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.
Anindita Roy on Quora may be right about the quality of lower cost canned cat food, as long as it has the right proportions of proteins, fats, and carbs:
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:
https://www.petfoodindustry.com/articles/7069-high-phosphorus-cat-food-may-hurt-kidneys. See also: https://www.nature.com/articles/nrneph.2016.164
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 you use in your meals that are toxic to cats, throw them out the window.
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.
They actually list what ingredients are good and bad in each individual cat food product.
Some good info, but I'm not so sure about their rating system.
Good for reading about the companies behind the brands.
These review sites can't measure the quality of the meat provided, because they go by ingredient lists. Was that beef grass fed? Probably not. Was the beef lightly cooked in the can (or worse, was it cooked in plastic), or was the beef cooked to the point of destroying beneficial amino acids? There's no way to tell from the ingredients listed. So aside from whole food ingredients, I look at the consistency and smell. I prefer to have it look and smell like fresh meats. Cat food really isn't that different from human food. I read that in a random taste test, people could not tell the which pate was pate, and which was cat food pate. While many cats like pate, I also like milkshakes. So I prefer meat to look like meat, rather than pate. The less processed, the better.
I prefer pre-packaged small servings, as the food is always fresher right after opening, so I look for brands that have 3oz or less. My current buys are:
primal - frozen raw. Upon opening I divide into smaller zip locks.
stella and chewys - dehydrated raw. Upon opening I divide into smaller zip locks.
tikki cat - 3oz cans, including After Dark. Curious about their raw product.
weruva - the bff soups are great.
sheba - most affordable. I like the perfect portions, and the tender stick treats.
Not meant to be comprehensive of which cat foods are the best, just what Luna is currently scarfing down and asking for more. She also eats whatever I'm having, and beef or chicken baby food. The future may hold some raw human grade meat, including bones to clean her teeth.
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
Prescription diets are mostly poor quality cat food, for the purpose of profiteering by the food industry. A common story of corporations preying on conformists. For a thorough analysis, read this article:
If your cat has a health issue, the first line of correction is to feed him quality, healthy cat food.
Kidney issues are caused by feeding dry cat food and giving unnecessary booster vaccines. However, if your cat's kidneys are severe, you will have to reduce the protein content. The key is to reduce phosphorous, which meat, poultry, and fish are high in. More details on prevention and treatment:
Menadione Sodium Bisulfate (Synthetic Vitamin K). “…whereas the natural forms of vitamin K are safe, even in high doses, K3 can interfere with glutathione, your body’s main antioxidant. K3 was once used to treat vitamin K deficiency in infants, but it caused liver toxicity, jaundice, and hemolytic anemia. Nowadays, it is used only in animal feed, in small doses” examine.com. Also see truthaboutpetfood.com and bigcatrescue.org.
Ethoxyquin, BHA, BHT, propyl gallate, or other synthetic preservatives.
They sell crickets for reptiles at the pet shop. Indoor cats can experience a taste of the outdoors. Some people put the crickets in the bath tub, but if you don't mind the cricket noise at night, you can let them loose in the house. However, you may want to guard your dirty laundry:
“Crickets are not commonly thought to be an insect that eats holes in clothes, and they do not feast on clean clothes. However, they find body soil, food and beverage stains, and laundry starch very attractive. The crickets will eat the remains of the stain and during their feast will often cut the threads of the fabric. This is often not discovered until after the garment is washed or worn and a sudden hole appears.” thespruce.com
I eat burgers medium rare, and the middle sure looks really pink to me. I figure cats can handle rare if it's fresh and good quality.
I also put raw eggs in my smoothies. Maybe some egg yolk will mix well into the raw beef, for added variety. I read egg whites keep cats from absorbing nutrients, for some reason.
Raw bones are important for feline dental health. Chunks and Bones For Your Cat's Teeth: “Raw bones appropriate for cats include fresh chicken necks and wings, which the cat can completely consume.” Approximately 70% of domestic cats have some dental issue by the age of 3.
How to grind raw bones: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cueO3EkYgps
While I think raw is a great idea, I have not transitioned. My reservation is that I don't want to serve meat raw that is maybe a week old, and I suspect that's what you get at most supermarkets. Something I need to research.
One convenient and low cost option is chicken gizzards. You can give them as whole pieces, and it takes a good amount of work for your cat to chew off pieces. It's very satisfying to see my kitten chewing while I also get to eat my own meal. If I slice it up beforehand, then it gets absorbed in a few seconds, and his attention is redirected towards my food bowl.
I need to read this site, it looks good: https://feline-nutrition.org/
Anything in the freezer will accumulate frost on the outside, as moisture builds up every time you open the container. It's good to rinse off the frost before serving. Thereafter I warm up the food in the microwave for 5 seconds. Luna prefers food that can be licked, so I mash the chunks. Then warm for another 5 seconds.
Sometimes I'll serve with baby food on the side, and Luna eats that first, although not exclusively as her tongue wanders to the raw as well. Other times I mix the two together in a swirl pattern.
“Unlike most grain-free foods, Dr. Elsey’s kibble doesn’t contain any legumes, potatoes, or other plant-sourced ingredients. Instead, it relies on gelatin as its sole binding agent. This allows Dr. Elsey’s cleanprotein™ cat food to keep its carbohydrate content under 10%. That’s practically unheard of among dry foods.” The 6.6 lb salmon/chicken blend is $28 at amazon. For some reason, the plain chicken flavor is $38.
Dry cat food should not be a mainstay, because cats get the majority of their moisture from food. Cats have less thirst than they need to have, unless they are fed a diet high in moisture. Feeding dry cat food exclusively leads to kidney disease. One option is to make dry food soup.
Cat chews are good for your cat's teeth and give them something interesting to do. Cats usually just swallow smaller stuff whole, so my hope is that they will enjoy the process by slowing them down a bit. There are some jerky sticks, like from Sheba, that are for cats. My 7 week old kitten had no problem with that, finishing it in less than 30 seconds. He's had practice with whole baked chicken gizzards, which has had the best performance in terms of lasting at least two minutes, and requiring a spectacular battle for which he was victorious. I don't understand how he can fit so much in his stomach.
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. If you feed the Beech Nut by itself, they may lick all the broth, and there will be a residue of dry beef particles at one end of the plate. This doesn't happen with the Gerber brand. However, if you thoroughly stir the Beech Nut into canned cat food, it can turn a high-end cat food they don't like, into a tasty treat.
You can completely skip these, but if somehow you get a cat that craves broccoli, then as an option you can give 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.
Do plants that cats chew on supply any nutrient they need? I don't know, yet.
“Can I have plants in my house and still keep my cat safe?
Yes, I keep one spider plant in my house to act as a “sacrifice” to my cats; they love to chew on the long fronds of this plant, and it’s very safe. My cats typically leave my other plants alone as they prefer the spider plant! That said, like the majority of plants out there, the spider plant can cause some vomiting when ingested. For the rare cat that devours large amounts of plant material, there’s a small chance that the long fronds of the spider plant can tie together and get stuck in the stomach. But a few bites? No biggie.” pethealthnetwork.com
Cats are lactose intolerant. All the sugar in dairy is lactose. Fermented dairy has less lactose, because the culture feeds on the sugar. If your cat likes these, the amount given should be small. Whenever I'm having fermented dairy, I offer a bit to my cat. Do not give cats cheap cheeses such as velveeta (or to yourself, for that matter), because these do not have live cultures.
For example, milk has 12 grams of lactose per cup, half and half has 10 grams per cup, and cottage cheese has 6 grams per cup. Heavy cream and cream cheese have trace amounts of lactose. The sugar content of cheese depends on the amount of time the culture has had time to ferment it. “Cheeses such as mozzarella, provolone, cheddar, Swiss and blue cheese generally contain less than 1 gram of lactose per ounce.” 1
“If you want to know if a cheese is lactose free then you need to check the nutritional label and see how much sugar is listed. Lactose is a sugar so if it has none – then it has no lactose either. Legally it can have up to half a gram of sugar and still be “Sugar Free”” Source: https://www.ihateyoumilk.com/advice/how-to-tell-if-cheese-contains-lactose
One ricotta cheese I saw had 8 grams of fat, 7 grams of protein, and 2 grams of carbs. That would make it 12% carbs, 47% fat, and 41% protein.
” Cow’s milk is an inadequate substitute for the milk received by a kitten from its mother. The calcium-to-phosphorous ratio and lactose levels are too high in cow’s milk. The energy, fat levels and protein are too low to provide adequate growth in a kitten. Human baby formula is also not a good substitute as it provides less than 50% of the protein and fat required for a kitten’s growth. “ Alley Cat Allies
” Do not substitute cow's milk or goat's milk for a high quality kitten milk replacer. They are not equivalent. Do not feed raw egg whites, as a biotin deficiency may occur due to an enzyme in the white part of the egg. The enzyme is destroyed with cooking. Honey may contain bacteria, which may be fatal to the kittens. “ Philippine Animal Rescue Team
Home made recipe:
3 egg yolk (no whites) 3 oz. goat milk 3 oz. plain full fat yogurt 3 oz. bone broth
Heat the bone broth, then add the goat milk to lower the temperature, then add the egg yolk and yoghurt. Blend and bottle.
There are many other formula recipes available on the net, but they all mention they are not nutritionally complete, that you should buy formula from the store. I sought to find the most nutritionally balanced recipe as an alternative, so the kittens could have a tasty treat. Maybe food is more yummy when it's varied a bit. Maybe they won't grow up finicky?
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, including commercial broths and soups for cats (see category above).
If you are using a water filter that purifies water, including removal of all ions (such as the Zero-Water filter), then you can “dirty” the water as a way to keep the water fresh, by adding ions of your choice. Otherwise, deionized water will leach whatever ions are in the air. For example, a tea bag, dunked a few times, will add ions into the water and it will no longer be deionized. Use glass (or ceramic? or stainless steel?) containers as deionized water can leach from surfaces such as plastic. Even regular tap water does, to a lesser extent.
The Zero-Water filter comes with a plastic pitcher. I put the pitcher in the fridge, as cold water can leach less plastic. Later I transfer the water to a sealed glass container, until the water is needed.
“Provide your cat with fresh water every day. Cats prefer to drink away from their food. This is a natural behavior in the wild to avoid drinking water potentially contaminated with the dead prey. Place several water sources in different locations within the home. Consider glass bowls as they do not retain a smell like plastic and cats do like to see the water level in their bowls. Shallow, wide bowls are preferred to respect their sensitive whiskers. Some cats like to drink from a moving source so a water fountain may be beneficial.” source
Cook up some meat with bones in a slow cooker, for both you and your cat, using only cat safe ingredients. If you want to add non-safe ingredients, you can first take some of the broth out a few hours before completion. Bone broth is especially good for nursing mother cats. It can be served by itself, or mixed with cat food. Have an expensive, high end, canned cat food your cats don't like? Stir in some broth and it will be an immediate delicacy.
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 or bone broth 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.
Warning: do not use any essential oils.
Cats may like to drink catnip tea. Don't leave the catnip in the water, because cats may avoid water that looks dirty. You may find them trying to paw the catnip out of the way for drinking. So it's best to steep the catnip and then strain.
You get conflicting messages from two different brands of tea, regarding what is safe for cats. Plumdeluxe.com states: “A few ingredients that may work well for your next cat tea party include chamomile, valerian, peppermint, apples, apricots, blueberries, and other safe fruits.” While Teabox.com advises to steer clear of anything besides catnip.
An archive of the site nelsonvet.com, recommends a tablespoon of peppermint tea as a remedy for cat vomiting.
So you can make tea for yourself, then add a tablespoon per cup into your cat's water. I've not seen a cat drink a whole cup of water. Straight tea may cause diarrhea??, but the lesser amount won't cause harm. It would be hard to tell the water has tea from its color.
Catnip *high* alternatives include silver vine (Actinidia polygama), Tatarian honeysuckle (Lonicera tatarica), valerian (Valeriana officinalis). Of the four, the amount of the active ingredient, nepetalactone is highest in catnip. Nepetalactone mimics pheromones, so the high is psychological.
“Several teas such as chamomile and peppermint tea are completely safe for cats to have as they are herbal and contain a high amount of antioxidants. They also act as gentle astringents and help in treating inflammation, reducing skin irritations, and relaxing the muscles. In fact, chamomile tea is a good choice for treating anxiety and insomnia in cats and can even be used as a mild sleeping-aid for hyperactive pets and cats that have problems with sleeping.” freakypet.com ← Cats can have trouble sleeping? Who knew.
I bought this fountain. I didn't want to get a more techie fountain with a filter. You still end up having to clean the fountain anyway, just less often. I feel like it's the same amount of work having to maintain a fountain with more parts and a filter you have to keep replacing.
I use my zerowater filter water to add purified water to the fountain, and add four tablespoons of my herbal tea into the water (see tea section for details).
Usually after two days, I notice that the water doesn't look perfect (I set a recurring reminder on my desktop). I proceed to clean and refill the fountain:
Cats have a stomach the size of a ping pong ball. The exception is kittens, who have expanding bellies when they are full with food. Adult cats can fit more in their esophagus, but it may come back out later on. This is why you will see undigested food come out, sometimes as late as an hour after too large of a meal. Another cause may be a hairball in the stomach, that blocks the food from ever entering the stomach. So the food may have been sitting in the esophagus for quite some time. When the throw-up looks undigested, it is referenced as regurgitation rather than vomit. Not wanting to waste the delicious food, the cat may proceed to start eating the regurgitate.
Best practice, is to serve small meals throughout the day, 3-4 times a day. Free feeding can lead to health issues, as a cat will overeat. The instinctual hunger is to eat while the eating is good, which is fine in the wild, but not with a domestic all-you-can-eat buffet. A cat's digestive metabolism is faster than ours, so they will practice intermittent fasting during your sleeping period.
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. I microwave for 4-6 seconds when I reserve so it's not cold. Sometimes I will use the toaster oven at 130F (54C), and the smell drives her crazy. This works if you are around, so you can give her food when she asks 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.
Some people recommend keeping a regular schedule because they think cats need routine so they are not ”out of control. It was as if he turned into a possessed and angry demon.“ (link refers to human child). I hope to train my cat to have zen like a Buddhist monk, that also enjoys attacking me without claws (thanks to God), and has a general sense of humor.
A long time ago, when Korina was still around, I trained her to keep my bald head well bathed. She did it once, and I jumped for joy and ran to get her a treat. Soon thereafter it was her mission to keep me well bathed. I always allowed her to pull my head down to the desk with her paw, so she could take care of me. Even at the dinner table with my family. I think she felt satisfaction of having so much power over her human. Everything besides her was lower priority.
My cat has issues with chewing. She is 3 years old, and I haven't checked her dental health. I measure her level of hunger by how willing she is to chew, and how much she starts running up and down the hall trying to get my attention with the wild look in her eyes. She gets frustrated with how stupid I am, but she is also learning how to communicate with the human. She stares at me trying to figure me out, or maybe she has the same face as a vulture waiting for the prey to die.
For canned cat food, for example chunks in gravy, some cats will lick up the juices and leave the chunks. They will leave behind anything that requires chewing. You can get around this with pate, or by smashing the chunks and stirring. Some even get a food processor for this purpose.
If you make your own cat food, you can use a blender for making large batches that are chunk free. You can also use a food mill, coffee grinder, handheld blender, or personal blender for a small batch. I'm going to try the Cuisipro Herb Mill because it looks easy to clean, and doesn't make noise. Update: The Cuisipro Herb Mill does not work. The blades don't catch the food and pull it through the mesh. It's a nice contraption, except for the blades which are poor quality and bad design.
To find out if the cat is not OCD, and instead has dental issues, offer them a jerky treat such as ones from Sheba. Hold the jerky in your hand with closed fingers, exposing a 4cm end for them to bite a piece off. I found that Nuna winced when I angled the food so she would bite with her rear right side. She is 3 years old, yet probably needs dental work.
Hypothesis: Maybe most cats don't like chewing, because they are more likely to throw up with larger morsels, given their small, ping-pong ball sized stomach. A pate or liquid goes faster into their intestine.
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.