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26 Things To Feed Your Cat When Out of Cat Food

When it comes to being a responsible cat parent, there are few worse feelings than getting home from the grocery store and unpacking everything, only to find you forgot the cat food! And that’s before your cat starts giving you the “I know you forgot my food” stare.

Your cat isn’t likely to let you get away without feeding them, so if you’re out of cat food, you might need to get creative.

The good news is that you’ve probably already got a few ingredients in your pantry that you can use. We’ve outlined 26 foods you can feed your cat when you desperately need to answer those plaintive meows.

These cat food substitutes should only be used occasionally, so make sure you stock up on your cat’s regular food as soon as you can.

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To Make Things Easy, We’ve Broken Down Our List Into Five Sections:

  • Meat and fish
  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Grains
  • Dairy and other

These are in order of preference, so start by working out if you have any suitable meats or fish first, and then go down the list.

Remember that as an obligate carnivore, your cat is best off eating a diet that’s primarily based on an animal protein source. While you might choose to add a small number of fruits or vegetables to bulk out your cat’s emergency dinner, it’s best to use meat as the main ingredient.

We’ve also included pros and cons for each food type, so you can quickly make up your mind if it will be a good option for your cat.

Some cat owners choose to feed their cats a raw meat diet. This can have plenty of benefits, but it’s not a decision to rush into, so we recommend cooking all the meats and fish listed below if you’re using them as a temporary substitute for your cat’s regular diet.

If you’re interested in feeding your cat a raw diet, you can read more about how to start that in our post here.

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Meat and Fish

1. Chicken

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  • Chicken is used in many commercial cat foods as an easily digestible protein source.
  • Chicken skin is the part with the highest fat content, so be sure to remove this before feeding to your cat.

2. Turkey

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  • Turkey is one of the main meats used in plenty of cat foods, so it’s a good choice as a substitute dinner.
  • Turkey skin is higher in fat than lean white meat. Make sure to remove all traces of bone.

3. Salmon

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  • Salmon is an excellent source of healthy omega-3 fatty acids, as well as being high in protein.
  • Be sure to cook the salmon first. Salmon fillets are also quite expensive, so you won’t necessarily want to make a habit of feeding them to your cat!

4. Canned Tuna

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  • Tuna is a tasty option that plenty of cats love. It contains a good balance of vitamins, protein, minerals, and antioxidants. Tuna packed in juice is a better option than oil.
  • Feeding your cat tuna too often can increase the risk of mercury poisoning and Steatitis. Steatitis develops due to the lack of vitamin E in tuna, which can cause inflammation of fat cells within your cat’s body.

5. Lamb

Lamb Rack
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  • This meat is a good source of iron, vitamin B12, and zinc.
  • Lamb can be fatty, so it isn’t suitable for cats on a calorie-controlled diet. Make sure to remove all bones. The higher iron content means this meat isn’t recommended for cats with urinary issues.

6. Lean Ground Beef

Lean Ground Beef
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  • Beef contains plenty of protein to help your cat build lean muscle. It’s also high in a range of beneficial vitamins and minerals.
  • Red meat is higher in cholesterol than turkey or chicken.

7. Fish oils

Fish Oil
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  • Fish oils contain plenty of healthy fatty acids to keep your kitty’s coat and skin in great condition.
  • Some cheaper fish oils may also contain fillers, like canola or sunflower oils that contain more omega-6 than your cat needs. Cod liver oil designed for humans may contain high levels of vitamins A and D that can lead to toxicity in cats.

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8. Broccoli

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  • Broccoli contains plenty of vitamins and minerals. It’s high in fiber and low in calories, making it a good choice to bulk out a meat-based stand-in meal.
  • Raw broccoli will be harder for your cat to digest, so they may not gain any benefit from it. Cooked and cooled is the best choice.

9. Carrots

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  • Carrots are packed full of fiber, minerals, and vitamins, which makes them a popular ingredient in many commercial cat food blends.
  • Raw carrots can cause your cat to choke, so cooking and then cooling the carrots is recommended before feeding. They’re also high in carbohydrates and sugars, neither of which your cat needs.

10. Green beans

String Beans
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  • Green beans can safely be used as a low fat and high fiber addition to a meaty meal.
  • Avoid canned green beans, which can be packed in a salty brine.

11. Peas

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  • Peas are used in many different commercial cat foods as a course of fiber and vitamins.
  • Some cats can have an allergy to peas, so avoid feeding these if you don’t already know your cat can tolerate them.

12. Asparagus


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  • High in a range of essential vitamins and minerals, asparagus contains plenty of fiber to help your cat’s digestive system stay healthy.
  • Asparagus is an alkaline vegetable, so you should avoid it if your cat has a urinary tract infection, as it could make it worse.

13. Spinach

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  • Spinach is packed full of minerals and vitamins, including calcium, iron, and vitamins A, K, and C.
  • Spinach is not recommended for cats with kidney or urinary problems because it can increase the chance of crystals being formed in your cat’s urinary tract.

14. Pumpkin

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  • Pumpkin is high in fiber, which can help your cat’s digestive system work effectively. It’s also low in calories.
  • Too much pumpkin in your cat’s diet can cause diarrhea. Make sure any canned pumpkin used is a pure pumpkin, with no added sugar or spices.

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15. Cantaloupe melon

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  • Cantaloupe contains high amounts of beneficial beta-carotene and antioxidants.
  • Cantaloupe is low in protein, so it should only be fed to your cat combined with a protein source like lean meat or fish.

16. Bananas

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  • Bananas contain healthy fiber and are high in potassium.
  • This fruit is high in sugar, so while you can feed it to your cat, it’s not the best option. The smell that ripe bananas give off can be unappealing to some cats.

17. Apples

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  • Apples contain plenty of vitamin C, as well as fiber.
  • Be sure to avoid the skin and pips if you decide to feed a small amount of apple to your cat.

18. Blueberries

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  • Blueberries contain antioxidants and are ingredients within quite a few different brands of cat food.
  • Only feed your cat a few blueberries per day, as they are quite high in sugar.

19. Cucumber

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  • Cucumber contains fiber and water, as well as good levels of vitamins and minerals.
  • The high water content can trigger a case of diarrhea. Picked cucumber should be avoided.

20. Avocado

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  • Avocados are a superfood that’s packed full of vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats.
  • The high-fat content can upset your cat’s digestive system. Avocados aren’t suitable for feeding to overweight cats.

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21. Bread

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  • Bread contains plenty of fiber and protein and is something you likely to have in your house. Some breadcrumbs crumbled into whatever meat you have can be a good emergency substitution that’s filling and full of protein.
  • Bread is best avoided if your cat is usually on a grain-free diet.

22. Oats or oatmeal

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  • Oats are high in beneficial B vitamins and provide a slow source of energy.
  • Oats contain carbohydrates, which your cat doesn’t technically need.

23. Brown rice

Brown Rice
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  • Rice is sometimes used in commercial cat food recipes. It contains antioxidants and can help your cat feel fuller for longer.
  • Cats don’t need carbohydrates, so if your cat is usually on a grain-free diet, you might want to avoid this one.

24. Couscous

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  • The small size of couscous means it can be a good option to bulk out a meat-based dinner.
  • Your cat won’t get much nutritional benefit from couscous.

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Dairy and Other Foods

25. Eggs (cooked)

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  • Eggs contain plenty of B vitamins and protein. Eggs are used in many brands of commercial cat food.
  • Make sure the eggs are well cooked and then cooled before giving to your cat. Some cats can have an allergy to eggs, so if your cat hasn’t eaten food containing eggs before, you might not want to feed this to them.

26. Low-lactose cheese

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  • Hard cheeses like Gouda and Cheddar contain protein and calcium, as well as have an appealing taste
  • Be sure to choose a low-lactose cheese, and avoid it entirely if your cat has irritable bowel syndrome or is sensitive to lactose.

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As mentioned, don’t be tempted to make a habit out of feeding your cat any of these items regularly. It’s better to stick to a diet that has been carefully formulated to provide your cat with the correct balance of ingredients that your cat needs to stay strong and healthy.

But in an emergency, when the kibble cupboard is empty, any of the above foods can safely be fed to your cat to stave off their hunger until you have time to restock.

If you’ve used any of these substitutions to create an emergency meal for your kitty, let us know in the comments below!

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