What Do Cats Like to Eat for Breakfast? Best Foods for Your Fussy Feline

What do cats like for breakfast? Pet food comes in several different forms, flavors and textures. But for cats, variety isn't necessarily a good thing, as it could potentially lead to fussy eating habits.

"Pet owners can actually help to create a fussy eater by taking advantage of the huge variety among cat foods" and for some cats, providing many food choices can be overwhelming, explained veterinarians Krista Williams and Robin Downing in an article for VCA Animal Hospitals.

Eating is an activity in itself for indoor cats, given their lack of environmental stimulation. Regular feeding can help alleviate and prevent stress-related health concerns, such as cystitis as well as inactivity, overeating and other obesity-related problems, according to a 2018 consensus statement on how to feed a cat released by the American Association of Feline Practitioner.

What Do Cats Like for Breakfast?

There aren't any specific foods that cats prefer at breakfast than for other meals.

Speaking to Newsweek, Zazie Todd, the author of the upcoming book PURR: The Science of Making Your Cat Happy, said: "It's very common to give the cat the same food for breakfast as for other meals. Cats like to have multiple small meals a day, so instead of giving one large breakfast, you could consider breaking it into more than one meal."

For cats that are fussy eaters, one way to encourage them to eat could be to offer food at breakfast, leave it out for around 15 to 30 minutes, before taking it away until the next meal time, veterinarians Williams and Downing said.

Then at the next feeding time, offer the food again for about 15 to 30 minutes, removing whatever has not been consumed. This method works best with dry kibble. If you're using canned food, it's best to discard whatever has not been consumed to prevent illness from spoiled food.

"Unlike dogs, however, we must be very careful about attempting to jump start a cat's eating by simply holding out to force them to eat what is offered. If a cat has any predisposition at all, just a few days of not eating can cause a potentially fatal condition called hepatic lipidosis," Williams and Downing warned.

A cat looking at food bowl.
A cat looking over a bowl of food held out by a man. For some cats, food variety isn't necessarily the best thing and could cause them to become fussy eaters. iStock/Getty Images Plus

The Best Foods For Your Cat

Cats are "creatures of habit and take comfort in predictability," Pam Johnson-Bennett from Cat Behavior Associates, who is an author of several books about cats, told Newsweek.

"To prevent potential stomach upset or food rejection, it's best to stick to the cat's normal nutritional program," she said, feeding them good quality food and keeping with the feeding schedule so the cat knows when meals are expected.

Meat and Fish

Cats are carnivores at heart and their basic nutritional needs include food that is 40 to 45 percent protein, high in fat and low in carbohydrates, according to Dr. Graham Brayshaw, the Animal Humane Society's chief veterinarian.

"You can feed your cat grains, but they lack the digestive enzymes to break them down, so there's no real nutritional benefit," he explained.

Canned Food

Canned food is often considered the "holy grail" of cat food options and some cats "go crazy for it," Brayshaw said. It also helps keep your cat hydrated, with around 80 percent of canned food consisting of water, he noted.

You should avoid "poor-quality" canned food, which is usually packed with non-meat products and may not be complete and balanced, says the nonprofit San Francisco Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SFSPCA).

"Cats fed from pop-top cans have a significantly greater risk of developing hyperthyroidism, possibly due to some component of the can lid" the SFSPCA warns.

If you're feeding your cat wet food, don't serve it directly from the refrigerator. Johnson-Bennett from Cat Behavior Associates said: "Cats aren't scavengers and prefer their food at about body temperature which would be similar to fresh prey."

A cat eating some wet food.
A cat eating some wet food on a plate. Canned cat food is great to keeping your cat hydrated, with most it consisting of water. iStock/Getty Images Plus

Dry Food

In addition to being more budget-friendly than canned food options, dry food is great for maintaining your cat's dental health.

"The kibble scrapes against their teeth when they chew and naturally removes plaque. If you feed your cat canned food only, you should brush your cat's teeth regularly to avoid dental issues," Brayshaw explained.

A scoop of kibble on a table.
A scoop of kibble spilled over on a table. Dry food is a more budget-friendly option than canned foods and good for your cat's dental health. iStock/Getty Images Plus

Some Human Foods

For cats that are fussy eaters, there are some human foods that may help increase the appeal of regular cat food and encourage consumption, such as ones outlined below by veterinarians Williams and Downing.

You should talk to a veterinarian to determine whether these human foods are suitable for your cat and how much of these to add in a day without risking weight gain, the Williams and Downing said.

  • "No-salt-added" chicken or vegetable broth.
  • Fresh or frozen water-based vegetables (such as green beans, broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce).
  • The occasional "dry-scrambled" egg.

The veterinarians warned, however, that it's important to "resist the temptation to begin feeding human food willy-nilly from the table. Once human food is given like this, it becomes much more difficult to transition back to balanced cat foods. It is actually quite difficult to balance a cat's long-term nutrition when feeding them homemade food."

Over time, your cat may exhibit taste preferences that lead to deficiencies of certain nutrients. There are currently no "commercially prepared, validated mixtures of macro- and micro-nutrients" that can be added to homemade cat foods, Williams and Downing said.

Taurine Supplement

Brayshaw said it's important to add taurine (an amino sulfonic acid that cats don't naturally create, whereas dogs and humans do) to cat diets.

"Without taurine, cats develop Dilative Cardiomyopathy — a condition where their heart grows larger than normal and has to work extra hard to function," according to the Animal Humane Society's chief veterinarian.

Taurine is found naturally in most meat and fish but can be stripped during food processing. It is mostly destroyed when meat is cooked as it is especially sensitive to heat. So those preparing homemade cat food will need to add taurine as a supplement to the meal, Brayshaw said.

A little kitten eating from a bowl.
A little kitten eating from a bowl. Growing kittens need to eat more frequently and should have three regularly scheduled meals in a day, says The International Cat Association (TICA). iStock/Getty Images Plus

How Often Should I Feed My Cat?

Speaking to Newsweek, the president of The International Cat Association (TICA), Vicki Jo Harrison, said: "The number of meals a cat eats per day depends completely on the family schedule."

Cats should eat at least two meals a day that are about 12 hours apart. "If more than 12 hours elapses between meals, the stomach can become hyperacidic causing nausea," she explained.

Spreading their feeding across five meals (feeding them at breakfast, lunch, in the afternoon, dinner and right before bed) is a great option.

Harrison added: "Growing kittens need to eat more frequently and should have three regularly scheduled meals in a day. After they are six months, they should be put on the same feeding schedule as adult cats. It is highly recommended that cats eat nutrient-dense cat food with their first meal."

Author Johnson-Bennett said it's important to determine your cat's daily food portion based on health, age, body type and activity level to help prevent obesity. Once you've determined the overall portion amount, divide that up into frequent, small meals, she said.

Author Todd noted using food puzzle toys can be a good way to give your cat an activity to do "because it makes them work to get the food."

There are several different food puzzle toys to choose from on the market, such as balls with holes in for the food to fall out. You can also easily make your own version of this using a cardboard tube with holes in it, Todd said.

"The key is to make it very, very easy for your cat when you introduce a food puzzle toy for the first time, because you don't want them to get frustrated. You can also put treats in the toy to help get them interested in it," the author explained.

A man with a cat sniffing food.
A man sitting next to a cat looking over a feeding bowl. Cats should eat at least two meals a day that are about 12 hours apart. iStock/Getty Images Plus