Cats need appropriate foods to fuel their metabolism and keep their internal organs, tissues, skin and fur in top condition. Human foods are not appropriate for cats, but the specific type and amount of food you feed your cat depends on his activity level, health needs and feeding habits.
In the wild, a feline diet primarily consists of meat, so this must be a major component of your pet's diet as well. Cats are obligate carnivores, which means they have to eat meat. This is because cats' bodies cannot produce taurine, an amino acid, so they have to get it from animal sources. Some people solve their pet's meat needs by feeding a raw food diet, which consists solely of raw meat. If you choose to feed your cat a raw meat diet, consult a veterinarian for the appropriate proportion of fats, proteins and micronutrients your cat requires and always practice safe food handling when preparing meals for your pet.
Commercial Pet Food
Commercial cat foods come in dry, semi-moist and canned varieties. Canned cat foods a minimum of 75 percent water and are primarily made up of meat and meat byproducts. They tend to be highly palatable to cats, but they can spoil if left out too long. Dry cat foods typically contain grains in addition to meat, so they last longer when left out. However, your cat may not find them as appealing as canned food. Semi-moist foods are in between dry and canned foods in consistency and palatability. Most commercial cat foods are designed to fulfill all of an adult cat's nutritional needs, but you should look for labeling on the package that indicates this. Some cat foods, especially gourmet canned foods, may be intended as occasional treats and are not appropriate for everyday feeding because they lack some nutrients your cat needs.
Kittens need different food from adult cats. Until a kitten has weaned naturally, the most appropriate food for him is his mother's milk. Cow's milk is not appropriate for a kitten or cat of any age because cats have a hard time digesting it. At about four weeks of age, a kitten needs to start eating kitten food, which is higher in protein and some vitamins and minerals than adult cat food. Look for kitten food certified by the American Association of Feed Control Officials, or AAFCO, to be certain that it has the levels of nutrients your kitten needs.
While an occasional table scrap as a treat is unlikely to harm your cat, make sure that your cat's primary food needs are met through his normal cat food. Avoid feeding your cat chocolate, coffee, onions, garlic, tea, grapes or raisins, because all these foods can be toxic to cats. If your cat has a condition such as frequent bladder infections or urinary crystals, you might have to feed him a prescription cat food. Follow your vet's advice on which food to use for your pet's condition and when to feed it to your cat.
Bridget Coila specializes in health, nutrition, pregnancy, pet and parenting topics. Her articles have appeared in Oxygen, American Fitness and on various websites. Coila has a Bachelor of Science in cell and molecular biology from the University of Cincinnati and more than 10 years of medical research experience.