There is so much to pick from, it’s hard to choose. Anyone with a cat will know that they are finicky eaters, and will stubbornly refuse to eat if it isn’t happy with today’s menu, no matter how hungry it is.

Firstly, take a look at what a cat actually needs

They are basically meat-eaters, and historically are hunters, so will happily munch on the dead mouse they have been stalking for days (maybe someone should come up with a cat food with a mouse flavour!). To maintain optimal health a cat needs protein, fats and oils, minerals, vitamins, carbohydrates, and water either in the food or separately for drinking, with some foods designed for kittens or older cats. Check the first three ingredients on the label for protein - chicken, beef, fish or lamb. Carbohydrates should play a minimal role in a cat’s diet, which puts spuds, rice and grains at the bottom of the list when it comes to ingredients. Whether you’re looking for low-carb cat food in particular for an overweight cat or just a balanced and complete meal, carb counting might be important!

Some cats are allergic to grains and will have symptoms such as itching, scratching, redness or even bald patches.

Check with your vet, but try grain-free cat food for around eight weeks to test your theory.

Dry cat food

One of the key benefits of dry cat food is it is easy to serve and can be left to sit in a bowl all day without spoiling. This allows grazing, which some cats prefer. When dry food is properly formulated, it can also help improve dental health by using a mild abrasive surface on the little pellets to control tartar levels on your cat’s teeth. It is made from ground-up ingredients, including meat, grains, legumes, vegetables, and fruits. The ingredients are mixed, shaped into pellets, and then cooked in a process called extrusion.

The benefit of dry food is that it is easy to store, but the bag should be sealed or decanted into an airtight container – this prevents mold spoilage, and also keeps out any creepy crawlies who might be looking for a free lunch.

Wet cat food

You might find that your cat prefers wet cat food, particularly if your cat is a fussy eater - the smell is a lot more enticing than dry food, and a cat’s sense of smell is much stronger than that of the average human and will rely heavily on this rather than their sense of taste. But it shouldn’t be left out for grazing, as it will become dry and be a feast for flies.

It also contains a higher water content - cats with certain health conditions might need a higher water intake, and these may benefit from the additional water in wet food. It is also useful if you have trouble persuading your cat to drink, particularly in the high heat of summer here.

One drawback is it’s often more expensive than dry food, so this may play a role in your decision. Once opened, canned food has a shelf-life of 24 hours and must be stored, covered, in the refrigerator, although you can purchase single servings in sachets or small tins. Leaving canned food open for longer than 24 hours can run the risk of contamination and cause gastrointestinal upset. If your cat does not finish their wet food, it should be discarded once the storage time has been exceeded.

Benefits of mixed feeding

Like humans, your cat might like a little variety in its diet, but this doesn’t mean they need to be eating something different for every meal or every month. A diet that is a mixture of wet and dry food has been shown to reduce problems with fussy eaters. Different cats also have different preferences when it comes to texture, so by feeding them a mixed diet they’ll get a combination of textures that ensures they will find the one they like. Try offering wet and dry foods throughout the day, in separate bowls, or mixed, to give your cat variation – discover which works best.


Marilyn writes regularly for The Portugal News, and has lived in the Algarve for some years. A dog-lover, she has lived in Ireland, UK, Bermuda and the Isle of Man. 

Marilyn Sheridan