Are You Feeding Your Cat Correctly?

A cat’s diet is highly important to their health. They are obligate carnivores, which means they must eat meat to survive, and it should be the primary source of nutrition. In other words, there’s no such thing as a vegan cat.

orange tabby cat eating meat off a bone

What should you feed your cat?

As a veterinarian, I am often asked by owners what to feed their cats. And I’m not surprised. If you look at what’s available in the cat food aisle at your local pet store, you might think finding healthy food for your cat is pretty complicated. They make cat food for healthy coats, urinary problems, indoor lifestyles, and a dozen or so other characteristics. And while you should follow your own vet’s advice about your pet’s specific nutritional needs, a cat’s basic diet is quite simple. They need high quality protein, and lots of it.

That said, make sure your cat is getting that protein from quality meat. This will keep their heart strong and their vision sharp. I’d recommend feeding more wet food than dry kibble because wet food is lower in calories, higher in protein and full of moisture. Think of it as the “Catkins Diet”: high in protein, low in carbohydrates.

two cats eating from a bowl of food

Look at the ingredients list. The items listed first are the heaviest in weight. If the first two to three ingredients aren’t meat, it might be time for a change. In fact, I suggest regularly changing your cat’s brand and flavor of food. They need variety.

How much should you feed your cat?

The other question I get asked is how often and how much to feed your cat. This one is going to depend a bit more on your cat—for example, kittens and cats with health conditions have different needs than a healthy adult cat—but my basic recommendations are based on a cat’s natural instincts.

In the wild, cats will consume multiple small meals throughout the day (about 30-40 calories at a time, up to seven or more times a day). Unfortunately, pets are often fed large meals one or two times per day. This just isn’t the best, or even an appropriate, way to feed your cat.

I like to allow my cats kibble as in-between meal snacks or treats (often in puzzles or by foraging), and then offer meat-rich meals multiple times a day. This will allow them to eat when they are hungry and I am unavailable to serve them their wet meals. As always, pay attention to your cat’s behavior. If they have a tendency to scarf their food, they probably need to be fed smaller meals more often.

The Bobber cat wand toy attachment

For meat-based meals, a quality wet cat food will work just fine. The moisture in the food will also give them hydration. Of course, you should always keep fresh water out for your cat as well. But if you’re feeding them wet food, you may notice that they drink less.

grey and white cat sitting next to a glass of water eating kibbles of dry food

What about people food?

Yes, you can feed your cat some “people foods,” like meat, poultry, and fish, but make sure you’re giving them unseasoned versions. When in doubt, just stick to meat-based protein. There are some vegetables and plants they can eat safely but others that may be harmful. Do you homework and know what foods cats can or cannot eat and always check with your vet if you’re concerned.

a woman's hand holding a fish in front of a cat offering it up for food

The bottom line is: don’t rely on one pet food corporation to know what’s best for your cat. Instead, rotate brands frequently and offer variety. You know your cat best. And remember, your cat’s digestive system is designed to process meat. Figure out the best, most economical way you can provide that, and you’ll have a happier and healthier cat.


  • kimie clyne

    Hi my cat has always been looking for food since the first day I got her it’s like she is obsessed with finding food she is now 2yrs old nothing changed she’s 13 pounds and eating everything in sight any suggestions ;

  • Tamara Lynne Terry

    People looking for info on Cat food should read I think she should have recommendations on there of which brands are best. We’ve rescued feral cats for many years and feed them premium grain free wet and dry foods. They say not to feed them dry foods but when there are as many as we have only some like wet food. They have like 6-7 brands of Premium grain free dry and 5 brands of premium grain free wet. But, they are picky. LOL.

  • Lisa F.

    I have 2 rag doll cats (male & female) who are 3 years old. From pat experience, I know how difficult it is to change cat’s food because it will give them stomach issues. What do you recommend? I have tried weaning them onto a new wet food, but can’t imagine doing that often.

  • Nic

    Hey there, thanks for the information. What’s the reason for changing the flavor regularly? Cats usually don’t like changes. Kittens often get diarrhea from changing brands.

  • Sharon Ganne

    Is it alright to feed our kitty ground turkey meat every now and then? His normal diet is Royal Canin Adult Instinct which he loves. He always licks his plate clean.

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