There are plenty of articles that praise the adorableness of cats, and there’s no shortage of hilarious cat memes on Facebook and Instagram. While we love laughing at funny cat pics just as much as you do, we realize cat owners don’t just spend 24/7 snuggling and photographing their four-legged fluffs. They also keep them safe and healthy.
You have to feed your cat feline-friendly food if you want her to grow into a cuddly ball of cuteness worthy of a viral meme, and we’re here to make it easy for you to do that. Skim through these common questions about cat food to learn everything you need to know about feeding your kitty, from choosing the right food to figuring out how often to dole out a scoop of cat kibble.
General Questions About What to Feed Your Cat(s)
Is cat food good for cats?
Yes, cat food is generally good for cats as long as you choose food specifically designed for them. Many commercial cat food options contain a feline-appropriate amount of protein and fat held together with grains. Grain-free varieties are also available for pet owners concerned about their furry friend’s carbohydrate consumption.
If you need reassurance that the brand you buy is the real deal, look for a statement from the Association of American Feed Control Officials on the bag or can. It’ll explain that the food meets your cat’s dietary needs plus provide information about studies or research that backs up this claim.
Do cats drink milk?
Do cats drink milk when a human gives it to them? Yes.
Should they drink milk from a cow, goat, or anything other than their nursing mother? No, not really.
Cats are generally lactose intolerant, explains WebMD, so drinking milk can make them sick. If you give your kitty a bowl of milk, she may develop abdominal cramps or diarrhea, and she might even surprise you with a lovely pile of vomit.
Your cat might do okay with cheese or yogurt, but we don’t recommend serving that either. Cats can meet their nutritional needs just fine without dairy products, so there’s really no reason to give them any.
Is wet or dry food better for cats?
It’s tricky to answer this question because every cat has different nutritional needs. Some cats can get all the nutrients they need from dry food, but they may end up dehydrated. This is because wet food has a higher water content than dry food.
If your cat only eats wet food, his teeth might suffer. Some vets say that munching on dry kibble is good for cats because it mimics the effect of gnawing on animal bones in the wild. Other vets disagree because they feel that cats generally swallow dry pellets whole or spend very little time chewing them. In fact, a diet that consists solely of dry food may cause tartar and other unpleasant dental-related concerns.
Check with your cat’s vet to see what’s best for your pet’s unique needs. In the meantime, consider alternating between wet food and dry food each day to ensure your cat gets everything she needs.
Do cats and kittens eat the same food?
Kittens and cats have different nutritional needs, so some experts recommend feeding your kitten food made exclusively for younger cats until her first birthday. This helps her get plenty of amino acids and protein - both things that kittens need more of than cats.
If you’re in a bind and have to give your cat and kitten the same food, place their bowls in separate rooms or put the adult cat in a different area until mealtime is done. Adult cats often devour food quickly and push younger cats away, which makes it hard for your kitten to get the nutrients her body needs.
How much does it cost to buy cat food?
Cat food prices range from less than $1.00 to more than $20 or $30 per bag. The price depends on several factors, including:
- Size of the bag or can
- Brand (generic vs. name brand)
- Quality of the ingredients
You can buy pet food at a variety of stores, from gas stations and supermarkets to veterinary offices and private pet boutiques. Some dollar stores even carry cheap canned food and budget-friendly bags of dry kibble.
If you have trouble affording cat food, print coupons online or contact pet food companies directly for samples. You can also talk to your cat’s vet to see if any community programs are available to help you get inexpensive food.
Can cats eat human food?
Cats can safely consume some human foods, but in general, it’s best to stick with food that’s made just for cats. If you decide to let your cat snack on human foods, here are some fairly safe options:
- Steamed broccoli
- Baked carrots
- Steamed asparagus
- Cooked eggs (but watch out - some cats are allergic to eggs!)
- Baked chicken
- Roasted turkey
Remember, no food is 100% safe for every cat. Watch how your kitty reacts when you introduce a new food, and discontinue foods that make her sick. Talk to your vet if you’re not sure whether your cat is experiencing an allergic reaction.
How often should my cat eat?
The average cat requires a daily intake of around 200 calories. If your cat is very active, she might need more. A vet can help you decide.
Many pet owners feed their cats two main meals: One in the morning, and one in the evening. If your cat gets hungry between these meals, it’s okay to give her a snack. Just remember that snacks should make up no more than 10% of your cat’s daily calorie consumption.
Oh, and don’t forget to leave out plenty of clean water for your cat. If it’s hard to get her to drink water, sprinkle some on dry kibble.
How much should I feed my cat?
As mentioned in the question titled “How often should my cat eat?”, your cat needs around 200 calories per day. If you feed your cat twice a day, that means each meal should contain around 100 calories.
Calories vary by brand, so check the label before you dole out wet food or dry kibble. We’ve noticed that many brands recommend giving your cat 1/4 cup of dry food, but your brand might have different portion sizes.
How much water does my cat need?
Most cats need 2 to 4 ounces of fresh water with their food. If your cat only eats dry food, she might need more water than a cat who primarily feasts on wet food. That’s because wet food has a higher moisture content than kibble.
Cats are notoriously picky about their water bowl. If your cat snubs your attempts at feline hydration, try a stainless steel bowl. Cats have sensitive noses, and some plastic bowls have a funky taste and odor.
Make sure the water is clean. Would you chug a bottle of water with chunks of pet dander or cat hair floating around in it? No, and your cat doesn’t want to either.
Should I feed my cat on a schedule?
Yes, definitely feed your cat on a schedule if you can. If your work shifts vary or you simply struggle to remember to feed your cat at specific times, consider an automatic feeder.
Cats often prefer to eat at dusk and dawn because it reminds them of life in the wild (even if they’ve never left the kitchen for a meal), so these are good times to feed them. If you don’t establish a schedule, you might find yourself dealing with constant meows from your kitty as she begs for food throughout the day.
Where should I put my cat’s food bowl?
Leave it exactly where it is unless your cat seems uncomfortable with the current location. Purina One, a popular cat food brand, recommends watching for signs of discomfort or anxiety while your kitty eats. If your cat drags food away from the bowl or constantly looks around while chowing down, it might be time to move the bowl.
When you relocate the bowl, ask yourself whether you’d happily eat in the same spot. You probably don’t eat dinner on the toilet, so keep your cat’s bowl away from the litterbox. You should also make sure the bowl is in a visible spot, not tucked away behind a narrow cabinet or hidden in a dark hallway.
I have multiple cats - can they share a bowl?
They can, but it’s not the best idea. Cats are possessive when it comes to food, so you may notice one cat shoves the others away during meal times. It’s also hard to serve cat-appropriate portions of wet or dry food when you can’t figure out how much each cat is actually eating.
What kind of cat food bowl should I buy?
Some cats are weird about eating food from plastic bowls, so look for a dish made from stainless steel or sturdy ceramic. For your convenience (and your cat’s safety), consider a dishwasher-safe bowl. This makes it easy to rinse away the harmful bacteria that can form if wet food sits out for too long.
Some cats eat in a hurry, and they end up making a huge mess. If your cat knocks food all over the place, invest in a resilient bowl - and a food mat.
Wet Food for Cats
In general, what is the best wet food for cats?
We recommend Weruva Grain Free Cat Food if you’re looking for a high-quality canned food. It’s safe for human consumption (not that we suggest grabbing a fork and devouring a can), and it’s made from antibiotic-free, hormone-free chicken. Good stuff!
Reviews.com says that Lotus Just Juicy Pork Stew, Redbarn Naturals Salmon and Delilah, and Ziwi Peak Venison and Fish are safe, healthy choices for cats. You can also check the product name, suggests petMD. Pet food companies can only list an ingredient in the product’s name if it makes up at least 95% of the food. For example, a cat food labeled “Chicken Delight” must contain at least 95% chicken.
Do kittens eat wet food?
Yes, kittens eat wet food - and they should! It’s difficult for your kitten to crush kibble with her tiny teeth, so make sure she gets wet food whenever possible. Experts recommend serving wet food 4 times a day if you’ve got a kitten.
You can also provide dry food, but make sure it’s a formula designed just for kittens. Your kitten only needs to eat twice a day if her diet contains both wet and dry food.
Why does my cat hate wet food?
Maybe your cat doesn’t hate wet food. What type of cat food bowl are you using? Some cats refuse to eat from plastic bowls because they hate the way they smell. If that’s the case, your cat hates the bowl itself, not the bowl’s contents.
If you’re serving food directly in the can, that can also be a problem. Small cans make it difficult for your cat to reach the wet food inside, and she may even cut her tongue or nose on the can.
If you don’t use the can as a makeshift bowl, the culprit might be the brand or variety of cat food. If you usually buy beef-flavored wet food, try a chicken or turkey flavor. If you usually buy Purina, switch to Fancy Feast.
If your cat still refuses to eat wet food, sprinkle some water on her bowl of dry kibble. It’ll help her get plenty of water in her diet so she doesn’t get dehydrated.
Should I refrigerate canned cat food?
Yes, keep uneaten wet food in the fridge to help prevent harmful bacteria from forming. Your cat can get very sick if she eats food that has been sitting out too long.
Hill’s Pet Nutrition recommends removing uneaten wet food from cat’s bowl after 4 hours. If you’ve got an open can of wet food, cover it and place it in the fridge for no longer than 5 to 7 days. Keep in mind that the cat food you buy may have different storage requirements; check the can or contact the company that created the food if you need specific storage info.
Does my cat need wet food if he eats dry food?
In many cases, yes, your cat’s diet should contain both wet food and dry food. Each type of food has its own benefits and risks, as we’ve discussed throughout this article. Wet food has a higher moisture content than dry food, which helps prevent feline dehydration. If you can’t get your cat to eat wet food, make sure she’s getting plenty of water.
Dry Food for Cats
In general, what is the best dry food for cats?
Many pet owners think Purrfect Bistro Grain-Free Real Chicken Recipe by Merrick is the best dry food for cats, and we agree. It provides your cat with much-needed protein in the form of deboned chicken, and it doesn’t have any of the junky fillers found in other brands. It’s wheat free, grain free, corn free, and soy free, so it won’t overload your cat’s digestive system.
We also like Castor & Pollux Organix Cat Food. It’s surprisingly affordable for an organic cat food, and it helps control vomiting. Maybe you can finally walk barefoot across your living room without stepping in any surprise gifts from your furry friend.
What is the best dry food for kittens?
Blue Buffalo Wilderness High Protein Kitten Food has the nutrients that growing kittens need to thrive. Your kitty will have lots of energy to destroy your sofa (please, do yourself a favor and stock up on cat toys), plus she’ll develop lean muscle throughout her body.
There are no artificial preservatives in the kibble, and it’s also gluten free and grain free.
How long can I leave dry food in my cat’s bowl?
Depends on the brand and the location of your cat’s bowl. For example, dry kibble left beneath a sunny window may dry out and shrivel up after just a few hours, and we’re pretty sure your cat won’t appreciate that.
We recommend thinking of dry cat food the same way you think of dry cereal. Even if you leave it out for a couple days, it isn’t likely to get moldy. However, it won’t taste as good, and who wants to eat stale cereal (or kibble)?
Is it bad to switch the brand of dry food my cat eats?
It’s generally okay to switch the brand of dry food your cat eats, but make sure you don’t abruptly change your cat’s diet. Start by mixing a bit of the new food with the old food - unless your cat hates the old food. If she hates what you’re currently giving her, she’ll probably also hate the new food if you combine the two.
Each day, add a bit more of the new food than the old food. Continue doing this for about a week or so until your cat has fully transitioned to the new food.
Your cat may develop diarrhea, constipation, or an upset stomach during this time. Watch for changes in her personality and actions to figure out how she’s doing. If she doesn’t improve quickly, take her to a vet. It’s possible that your cat’s tummy can’t handle the new food, especially if it contains an ingredient the other food didn’t have.
Some cats need a specific brand of food, especially cats with medical conditions. Talk to a trusted veterinarian if you have a cat that is currently receiving treatment for a medical condition; switching food could be dangerous in this situation.
Issues and Concerns
My child ate cat food - what do I do?
It’s generally safe (but not recommended!) for kids to eat cat food. However, there are some serious issues that can occur.
Start by checking your child’s mouth and throat, especially if you’re dealing with a baby or toddler. Pet food, especially dry kibble, can be a choking hazard for young kids. Give your kiddo something warm to drink so that you can help dissolve any unseen food.
Grab the container of cat food and read the ingredients. Make sure it doesn’t contain anything your child is allergic or sensitive to, such as wheat or corn, and contact a medical professional immediately if it does.
Even if your child isn’t allergic to any of the ingredients, it’s still a good idea to give a pediatrician a call. A medical expert can help you figure out if you need to do anything else for your kibble-eating kiddo. It’s also wise to contact Poison Control just to be on the safe side.
Is it okay for my cat to eat dog food?
If it’s just an occasional thing, then yes, it’s okay for your cat to eat dog food. However, cats can get sick if they eat dog food on a regular basis.
When pet food companies offer separate containers of cat food and dog food, it’s not just a marketing ploy. Cats and dogs have different nutritional needs, so they shouldn't eat the same foods. Dogs need more calories than cats. Cats need a different form of Vitamin A than dogs, and they also need taurine. Taurine helps keep your cat’s heart healthy.
What should I do if my cat always throws up after eating?
Keep a log of your cat’s dietary habits so you can help a vet figure out what’s going on. Write down what she eats, when she eats, and how much she eats. This can help the vet determine whether your cat has a food allergy or is simply eating too much food for each meal.
You may also want to try switching to a cat food designed for sensitive digestive systems. We’ve got transition tips listed under the question titled “Is it bad to switch the brand of dry food my cat eats?”
What should I do if cat food gives my cat diarrhea?
If you’ve suddenly switched cat food brands or started offering wet food with your kitty’s dry food, diarrhea can be normal. It’s still smart to contact a vet, though, especially if symptoms don’t improve in a few days.
Also, think about your habits. Do you often use cleaning supplies near your cat’s food bowl or spray air freshener in the room? These particles can land on your cat’s food, resulting in an upset stomach.
My cat doesn’t want to eat - should I call the vet?
Let a vet know what’s going on if you can’t get your cat to eat after a couple days. Cats can end up with a fatal liver disease if they skip meals for more than 2 or 3 days, so it’s important to get help fast if needed.
Does your cat seem anxious or irritable? Has anything recently changed in your cat’s life? Try to figure out the root of her refusal to eat so you can tackle the situation. She may be nervous because you’ve recently moved to a new home or started dating someone, or she might have trouble getting to the food bowl when other cats are around. We’ll discuss the food bowl drama in the next question.
My cat hisses at my other cats when they walk near the food bowl - how do I fix this?
Ah, the joys of owning multiple cats. If you’ve got a feisty feline in your home, you may need to isolate her during mealtimes unless she can learn to share.
Make sure each cat has his or her own bowl, and don’t set the bowls right next to each other. If your cat scarfs down her food and rushes over to harass your other cats, move her food bowl to a separate room and close the door.
You should also consider the size and lifestyle of your cat. If you have a large cat that’s very active, she may need more calories than the other cats. That’s why she’s stealing their food. A vet can help you determine how much food each of your cats needs.
How do I get my cat to stop waking me up in the middle of the night to eat?
Cats can’t tell time, so your furry friend will meow loudly - and possibly even claw at your bedroom door - until someone stumbles out of bed and gets her some food. Fun, right?
It’s because cats are biologically wired to crave food at dusk and dawn. If you don’t want to wake up at 4 a.m. to feed your cat, consider getting an automatic food dispenser. You can also establish a schedule for your cat that’s close to the time she wants to eat, like 6 a.m. or so.
If you stick with a schedule, she’ll (hopefully!) learn that you aren’t going to roll out of bed and fill her bowl in the middle of the night.