What Did Cats Eat Before Cat Food?

Before processed food came into the picture, cats used to eat food scraps given by humans. Before cats were domesticated, they feasted on whatever animals of prey they could find. I’m talking about birds, rodents, and insects. 

The initial step in domestication involved changing the cat’s diet. During that time, humans used to store grains since they were part of their food supply. In turn, rodents got drawn to these stored grains and realized that they could steal from the humans.

Since the rodents chose to be enemies of people, there was a need to bring in a third party. Cats followed the rodents to human farms, which helped save the human foods. Humans, seeing that the cats were heroes, served the cats with food scraps. 

The Rise And Rise Of Commercial Cat Foods

The journey of commercial cat foods started in the 1850s. Small scale and home agriculture seized to be practiced, and so, people neither grew nor stored their food. This meant that rodents moved away from invading human food banks. Consequently, cats lacked the nutrients they got from vermin. This situation forced businesses to consider making pet foods. In 1860, James Spratt, a businessman, was part of the pioneering efforts of pet food production. He formulated the first dog biscuits.

Commercial cat foods did not come around until the 1930s. In the Second World War, there was rationing and shortage of meat. So, people started to think about developing pet dry foods. The post-war situation was that companies involved in human food production added pet food to their list of deliverables. Purina, a pet food company, introduced something called the extrusion process. This was made to reduce the inconvenience that pet owners faced when they were feeding their pets.

When the pet and human food industries boomed, people decided to abandon growing and storing food completely – they didn’t have to do it. One had to get to the store, and with one walk down the aisle, they would get the ingredients to make their meal.

In the 1960s, people started to get opened up to pet nutritional needs. Experts advised pet owners against feeding leftovers and scraps to their furry friends. Nutritionists and vets dug deeper into the nuances of pet feed to understand the optimal diet that makes pets thrive. These experts got attention, and the following agencies started to handle the pet food regulation business:

1. The FDA, or the Food and Drug Administration

2. The FFDCA, or Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act)

3. The AAFCO, or the Association of American Feed Control Officials

In this extensive article, you will go through the specifics of cat foods. Today, there are many cat food choices at the disposal of pet owners – it may even overwhelm the parents. 

Commercial Cat Food Types 

The formulation of commercial cat foods comes in three primary forms – semi-moist, dry, and canned. The products differ, and some variables come into play:

1. Protein level

2. Water content

3. Density of calories

4. Digestibility

5. Palatability

This section will briefly look at the details of these three broad types.

1. Dry Food

The water content of dry food is low – at least six, but not more than 10 percent. In preparing dry cat food, the ingredients are mixed before they go through combination, extrusion, and drying. Then, they are formed into bite-sized pieces. They may contain the following elements:

a) Meat or/and its by-products

b) Poultry or/and its by-products

c) Grain or/and its by-products

d) A meal of fish

e) Sources of fiber

f) Products of milk

Mineral and vitamin supplements

After there are prepared, the dry food pieces get the flavor-enhancing coating. This could be something like animal fat, which helps the food to be more appetizing to the cat.

Compared to other types, dry food is cheaper. The fact that dry food is not messy means that owners take on pet feeding with little inconveniences. On the flip side, the palatability of dry food is questionable. Also, pets may find it difficult to digest food. As a cat owner, you need to know that dry food needs a cool and dry place to remain valuable. Always check the expiration date to avoid poisoning your furry friend. And no – do not store the food for too long before it is eaten. Its dietary and nutritional benefits may fade away, and the food may become smelly. Ensure that the food is stored in tightly sealed containers. Those should help maintain its flavor and prevent the deterioration of valuable nutrients.

2. Semi-Moist Food

The primary ingredient of this type of cat food is meat or its by-products. The moisture percentage mark is at 35 percent. In the formulation of the final semi-moist food products, other materials are added, and they include cereals, preservatives, soybean meal, and grain by-products.

Semi-moist foods cost somewhere in-between – it is not cheap, and neither is it expensive. Unlike dry cat food, many cats will find semi-moist foods appealing. When its packaging or pouch gets opened, the food may dry out. Consequently, it may become rancid or less palatable or both.

3. Canned Food

Of all the types, this one has the highest moisture content in the region of 75%. If you’re looking for a dietary water source, canned cat foods will serve your pet fine. Because of the work that it takes to prepare, this type is the most expensive, albeit being highly palatable.

When the food is unopened, it has a longer shelf life. When the can gets opened, refrigeration is the most popular way of retaining its longevity and value. The gourmet kind of canned cat foods usually contains kidney or liver meat and meat by-products (whole).

As you purchase the food, you must read the label. This will help you to understand the nutritional benefits of the selected brand.

The Nutrients That Cats Need

Proper nutrition is the basis of formulating any cat food. Nutrients are available in various sources, and you need to get your pet the right ones. Going this way ensures that you provide your feline friend with optimal nutrition, translating to optimal health.

In this section, you will get to go through a tabulated summary of the nutritional requirements, where they can be sourced, and their benefits. Read on and know more about your cat’s dietary needs.

Nutritional Requirements For Cats
Nutrient TypeSupplement NameWhere It Is SourcedIts Main Benefits
VitaminA1. Fish oil
2. Liver
3. Supplements of Vitamin A 
1. Supports visual acumen
2. Improves the skin’s health and the overall immune system
D1. Liver
2. Supplements 
It helps in teeth and bone building
E+C1. Vegetable oils
2. Supplements 
It helps in cell protection and immunity-boosting
MineralOmega 3+61. Eggs
2. Flaxseed
3. Fish oil 
It promotes the coat’s shine and healthier skin 
Calcium1. Fish meal
2. Lamb meal
3. Chicken meal
1. Improves and strengthens the teeth and bones 
2. Helps muscles to work and blood clotting 
Phosphorus1. Eggs
2. Dairy products 3. Meats
1. Improves and strengthens the teeth and bones 
2. Helps muscular and cellular function
SodiumMineral mixHelps muscle movement improves the maintenance of body fluid levels 
Energy nutrientsProteins1. Corn gluten meal
2. Chicken by-product meal
3. Whole grain wheat
Helps in cellular strength
Carbohydrates1. Flaxseed
2. Corn gluten meal
3. Whole grain corn
Improves digestibility  
Fats1. Oils (fish and soybean)
2. Dried egg product
Helps the cat to harbor energy for later use

Extending The Discussion – The Pros And Cons Of Two Types Of Cat Foods 

In this section, you shall go through the nitty-gritty details of the two main types of commercial cat foods – wet and dry cat foods. Also, a little about their history will be explored. Read on.  

1. Wet Cat food

Wet cat food was born in the 1900s and was seen as a non-painstaking way to provide cats with the nutrition they needed. During the Second World War, wet cat food was not sorted after. After that, it has continued to be a popular pick for pet parents and cat owners.


1. Wet cat foods have nutritional completeness. To be sold commercially, wet cat foods need to meet the standards set by the AAFCO. This regulatory agency ensures that the wet cat food products presented before them have all the fats, soluble vitamins, and proteins needed by the cat.

2. Wet cat foods have the needed hydration. The moisture content of wet cat foods sold today is to the tune of 80%. This detail is very beneficial to the cat. Some cats have conditions known as low-thirst drives, and this type of food helps maintain hydration levels. This condition can be explained this way – a cat may be experiencing thirst but have no idea of what is going on.

This moisture detail prevents UTIs (urinary tract infections) and issues such as kidney stones that are consequences of dehydration. Wet cat foods try to achieve the same moisture content that wild prey have, which is around 70%. This means that when a cat eats wet food, it is the same as eating hunting kills. 

3. These types of food can promote the loss of weight. Because of the moisture high, wet cat food can help an obese cat to lose weight. One bite of this kind of food means that there are little calorie consumption and more water.


1. The possibility of spoiling is very high. Once wet cat food is opened, its shelf life starts running out rapidly. This means that the wet cat food needs to be used soon after it is opened, not later. This translates to having to serve the cat several times a day. If you’re too busy to regularly and consistently feed your cat, you will find it inconvenient to work with wet cat food.   

2. They may have negatively-impacting preservatives. To boost the shelf life of their products, manufacturers ensure that wet cat foods contain preservatives. At face value, this move is meant to cater for longevity. However, people have raised concerns about the long-term effects of these injections into the food. The advice given to manufacturers is to use natural preservatives.

3. This type of food can be messy at times. Wet cat foods can end up all over the floor, the cat, and outside the bowl. This happens because it is hydrated, and if a cat is unattended while they eat.

2. Dry Cat Food

Since the mid-1960s, dry cat food has been at the disposal of pet parents and cat owners. When it was invented first, it was a big hit. When canned food surfaced on the market, however, dry cat foods dropped in terms of popularity.

In World War II, dry cat food was popular than canned food. Since metal was precious and was used to manufacture weapons for the war, canned food was not being made. Dry food has been popular since then, and many cat owners have it as their favorite.

If you have trouble choosing between wet and dry cat foods, this section will open you to the pros and cons of dry cat food. Then, you can make your judgment.

Some owners who find it difficult to choose between the two foods end up mixing them. Thus, they end up with a nutritionally-complete solution.


1. This type of food helps cats to have good oral health. The dryness of this food means that it is rough and capable of scraping teeth. Plaque stuck on your cat’s teeth get dealt with. In the long run, your cat’s oral hygiene improves.

2. Dry cat food has a longer shelf life. Because of its lack of hydration, you don’t have to worry about the food spoiling once you open the packaging. If you employ a free-choice feeding method, dry cat food will make it very easy for you.

3. This type of food is inexpensive. Pet care is already costly – think about vet care alone, and you’ll get a financial headache. If you are short on money, this is the option you want to take.


1. They have low moisture content. This is one of the most significant caveats of using dry cat foods. If a cat lacks senses and eats on a dry cat food diet, it may become dehydrated. Dry cat food has a moisture content in the regions of 7 and 8 percent. If your cat has kidney problems, diabetes, or urinary tract infections, dry cat food may not be the right choice.

2. They have lower protein levels as compared to wet food. Cats need a lot of protein, and they will not get it from dry food. Active cats may be disadvantaged if they are fed on a dry-food diet. They can even become malnourished.

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