the hygiene of raw food. The bacteria in raw meat can pose a risk to both your pet and you.
This can be a complicated way to feed your cat and may not provide a balanced diet.
Whatever you decide to feed, all cats need a constant supply of fresh water, which should be changed daily.
Can cats drink milk?
Once cats have left their mothers and moved on to solid food, they have no nutritional need for milk, and this includes cow's milk. We don’t recommend giving it to them either, as it can cause an upset tummy.
You can buy cat milk that is designed specifically for cats. But this is very high in calories and doesn't have the right balance of nutrients to keep your cat healthy.
How to switch cat food
The important thing is to find a food that suits your cat and stick to it. Swapping and changing can give your cat an upset stomach. So, if you have to change your cat’s diet:
- do it over a few days
- gradually introduce the new food and reduce the old food
This will reduce the risk of an upset stomach.
Different flavours of the same type of food won't harm your cat. Many foods are sold in packs containing mixed flavours and they enjoy mixing it up. However, cats that become used to a lot of variety may become picky eaters.
How to feed your cat
Wild cats hunt and eat when they need to, so our pet cats prefer to graze. So many owners leave food out for their cats all the time.
Some cats will overeat and become overweight if fed like this. If your cat is putting on weight, reduce the amount of dry food you offer them each day. Weighing it out will make sure you know exactly how much you are feeding them.
Where to put cat feeding bowls
Cats prefer that their water is kept separate to their food, so it may be a good idea to have those in different parts of the room. Because of this, we wouldn't advise buying bowls that are fixed together. We sell single cat bowls in our shop.
Make sure their litter tray is away from their food and water too – cats don't like toileting near them.
See our advice on setting up your home for a kitten.
Cats are predators, which means they need both physical exercise and mental stimulation. This is to prevent them from becoming bored, which can lead to behavioural issues.
One great way to keep their minds occupied and to allow them to practice their natural problem solving abilities is to serve their meals in a puzzle feeder.
Puzzle feeders are more complex than giving a cat their food in a simple bowl. Puzzle feeders can be:
- bowls with grooves or raised areas so the cat needs to use their paws or tongue to get to food
- a ball or box with holes in
You can feed all your cat’s meals in this. Feeding dry food is best for puzzle feeders that are enclosed, as these can be more difficult to clean. But wet food can be given in feeders with open tops.
How much should you feed your cat
The amount you need to feed depends on the size and exercise level of your cat. Most cats are great at regulating their own food intake if introduced to free feeding when young. So, if you are feeding dry food, you can leave a bowl out permanently.
Be sure to:
- always follow the feeding guide on the packet
- adjust the amount to make sure your cat maintains a healthy weight
- start by feeding the smallest amount recommended and increase this only if your cat looks thin. A lean cat is likely to live longer, have more energy and be much less prone to disease than a cat that is allowed to become overweight.
- feed your cat less if you give them any treats or other bits of food during the day
What to do if your neighbours feed your cat
We know that sometimes cats are fed by well-meaning neighbours. If you think this is happening, you could reduce the food you give them a little or ask your neighbours if they could stop if you're worried about your cat's weight.
If you're not sure who else is feeding them, you could also try an alert collar or post leaflets around your neighbourhood with more information.