SPCA New Zealand
Advice & welfare

What to feed your cat or kitten

Cats need a premium food for energy, health and happiness. Cats at different stages in their life need different types of food. Here are some tips on what to feed.

Download our full Cat and Kitten Care Brochure (PDF)

Choose food for the age and health status of your cat

Kittens need special high-energy kitten food for growth and a healthy immune system. After 12 months, they should be changed onto an adult cat food.

Cats over seven years old need a senior cat diet. These usually have reduced calories, lower protein and contain elements that help to support the cat as he/she ages.

Cats with health problems often need specific kinds of foods; discuss the best diet for your individual cat with your veterinarian.


Do not give your cat milk. Many cats are lactose intolerant and will get diarrhea if they consume dairy products.

Foods to avoid

  • Dog food is not suitable for cats; it does not contain all of the nutrients that cats need to survive.
  • Avoid human food; this usually has salt, spices or additives which can be harmful or fattening.
  • Bones and raw meat and fish; bones can splinter and get stuck in the cat’s throat or gut. Provide only cooked meat and fish (to avoid potential infection with food borne pathogens like salmonella) and remove all bones.
  • Tuna can be an occasional treat, but should not be fed regularly.

Introducing a new food

Introduce any new food gradually over one or two weeks to avoid causing your cat stomach upsets. Mix in the new food with the old, slowly changing the proportions.

How much and how often?

Kittens need to graze through the day and night. They need to ‘refuel’ often, so always have food available. Some adult cats are grazers while others need to be limited. If your cat is slim, you can let him/her graze. If your cat starts gaining weight, reduce the amount that you are giving him/her during the day. Ideally the daily amount should be divided into multiple small meals; this is more similar to what how a cat would eat if hunting for him/herself. It is a good idea to use food toys or puzzle feeders, both to keep you cat mentally active and interested, and also so that the food lasts longer.

When you are working out how much to feed your cat you should look at the daily feeding guide on the food packet and calculate the amount needed based on your cat’s ideal weight, not his/her current weight if not ideal. If the problem persists, speak to your veterinarian and get advice about a ‘diet’ formula that will help him/her to lose weight. Also ensure your neighbours are not feeding your cat! Overweight cats face the same health problems as humans, for example, diabetes. If your cat has specific health problems, you should get advice for your veterinarian about the best food and way of feeding him/her. Please talk to your veterinarian for assistance with urgency if your cat is losing weight (if not on a weight loss diet to try and reduce his/her weight) as this could be a sign of a serious health issue.

Choose the right feeding spot and make it fun

Provide your cat with a safe, familiar feeding location, and give each cat its own bowl. Always have fresh clean water available inside and outside. Wash food and water bowls daily.

Ideally cats should be fed using food toys and puzzle feeders; this will be mentally and physically stimulating for them. It also tends to make the feeding process more natural and last longer. Here are some enrichment tips for cats.

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