Some cats like variety, others will not eat unless it's what they are used to. To determine what they like best, offer two dishes, letting them smell both before serving. See what gets eaten first, and keep notes. This may vary over time, just the way humans may feel like having Thai food one day, yet have a craving for a burger the next. So don't dismiss a food unless it has had a thorough testing.
If you have a cat that is addicted to lower quality cat food, you can change their habit by slowly mixing in better food.
The following comes from Anindita Roy on Quora:
“I have no idea who these weird people are saying wet food isn't good for cats or are like McD burgers, lol. Please ignore them. Sheba perfect portions are actually one of the best wet foods you can find in that price bracket. It has only named meat and some by-products (which means organs and glands which anyway cats eat first in any animal and does not mean hooves or dead animals like some idiots will tell you), has good protein-fat-carb ratio, good amount of calories for a less amount of food (you need to feed only 4 servings if you are only feeding them to your average sized cat) and has no grains or potato at all and has low carbs (7%). It's above average even compared to much more expensive cat foods like Wellness and Weruva. If it's what you can afford and your cat will eat readily, then just feed that. If you can afford more expensive food, then do that if your cat will eat it. Even fancy feast classic pate are good grain free food (not the other ones which have loads of wheat and carbs) if your cat will eat it. However, Sheba is a better brand imo as it has no artificial flavors. I feed my cats both Sheba and Fancy feast pate along with some high protein grain free dry food.”
That's a great answer. However, canned food isn't the best food for humans, is it? Then why would it be for cats?
Canned cat food also tends to contain too much phosphorous:
The best food for a cat, is whole mice or birds. So how to mimic this with food from the grocery store? I intend to learn and update this article.
My solution in the past, when I had an indoor/outdoor cat, was to teach him to eat his kill (he didn't know how). He brought home a bird, and I plucked the feathers while he watched with great interest. Then I cut into the bird with a knife to expose blood, and put the bird on his plate. I had a guest room which became his office (the killing room). I had to vacuum the feathers and pick up an occasional beak. I also offered wet cat food and also let him eat whatever I was eating if he wanted some. If there are ingredients that are toxic to cats, throw them out of the house.
For those without the option of having a relatively safe outdoors for a cat, and limited time to indulge in preparing your own cat food, an adequate compromise may be to vary the diet with all of wet, dry, and human food. Prepare the human food with healthy ingredients for both of you, and set a dinner table for two, or three, or however many cats you have.
The list at this site is overkill, but it's a start: https://www.carnivora.ca/html/carnivora-cats/Cat-Nutrition/index.cfm The reason it is overkill, is that some of the nutrients will already be in grocery store meat. This section is under construction.
calcium phosphorus 2:1
methionine and cysteine (usually low in most cat foods)
fat provides vitamins A, D, E and K
Choosing a baby food, it may be a better guarantee you will get quality meat from these products, than canned cat food. For example, Gerber Brand Chicken and Gravy or Beech Nut Beef and Beef Broth. The Gerber brand has a litte corn starch as a thickener.
Small amounts to complement their carnivore diet:
Yes: baked carrots, peas, frozen corn, steamed asparagus or broccoli florets, green beans, zucchini, spinach, catnip, green beans, winter squash, lettuce or chopped greens.
No: garlic, onions, tomatoes, avocados or mushrooms.
Cat's don't need to drink as much water as humans do, but it's still good to keep your cat hydrated. You can entice your cat to drink more water in several ways.
For a serving of dry or dehydrated cat food they will eat right away, you can soak these in a couple of tablespoons of water to make a soup. Dry food that's been wet will go bad very quickly, so a small amount is best if your cat likes to graze.
An example with one grazer cat. I want to discourage grazing, so I put out the food, and when she's finished I cover the bowl and put it in the fridge. This works if you are around, so you can give her food when she begs for more. This is also a good way to teach her tricks, since you control the reward. It also negates the need for any of the following motion detection, microchip detection, or timer food bowls in the following sections.
Ceramics are my favorite, compared to plastic or stainless bowls. They should be shallow because cats dislike having their whiskers touch the sides.
A lot of cats are grazers, eating a little throughout the day. How do you serve wet food in a way that it won't dry out, or attract flies?
https://www.surepetcare.com/en-us/pet-feeder/sealed-pet-bowl, which has a motion detecting lid.
If you have more than one cat, and they require different diets. Or, if one cat scarfs food when served, and the other is a grazer.
However, one of my parent's cats is BJ, a grazer, who will open his dish for his best friend Chris, the scarfer. My parents were curious if BJ was going to the dish because he might be hungry, however, he had no interest when given another bowl. Chris is supposed to be on a diet. Chris and BJ are pals; a coalition.
You can also use a microchip cat door placed into a large tupperware container. The following is a commercial version:
There are also many others that hold multiple servings, using either a turning carousel or a large compartment that dispenses to the same bowl. Carousel feeders ensure they always get a clean bowl for every serving.