What Do Cats Eat

Cats need specific nutrients like proteins, fats, vitamins, and minerals to stay strong. The right diet prevents them from getting sick and helps manage health issues like obesity or diabetes. Good food also makes their fur shiny and their digestion smooth. When cats eat well, they feel good, behave better, and live longer, making them wonderful companions.

Over time, domestic cats’ diets have changed. Originally, they hunted small animals like mice and birds. As humans domesticated cats, they began eating scraps from human meals. With agriculture, cats started eating grains and food from settlements. Nowadays, many cats eat commercial cat food, specially made for their needs. So, from hunting to human scraps to commercial food, cats’ diets have evolved.

Natural Diet of Cats

Cats are obligate carnivores, meaning their natural diet primarily consists of meat. This specialized dietary requirement reflects their evolutionary adaptation as hunters.

1. Carnivorous Instincts

Cats are carnivorous animals by nature. This means they are biologically adapted to consume meat as their primary source of nutrition. Their digestive systems have evolved to efficiently process and derive nutrients from animal-based foods.

2. Prey Preference

In their natural habitat, cats are hunters. They have a strong instinct to hunt and capture small prey animals like mice, birds, rabbits, and insects. These prey items are rich sources of essential nutrients vital for a cat’s overall health and vitality.

3. Nutritional Composition

The natural diet of cats is characterized by high-quality protein and fat content. Protein is essential for muscle development, repair, and maintenance, while fat serves as a concentrated source of energy. Cats require a diet rich in animal-based proteins to meet their nutritional needs adequately.

4. Taurine Requirement

Taurine is an amino acid crucial for cats’ health, particularly for proper heart function, vision, and reproductive health. Cats cannot synthesize taurine on their own and must obtain it from their diet. Animal tissues, especially muscle meat, are abundant sources of taurine, highlighting the importance of a meat-based diet for cats.

5. Water Content

Cats have a relatively low thirst drive compared to other animals. In the wild, they obtain a significant portion of their hydration from the moisture content of their prey. This emphasizes the importance of providing wet or moist foods to domestic cats to ensure adequate hydration.

6. Role of Bone and Organs

Wild prey animals not only provide cats with muscle meat but also bones and organs. Bones are a source of essential minerals like calcium and phosphorus, necessary for bone health and overall well-being. Organs such as the liver and kidneys offer additional vitamins and minerals vital for various bodily functions.

Nutritional Requirements for Cats

1. Protein

  • Importance: Essential for muscle development, repair, and overall growth.
  • Source: Found in animal-based proteins such as meat, poultry, and fish.
  • Recommended Levels: Cats require higher protein levels in their diet compared to many other animals.

2. Fat

  • Role: Serves as a concentrated source of energy and aids in the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins.
  • Source: Found in animal fats and oils.
  • Essential Fatty Acids: Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids are crucial for skin health and coat condition.

3. Vitamins

  • Vitamin A: Important for vision, immune function, and skin health.
  • Vitamin D: Facilitates calcium absorption and helps maintain bone health.
  • Vitamin E: Acts as an antioxidant, protecting cells from damage.
  • Vitamin K: Essential for blood clotting and bone metabolism.
  • B Vitamins: Including B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), B6 (pyridoxine), and B12 (cobalamin), crucial for various metabolic processes.

4. Minerals

  • Calcium and Phosphorus: Vital for bone and teeth health.
  • Potassium: Essential for nerve function and muscle contraction.
  • Sodium and Chloride: Help maintain fluid balance and proper nerve function.
  • Magnesium: Supports enzyme function and muscle relaxation.
  • Iron: Necessary for oxygen transport in the blood.

5. Water

  • Critical Role: Essential for hydration, nutrient transport, and waste elimination.
  • Hydration Needs: Cats have a relatively low thirst drive, making it important to provide fresh, clean water at all times.
  • Moisture in Food: Wet or moist food can contribute significantly to a cat’s daily water intake.

6. Taurine

  • Unique Requirement: Cats require taurine, an amino acid, for proper heart function, vision, and reproductive health.
  • Sources: Found primarily in animal tissues, particularly muscle meat.
  • Deficiency Risks: Taurine deficiency can lead to serious health issues, including heart disease and vision problems.

Commercial Cat Food

Dry Cat Food (Kibble)

Typically made from a combination of meat, grains, and other ingredients. Convenient and easy to store, with a longer shelf life compared to wet food. Some varieties promote dental health by helping to reduce plaque and tartar buildup. Cats may require additional water intake when consuming primarily dry food to prevent dehydration.

2. Wet Cat Food

Available in cans, pouches, or trays, with a high moisture content similar to a cat’s natural prey. Often preferred by cats due to its texture and aroma, making it suitable for picky eaters. Helps maintain hydration levels, especially beneficial for cats prone to urinary tract issues. Requires refrigeration after opening and has a shorter shelf life compared to dry food.

3. Semi-Moist Cat Food

Soft and chewy texture, resembling meat chunks or pellets. Highly palatable, appealing to many cats’ preferences. Convenient packaging and storage, with no need for refrigeration. Typically contain preservatives and artificial flavors to maintain texture and shelf life.

4. Specialty and Prescription Diets

Formulated to address specific health concerns or dietary restrictions, such as weight management, urinary health, or food sensitivities. Often recommended by veterinarians for cats with medical conditions or special dietary needs. Available through veterinary clinics or by prescription, ensuring proper guidance and monitoring.


Cats are meat-eaters, so they need protein and fat for energy and muscle strength. Commercial cat food offers convenience, but it’s important to choose high-quality options with ingredients like meat and balanced nutrients. It’s also essential to consider factors like hydration and any health issues your cat may have.

Consulting with a vet ensures you’re meeting your cat’s specific needs. With proper nutrition, cats can lead long, healthy lives as cherished members of our families. By paying attention to what they eat and providing the best food possible, we can help them thrive and enjoy their time with us to the fullest.

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