Feeding Cats – Common Questions Answered

What do cats eat?

Cats are obligate carnivores, meaning they need meat to survive. Humans can live quite happily on a vegetarian diet, cats, however, must have meat.

There are three basic types of cat food.

  • Dry
  • Canned
  • Raw (home-prepared and commercial)

Commercial cat food comes in premium and supermarket form. Premium brands are available through your vet or pet stores; brands include Iams and Royal Canin. Then there are your supermarket brands such as Whiskas, Dine etc. Supermarket foods come in dry, canned or raw. Furthermore, there are prescription diets that are only available from a veterinarian; these diets help manage conditions such as kidney failure and hyperthyroidism.

My personal preference is a bit of everything. I am not a fan of feeding a cat the same food every day as it can lead to fussiness. A homemade raw diet can be fed, but you need experience with feline nutrition to do this safely. The benefits of dry and canned are they are commercially prepared foods which “should” contain all the nutrients your cat needs.

Does the food meet a cat’s nutritional requirements?

Knowing how to read the basics of food labels can help the pet owner choose the right food for their cat. If the packet says complete and balanced, it must meet AAFCO’s (American Association of Feed Control Officials) standards. Most countries (including Australia) follow AAFCO’s guidelines.

Generic supermarket brands will meet the minimum nutritional requirements to meet AAFCO standards, but no more. These products typically contain cheap fillers which provide empty calories at best.

How much do cats eat?

Commercial food will usually have instructions on how much to feed your cat on the back of the pack, so follow their guidelines if possible.

I give our adult cat around 1/3rd of a 400g can per meal (so 1/3rd of a 400g can, twice a day). The remainder of the food should be transferred to an airtight container and stored in the refrigerator. As cats don’t like to eat cold food when serving up the next meal, warm it up in the microwave for 30 seconds to take the chill off it.

How often do cats eat?

Adult cats can be fed twice a day: morning and night. Cats like routine, so try to feed your cat at the same time every day. Kittens, pregnant and lactating cats require several meals a day to meet their increased nutritional demands.

Diets will need to be modified depending on your cat’s stage in life. Kittens, young adults, and pregnant or lactating cats have high nutritional needs, as your cat ages and slow down; he will need slightly less food.

Pros and cons of raw, dry and canned cat food

There is a great deal of debate over feline nutrition. Several people expressed concerns over dry food and the increased incidence of urolithiasis. Dry food has the benefit of being able to be left out all the time.

Canned food quickly spoils, but in my experience cats prefer canned over dry. I have no problem with canned food but don’t feel it should be fed exclusively because it offers no benefit to dental health. If you do feed a diet of canned food only, then you should ensure your cat’s teeth are looked after with frequent cleaning.

Raw is good for teeth and gum health as it forces the cat to chew, cleaning the teeth at the same time. Raw can be purchased at supermarkets and pet shops or prepared at home. I do have concerns about supermarket grade raw meat which is said to contain lots of preservatives. My preference is to feed human-grade raw meat in conjunction with a commercial cat diet.

I am a big proponent of feeding a mix of raw, canned and dry food. My feeding routine is to put a small amount of canned or raw food out morning and night. I like to leave dry food out 24/7, so if he’s hungry, he can have a graze.

How much does it cost to feed a cat?

This depends on the type of diet you have. The prescription diets cost more than your everyday supermarket brands but are necessary to help manage your cat’s medical condition. It is also said that because the quality of premium and prescription diets are better, they contain fewer fillers, and therefore you need to give your cat less, bringing down the cost per serving.

Thankfully, cats aren’t huge eaters, so even a $40 bag of prescription food would last several weeks. I would say to feed one cat; you would be looking in the range of $1 to $1.50 per day. But this is a ballpark figure as there are so many variables.

What not to feed a cat

  • Table scraps
  • Tuna (human grade)
  • A vegetarian or vegan diet
  • Dog food

If you have any questions in regards to feeding your cat, speak to your veterinarian.

What do cats drink?

Fresh water should be available to your cat 24 hours a day.


  • Julia Wilson, 'Cat World' Founder

    Julia Wilson is the founder of Cat-World, and has researched and written over 1,000 articles about cats. She is a cat expert with over 20 years of experience writing about a wide range of cat topics, with a special interest in cat health, welfare and preventative care. Julia lives in Sydney with her family, four cats and two dogs. Full author bio