Should you feed your domestic cat veggies? How about wheat or potatoes based cat food? If they are okay for us and dogs, wouldn’t they be good for a kitten? The best way to determine the proper nutrition for a domestic cat is to take a look at what wild cats eat.
In this article, you’ll learn if cats eat vegetables in the wild, what wild cats eat, their diet, cat feeding behavior, should your cat eat a wild diet, and why taurine is in cat food.
Do cats eat vegetables in the wild?
Dogs and cats are both mammals and are part of the group called “Carnivora”. That means they’ve evolved over the eons to eat meat. Dogs developed genes that allow them to digest starches so they can eat both plants and animals. Cats or Felidae as a species, don’t have those genes. Those genes provide the digestive enzymes to digest things other than meat. Cats are a “obligate carnivore”. This means your feline is a true carnivore that require nutrients found in raw meat aka animal flesh. Yes, it can be cooked.
This is why wild cats have consumed small mammals for the several million years of their evolution. As descendants of lions and the tiger, domesticated cats definitely are carnivores like their big cat cousins. Long before any commercial cat food appeared, cats have thrived on this wild cat’s diet. So in short, no. A feline should not be fed vegetables. A feral cat learns quickly that raw meat sustains them. Wild animal protein is what their genetics demand they should be feeding on. Not carrots, peas, or kale.
What do cats eat in the wild?
The most common foods for wild cats are:
- Birds, reptiles, and insects
- Carrion or dead animals
Small rodents make up the bulk of your average stray cat. Even an outdoor cat that you give pet food may instinctively hunt small birds. Have you found your outdoor cat brings you “presents” such as a dead mouse? Even if they don’t eat them, they are just being the predator they are deep inside.
What is a wild cat diet?
Researchers conducted a study across the continent of Australia in 2015 on 400 feral cats. They found that a feral cat sustained itself on rabbits. If they weren’t available, they moved to small rodents as their raw food choice. The fact that a cat or kitten would eat insects and reptiles seems odd as it isn’t animal protein. But a wild cat and even an outdoor cat can easily hunt large quantities of insects and reptiles. Nature provided their species with whiskers and an excellent sense of smell to help find their prey. The interesting part is that most insects and reptiles provide nutrients not available from small mammals. It comes down to prey animal availability and the opportunity to hunt their preferred food source.
Cat Feeding Behavior
In other research, the British Journal of Nutrition researchers found in 2011 that a feral cats diet was 78% of the time on small mammals such as squirrels, weasels, bats, moles, and 16% of the time on birds. It is interesting to note these included some prey animals that were larger than the adult cats themselves.
A feral cat rarely hunts animals that are significantly larger than itself. Studies show that hunting success gradually decreases as the size of the prey animal increases. This makes sense because:
- Larger animals are harder to tackle.
- Larger animals tend to be more intelligent in avoiding cats.
- Larger animals pose more danger to cats, leading them to retreat when their plan of attack does not work out.
It makes sense that out in nature, a feral cat will prey on animals that are smaller than itself. What this says is that if a feral cat is hungry enough, they will use their excellent hunting skills to take down prey larger than themselves. To be sure, domesticated cats are excellent hunters. A cat’s claws aren’t just for tearing up your couch. Notice how pouncing is an instinctive behavior of your kitten? That’s how the stray cat you may see out and about sustains itself as a stealthy predator.
Please note that not all cats eat the same things. The diet of a feral cat depends on a variety of factors. These include availability of prey, habitat, seasonal changes, skills and preferences of the feral cats. Also, the social structure of the feral cat colony and even the sex of a cat can influence what prey animal they hunt and consume.
Should cats eat a wild diet?
Yes. Your domestic cat should eat a diet high in protein and low in carbohydrates like their wild counterparts do. Doesn’t it seem like every image of a feline shows them with a food bowl of milk? What did they do, tackle a cow? Seriously though, as cat owners, should we be feeding our domesticated cats commercial cat food that has veggies, grains, and lots of carbs? In a word? No.
Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences Dr. Deb Zoran recommends to feed your pet cat canned food that has at least 40% protein content or more and 10% or less of carbohydrates.
This would be similar to their natural diet of rodents of their ancestors. It’s important to note that a pet cat gets most of their hydration from wet food. That means if your house cat is on a mostly dry food diet, they can become dehydrated. Especially if they aren’t drinking enough water. Worse, dry commercial pet food can often have a high amount of carbohydrates and fats. Neither of which are digestible by your kitty (remember, they don’t have those digestive enzymes). Worse, these may upset your pet cats digestive tract. Remember that a house cat and even an outdoor cat doesn’t have to hunt for their food like their wild animal relatives the lion and tiger. Without that hunting activity, the carbohydrates and fats in from a dry food diet can cause weight issues.
Does all cat food have taurine?
Taurine is an essential amino acid. Your domestic cat requires taurine from their diet for their organs to function properly, helps with digestion, and female cats can bear kittens. Thankfully taurine occurs naturally in animal protein. The dark meat from a turkey has the highest taurine content. Next would be chicken liver and then chicken dark meat. That doesn’t mean your cat only has to eat these protein sources if the pet food has taurine added. This means wet food that consists of fish can work well if you have a finicky eater. If you love to give your house cat home cooked meals or raw food, please check with your Veterinarian to make sure your cat’s diet has all the nutrients they require.
Homework for cat owners that are feline nutrition experts
This is for you. As cat owners, our felines depend on us for their health and well being. So remember:
- Wild cats do not eat plants of any kind. There are no grains (cats were in fact, domesticated to protect grain storage), no vegetables, no fruit and no salad in a wild cat’s diet. What does this mean for you? Your cat’s food should also contain no (or at least a minimal amount of) plant materials such as rice, corn, peas, potato and other plant-based substances. See a list of other properties of a good cat food here.
- Cats consume the whole prey animal. This includes the muscle meat, organs, bones, skin and even feathers. Therefore, as luxurious as it may sound, feeding a cat only pure raw meat may be as harmful as not providing any meat at all.
Here’s a task for you: go to your nearest pet store and take a look at the ingredients listed on the labels of various brands of cat food. How many of them contain grain? Why do you think this is when a wild cat’s diet has no grain? Hint: Check our article “Why do they add grain to cat food”.
You are now a feline nutrition expert
As a loving cat owner, you now know what wild cats eat. You understand your feline requires taurine. You understand that as a species, the wild animal that your cat is deep inside, is an obligate carnivore. You understand that veggies in your cats food bowl are indigestible. You understand that a dry food diet requires you to monitor your cats fluid intake. Congratulations !
Thank you for becoming a feline nutrition expert. Your pet cat will be happier and healthier when fed the right diet. And keeping your Pet Happy is what we all want.
Question: Should you feed your domestic cat vegetables?
Answer: No. Domestic cats should not be fed vegetables. Cats are obligate carnivores and require nutrients found in raw meat.
Question: Do cats eat vegetables in the wild?
Answer: No, cats do not eat vegetables in the wild. Their diet primarily consists of animal protein.
Question: What do cats eat in the wild?
Answer: In the wild, cats eat rodents, birds, reptiles, insects, and carrion or dead animals.
Question: What is a wild cat diet?
Answer: A wild cat’s diet typically consists of small mammals such as rabbits and small rodents. They may also consume insects and reptiles for additional nutrients.
Question: Should your cat eat a wild diet?
Answer: Cats should be fed a diet that closely resembles their natural diet. Commercial cat food with high protein content and low carbohydrates is recommended, similar to the diet of their ancestors who consumed rodents.
Question: Does all cat food have taurine?
Answer: Taurine is an essential amino acid for cats, and it naturally occurs in animal protein. While some cat foods contain added taurine, wet food with animal protein sources like dark meat from turkey, chicken liver, and fish can also provide sufficient taurine.