The right diet is really important for your cat. It’ll help keep them happy and healthy. The diet they need will vary depending on their age, breed and size.
Obesity is a growing problem for the UK’s pets. Keeping a close eye on your cat’s diet will help keep them at their ideal weight. Our advice about keeping your cat’s weight in check gives you practical tips on dealing with your cat’s weight.
A Cat’s Diet
Cats aren’t vegetarians – they have to eat meat to be healthy because their bodies need certain proteins that are only found in meat. Without them, your cat could become very ill, and even go blind.
The easiest way to make sure you cat is getting all the nutrients they need is to feed them a complete commercial cat food. You can buy these at a pet shop, from a supermarket or from our PDSA Pet Store.
Some people choose to feed their cat a raw diet - which comes with many health risks. Read our vets' advice on raw diets.
‘Life-stage feeding’ matches your cat’s diet to what they need at different ages and stages of development. For example, kittens need different food from older cats, because their bodies are still growing.
Many companies make food especially for kittens, juniors, adults and seniors so you can be sure your cat’s dietary needs are being met.
Feeding your kitten
Kittens start to eat solid foods from about three weeks and are fully weaned at about eight weeks, when they usually leave their mum and go to their new home.
At first they need about four or five small meals a day. Around six months, two meals a day are usually fine. This can continue for the rest of their life, depending on your cat’s preference.
Feeding your adult cat
Cats prefer lots of small meals to one large one. They ‘graze’, eating between eight and 16 times a day! It’s best just to leave food out for them, unless there’s a chance it will go off, or be eaten by another cat.
It’s a good idea to weigh out your cat’s food at the start of the day. Most cats are very good at knowing how much they need to eat, but some are greedy and will keep eating until the food is gone. If your cat is eating too much and putting on weight, it may be better to feed them two meals a day, instead of leaving food out.
- Your cat will need constant access to fresh, clean water from a clean bowl.
- Choose shallow bowls. Cats prefer these as they can see around them as they eat and drink.
- Shallow bowls also prevent a cat from brushing their whiskers against the side of the bowl.
- Choose bowls which are easy to clean, such as pottery bowls. Buy one bowl for food, and another for water.
- Avoid plastic bowls. They are harder to clean and can build up food odour over time which can put a cat off its food.
Treats for cats
Cats don’t need treats to know you love them: playing and spending time with you are what they enjoy most of all.
If you feed your cat a lot of treats as well as their normal food, most of the extra calories will turn into fat.
We don’t recommend feeding leftovers as a treat for your cat because:
- Cat’s that are used to getting scraps might not eat their normal food.
- It can unbalance your cat’s diet and cause a weight problem.
- Your cat might act up while you’re eating if they think it’s their food, too!
It’s a myth that cats love a nice saucer of milk and our vets advise against giving it to your feline friend. Cows’ milk contains sugar that cats find hard to digest, which can give them an upset tummy. Cream and dairy products are also high in fat so could contribute to your cat piling on the pounds.