I'm going to ask a question I wondered with my dad. It was raised because I believe several things related to my cat, mostly when I heard a little from the vet, a little from the friends, a little online and so on. Maybe this is not true and feel totally free to correct me in the comments or in your answer if I'm wrong.

  • Alright. I believe cats are obligate carnivores, so they have to eat a minimum percentage of meat or protein to survive. I heard 30% a long time ago, but that's quite vague.
  • In my opinion, it's quite usual to see cats eat little birds, mouses or little fishes like tuna
  • Also in my opinion, and on the contrary, it's quite rare to see cats eating like elephants or beef. Actually I don't remember seeing a cat eating such big animals. I think they won't be like wolves, hunting together and sharing a huge prey.

Then my question is: should cats eat huge animals? I had this question with my father today when we were about the give him fresh raw piece of gently sliced beef. And then this question arose.

Perhaps they should totally not to. In this case, what's the frontier between huge and alright animals? Is it, like, bad for their health? Or perhaps they can eat like beef or elephants but surely they'll prefer salmon or small birds? Or do they totally don't mind between each type of raw meat?

I couldn't find any resource talking about that on the internet. Including Wikipedia pages about cat's found.

  • 28
    Nice question, I'm curious myself, but tuna is not a little fish - it is actually a giant one and grows to over 4 meters in length and over 600 kg in mass! And I know tuna is one of cats' favourite, which makes your question even more interesting!
    – lila
    Commented May 10, 2020 at 21:07
  • 20
    Side note: tuna and salmon are both too big for a cat to catch. In fact, most feral cats prefer birds and rodents and don't eat fish at all. The fishes just seem to trigger the hunting drive with their movements. Another idea: if birds are "good cat food", what about huge birds like emus and ostriches? ;)
    – Elmy
    Commented May 11, 2020 at 6:26
  • 21
    Little fishes like tuna?
    – J...
    Commented May 11, 2020 at 10:32
  • 5
    Thank you for your comments and for correcting me about tuna size, it was really tiny in my head, probably because I've barely only seen them in tinned food x)
    – JKHA
    Commented May 11, 2020 at 10:35
  • 4
    I'd imagine that any difference between meat of a tiny mammal like mouse and a huge mammal like a cow is insignificant compared to the difference between a tiny mammal, a tiny bird and a tiny fish.
    – IMil
    Commented May 12, 2020 at 6:37

3 Answers 3


Meat is meat. All cats have roughly the same digestive system and metabolism, so their choice of prey is more about size than nutrition. It needs to be a large enough meal to justify the effort of hunting it yet small enough they're likely to be successful.

A large enough pride of lions can take down enormous prey like buffalo, giraffe or even elephant. Solo lions, tigers, jaguars, leopards and cheetahs easily take down antelope, pigs and similar sized prey. Your housecat would enjoy all of those huge meals too, but he simply couldn't catch them and knows that even trying would likely result in his own death. On the other hand, your housecat will happily hunt rodents, birds, and other small prey that the larger cats lazily ignore as not worth the effort. Each has their own place in the ecosystem.

  • 8
    This isn't entirely true. If you fed a cat just beef, the cat would become malnourished. This is because when eating their natural prey, they eat not just the muscles, but also bones, organs, etc. Besides meats from different animals having different nutritional value, organ meat versus muscle meat can have pretty significant differences. However, there's probably no issue with using whatever meat in catfood as long as there are other ingredients in the food to make sure it has the correct balance.
    – Kai
    Commented May 11, 2020 at 0:13
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    @Kai The OP wasn't asking about a balanced diet, just the size of animal that the meat portion comes from.
    – StephenS
    Commented May 11, 2020 at 0:54
  • 26
    @Kai: if you'd peel the mouse and only feed choice pieces of mouse muscle it would probably also result in malnourishment.
    – cbeleites
    Commented May 11, 2020 at 9:03
  • 2
    Lynx (pretty similar to the domestic cat) routinely hunts (and eats) deers that are ~10x its size.
    – fraxinus
    Commented May 11, 2020 at 14:51
  • 3
    “Lions are the only cats that cooperatively hunt in the wild, …”  Actually, small groups of cheetahs (specifically, brothers from the same litter) will sometimes (often?) form coalitions and hunt together.  Source: “In fact, the brothers would likely stay together for the rest of their lives, as male cheetahs often do, forming a coalition …”.  nationalgeographic.com seems to confirm this, but it’s behind a paywall, so I can’t quote it. Commented May 12, 2020 at 8:00

Yes, cats should eat meat. The source of meat is not very important; the important thing here is to feed not only the meat but parts of the rest of the animal too, as different parts have different nutrients that cats need.

I feed my cat all kinds of raw meat (high quality meat that can be eaten raw by people) like reindeer, beef, pork, whale meat, and other types of meat, but I do not feed her this as a part of her normal diet, more as a treat and less than once a week.

Cats should not eat tuna too often as it contains elevated levels of heavy metals. It's the same with other large sea living animals; animals near the top of the food chain will have elevated levels of heavy metals and other highly bioaccumulative chemicals.

So yes, you can give many types of meat to your cat but not as a replacement for your cats normal food.

Cat food does in general contain meat from larger animals that can be seen as huge compared to the size of your cat.

Cats need about 30% protein in their food to stay healthy, so 30% meat in the food will not cover your cat's need for protein. Cat food should contain about 80% meat and meat byproducts for your cat to stay healthy. (Meat byproducts contains fat, bone meal, blood, liver, kidney, and lungs.)

  • +1 for "the rest of the animal". Though I care only for dogs, I can tell you, carnivores need innards and bones as well. Googling for "BARF" will clear up lots of things. A feral cat eating mice and little birds logically processes lots of bones and innards, even contents of innards such as the stomach content. Hair and feathers are also part of their natural digestion, though one might not want to have them vomiting such inside the house. So, the size of the animal doesn't matter, but the mixture of its components does,as innards contain vitamins and nutrients, that pure meat simply doesn't.
    – Jessica
    Commented May 11, 2020 at 12:02

Feed your cat "complete and balanced" cat food.

Modern cat food, both in the form of dry kibble as well as wet cat food, is specially formulated to meet the dietary and nutritional requirements of cats. As such, one of the best ways to feed your cat is to give them appropriately-sized portions of cat food, with people food such as meat being relegated to a special treat. If you're in doubt about the appropriateness of the food for your cat, in America, you can check its label for whether or not it's been certified as a "complete and balanced" pet food by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), according to the FDA.

  • 2
    Thank you for your answer! That is exactly the purpose of my question. My cats had always dry kibbles since he was born, for more than 8 years. Then one day, after talking with a friend of mine that also has a cat and whom gives her a little piece of meat each day for special treat, I told myself it'd be good for mine as well. So I began giving him raw meat, but still under 5% of his total food I give him and then, my huge animal question arose. Thanks for the answer!
    – JKHA
    Commented May 13, 2020 at 6:22

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