Okay, now that we got the naughty list out of the way, we’re ready for the fun list, the list of foods you can give your cat… with just a few more caveats.
Besides pleasing your kitty, real, whole, natural foods can help add healthy vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, enzymes, and fiber they may be missing in their normal cat food.
However, please keep in mind, that just as with people, moderation is key. Cats require a specific balance of nutrients. You should not attempt to replace all your cat’s meals without the assistance of a veterinarian. You should also be aware that just as some people have food allergies, some cats do as well. Always take caution when introducing a new food to your cat’s diet. Overall, let’s use common sense people.
As carnivores, your cat probably shouldn't have a large proportion of grains in their diet, however, it is perfectly safe for your cat to eat grains on occasion. Most cat foods and treats use grains as a binding agent, but most prepared cat foods and treats don't use high quality whole grains. Besides, if your cat enjoys it, a little human-grade brown rice, oats, quinoa, or whole grain flour can add healthful fiber to their diet! Just remember - experts recommend yeast dough products make up no more than 5 to 10% of your cat's diet and you should never feed your cat raw dough.
That’s right! While cats prefer and are healthiest on a primarily protein-based diet, vegetables are good for them too. Vegetables not only offer healthful vitamins and minerals, they add fiber which aids your pet’s digestive systems and promotes the elimination of environmental toxins they encounter. Recommended vegetables include cooked carrots, asparagus, broccoli, green bean, winter squash, and chopped greens.
As with vegetables, fruit provides healthful fiber that helps keep your cat’s digestive system running smoothly. Experts say melons - cantaloupe, honeydew, and watermelon - are all good choices. Interestingly though, it’s not the sugar content that makes cats like melons. In fact, recent studies show cats (and other carnivores like them) can’t taste sweet at all! They’re completely carb blind. Rather, what they like about melon, is the water content, and what they like about bananas- another expert recommended fruit for cats- is the fat. In both cases, moderation is key. Remember cats are carnivores and should therefore have a diet that is mainly meat-based. When too much of the diet is made up of non-meat foods, cats can develop problems with diarrhea.
While it’s true that grown cats tend to be mildly lactose intolerant, cheese is naturally lower in lactose than milk, and low or lactose-free milk products can be substituted. Small amounts added to your cats diet can provide them with added calcium and protein.
Fish is a common cat food ingredient and yes, you can feed your cats the same fish you enjoy – within reason. Mercury toxicity caused by a diet heavy in large, carnivorous fish (tuna, salmon, swordfish…) is as much a risk to us, as it is to our cats. To avoid this, offer tuna, salmon, and swordfish in small amounts and only on occasion. A better choice, would be smaller fish which have less exposure to mercury –cod, halibut, trout, whitefish, perch, catfish, and mackerel. In addition to natural protein, fish offer B vitamins and added omega 3 fatty acids which promote heart, skin, and brain health.
Cooked eggs which are high in protein, B vitamins, selenium and phosphorus, are a great sometimes treat for cats. Notice though, that I say “cooked.” While some knowledgeable people promote raw eggs for cats, the risk of salmonella and other potential diseases, make most veterinarians recommend against their use. While I’ll leave that choice up to you, I don’t feel the risk is worth the little bit of extra nutrients to me. It’s also important to note that some cats are allergic to eggs, so the first time you give your kitty some, offer only a small amount and keep a lookout for any symptoms of digestive upset – vomiting or diarrhea.
As cats are natural carnivores, cooked meat is the natural choice for a special treat. Once again, notice I say cooked. While I can personally verify cats can and do eat raw wild creatures (such as the moles in my yard), modern meat industry practices make raw meat purchased from your store a risky choice. In many vets and my own opinion, it’s not worth the risk. Also, because too much fat can lead to digestive issues, lean meat like chicken and turkey are probably best, though red meat can be offered in small amounts. Natural protein, vitamins, and minerals are all benefits of supplementing your cat’s diet with cooked meat!