What Do Cats Eat?

What Do Cats Eat?

Cats enjoy a variety of different foods, flavors and textures.

Although cats primarily eat meat, they can and do eat other foods. Whether you’re considering changing your cat’s food or getting a cat for the first time, knowing what cats eat is an important part of cat ownership.

Are Cats Carnivores, Herbivores or Omnivores?

Cats are obligate carnivores. In other words, they’re meat eaters. “Cats need animal-based protein as part of their main diet,” explains Purina Nutritionist Karina Carbo-Johnson, MS. Some protein-rich foods cats like to eat include:

  • A variety of fish, such as salmon, trout, tuna and whitefish
  • Poultry like chicken, turkey and pheasant
  • Beef
  • In the wild, cats eat a variety of small prey

What Can Cats Eat?

Unlike people and dogs, cats rely heavily on protein as a source of energy. Cat food is typically higher in protein than dog food, but that doesn’t mean cat nutrition doesn’t include other foods, or that they don’t need them.

The non-protein ingredients included in cat foods are tasty and easily digested to support various aspects of their health.

What Can Cats Eat Besides Cat Food?

Although we recommend sticking to a complete and balanced cat food and occasional treats, cats can eat some human foods. These foods include:

Some cats may like foods like berries and melon as a treat, but not because they’re sweet. Cats don’t have receptors on their tongues to taste sweetness. Instead, foods like these have a bitter flavor, like amino acids in protein, which cats find tasty.  

As with regular cat treats, these foods should not exceed more than 10 percent of your cat’s daily caloric intake.

What Can Cats Not Eat?

There are many foods cats cannot eat. Raw or undercooked eggs, meat or fish all pose a risk of foodborne illnesses or parasites, so those should be avoided.

Cats shouldn’t have milk unless they have been raised on it and have adequate lactase enzymes, as these can cause digestive upset. Foods with bones are also a no because the bones can cause serious injury to a cat’s mouth, throat or intestines.

What If a Cat is a Picky Eater?

You may think your cat is a picky eater. In reality, she may be bored. “Cats generally like variety,” Carbo-Johnson explains. You can satisfy your cat’s desire for variety by introducing new flavors and textures of food often.

Deciding What to Feed a Cat

There are a lot of options when it comes to feeding your cat. You can choose from dry or wet cat food and there are a wide range of flavors and textures to satisfy all your cat’s cravings.

We can help you find the right food based on your cat’s unique nutritional needs and preferences.

Our Pet Expertise page has more tips on cat nutrition and feeding from our experts.


Find the Best Food for Your Dog or Cat

Dani and the Pet Food Finder tool make it easy to find a nutritious option specially formulated to give your pet a head start.