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Feeding Pet Cats: Cat Food, Diet, and Scheduling

Updated on July 6, 2009

Feeding Cats

Although, it has been a while since I've had a pet cat, from what I remember a pet cat's diet and scheduling is slightly similar to a pet dog. The main difference is the actual cat food and the components of a balanced cat diet.

Remember that even your pet tabby cat is a carnivore, meaning they eat meat and need meat in order to have a balanced, healthy diet. No, that doesn't mean that you can cook up a steak, and feed it to your feline friend.

Feeding your cat a truly balanced diet calls for a premium cat food that supplements meat and plant material with vitamins and minerals, as well as other nutrients essential for your cat's health, such as the amino acid taurine.

You don't want to change up the cat food at the end of the bag or towards the last can. By changing up the diet, you can upset the cat's stomach and bowels. It's best to keep the cat on a well-balanced diet and on a feeding schedule, but you don't necessarily need to change cat foods every other week.

Wet Food, Dry Food, or Homemade Cat Food

Wet Food

Wet food, or canned cat food, is one of the top most popular forms of cat food. It generally comes in either 3 ounces, 5.5 ounces, or 13 ounce cans, or pouches.

Many veterinarians recommend that a cat's diet consists mostly of canned or homemade foods because there is a higher water content in canned foods versus dry foods, which can be an overall health benefit. In addition to a higher water content, wet food generally contains less grains and carbohydrate material.

Canned foods tend to be made from real fish materials, versus by-products.

Some veterinarians claim that canned foods either treat or reduce the likelihood of health concerns such as urinary tract disorders, diabetes, chronic renal failure, constipation, and obesity. But, at the same time, some veterinarians claim that the foods in the pop-top containers contain bisphenol A, which can contributed to the development of hyperthyroidism in cats.

Dry Food

Dry food is a great option in terms of content, convenience, and price; usually you will find dry cat food in 4-5 pound bags for around $5-$10, depending on the brand, flavor, and type of food. This is a huge price difference from the $0.20 a can. Plus, dry cat foods can be left out for the cat to eat over time, whereas can cat food will spoil after a few hours.

In terms of health, dry cat foods are recommended by veterinarians because they allow the cat to chew the kibble and break a part the the kibble, which cleans their teeth by scrapping off plaque.

Dry foods contain meat-meals (chicken, fish, etc) as their main protein source, which is why you are able to get larger quantities for a cheaper price. There are some studies that report the meat-meal sources are better than other protein-meal sources in terms of digestibility and nutritional value.

Cat foods that contain corn gluten or any form of corn should also be avoided as this is a big filler that can cause more problems. It will also cause your cat to need to eat more to get the same nutrients as a higher quality food with few to no fillers, and eating more means more poo.

But, the same studies, also, showed that cats fed on dry food diets, tend to excrete alkaline urine, which is addressed in some cat foods by adding urine-acidifying ingredients to the dry food. Although, this may sound great, the urine-acidifying ingredients may cause feline stones.

Homemade Food

The new trend in the pet society, is homemade pet foods, which is mostly in light of the past pet food scare of 207. In terms of homemade cat food diets, you would want to include cooked or raw meat, ground bone, pureed vegetables, taurine supplements, and a multi-vitamin supplement. You may want to include a digestive enzyme supplement, as well.

Note: Although in most cases, cats are resistant to the bacteria of raw meat, sometimes if frozen for long periods of time before use, raw meat can contain harmful parasites and organisms.

The one big concern with preparing homemade diets for cats is that some human foods are not suitable for cats because they contain the emulsifying agent propylen glycol (PG), which is actually deadly to cats. PG is commonly added to fresh meat and poultry and not listed on the product label, so you won't be aware if PG is in the fresh meat that you've purchased for your pet cat.

Some veterinarians claim that raw diets are the best for pet cats; you will want to talk to your vet about the best homemade diet or other options if that's the route you want to take.

Choosing Cat Food

Make sure that when choosing a cat food brand, that the food contains proteins as the first ingredient on the label.

Appropriate cat foods contain Tuarine, which is an essential amino acids that cats need in their diet.

The cat food you choose, needs to contain vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and fatty acids, as well as water.


  • Foods with "by-products," "meat and/or bone meal," "animal digest," and any food that contains "digest," "meal," and sugars.
  • Chemical preservatives, including BHA, BHT, ethoxyquin, and propyl gallate
  • Corn meal as a filler
  • Excess of carbohydrate fillers

Creating a Balanced Diet

Whether you choose to feed your cat wet food, dry food, or a homemade diet, you want to make sure to ensure that you're providing your cat a well- balanced diet.

In terms of dry and wet cat foods, you may want to speak with your veterinarian to get his recommendation for the top cat food brands.

Once, you've picked the best brand for you and your cat, you may want to consider buying a bag of dry cat food, to aid in teeth and oral maintenance, as well as a few cans of wet cat food. Try to keep the same brand and the same type of food. Many premium pet food brands will offer dry food with a wet food complement.

Make sure that the type of food is appropriate for your cats age and style of life. Many brands offer an outdoor formula as well as an indoor formula cat food.

Next, check the label. Make sure that the food contains around 34-38 percent protein and 19-22 percent fat.

If your cat has digestive problems, you may want to find a cat food that has a higher fiber content; if your cat has kidney or heart disease, you may want to find a cat food that has reduced protein, phosphorus, and sodium. (Check with your veterinarian.)

As you cat ages and begins to reach 8 to 10 years old, you'll want to make sure that the cat food smells and tastes good, as well as being easy to chew and digest.

Create a Feeding Schedule

Now that you've decided which cat foods you'll be purchasing for your feline friend, and how you're going to create the best, well-balanced diet, you need to know when you should feed your pet cat.

Do remember that for the most part, cats are nibblers, so you'll want to provide dry food throughout the day, and set aside a special time to give the cat wet food (if you've chosen to provide a mixed diet).

For the most part, you'll want to provide small amounts of can food twice a day (morning and night) in a separate bowl or plate. A small amount may vary per cat, but I'd go with maybe a tablespoon or two twice a day.

Make sure that you keep a regular schedule. It will be easier for you to keep a routine if you know that at 9:00 am and 6:00 pm, you'll be scooping out the can food.

Also, make sure that once you've decided the appropriate amount of food that your cat needs, stick with that amount. You don't want to overfeed your cat because obesity can lead to health concerns and even shorten the lifespan of your furry friend.


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