The Alternative Cat Diet: Feeding Your Cat Without Tinned Food

The Alternative Cat Diet: Feeding Your Cat Without Tinned Food

This is quite a common problem for ex-pats and overseas workers in developing countries.

Cats are not, by nature, fussy eaters. They really don’t need foil-wrapped Sheba to survive but it is important that they get a balanced diet. So to help you through the worries of trial-and-error, here are a few helpful tips from cat owners in East Africa:

Dried Fish

In many countries it’s possible to buy small, whole dried fish that look a bit like whitebait. In Rwanda these are called indigara and make a tasty and nutritious snack.


Bread rolls, cereal and dry crackers can be given on their own or mixed in with sauces. Without sauce they can take the place of dried pet biscuits. Try and avoid too many salty products though, or those high in sugar.


Cats have to eat meat regularly to remain healthy. Mince, beef, goat, chicken and fish are all safe options; however if the freshness of the meat is in question, it is always safest to cook it first. Meat on the bone can also be useful as it gives something for them to chew on, which is good for their teeth.


Meat, either raw or cooked, can be bulked out with rice or pasta. Boiling the meat with rice can make it more appetising. Cats also like noodles, but avoid the packets of flavouring that come with instant noodles as these contain a number of unpleasant chemicals.

Tinned Foods

The pet diet advisor Franny Syufy warns that tomatoes are highly toxic to cats, however tinned sardines in tomato sauce have not been reported by contributors as causing any ill side-effects. They’re especially good kitten food and can be bulked up with bread. Most cats love this dish. However, tinned corned beef has been widely reported to cause upset stomachs and is not recommended, this could be due to the preservative Sodium Nitrate and a high salt content.

Milk and Yoghurt products

Be really cautious about these. In many developing countries you may only be able to find long-life UHT milk or reconstituted milk powder, such as Nido. Many cats adore milk products but are lactose intolerant so although a little milk now and then may be okay as a treat, excess can easily lead to upset tummies. This goes for cheese as well.

Vegetables & Fruit

Did you know that cats like avocado? They will also lick mango stones and chew the occasional carrot. Mixing in some cooked runner beans or potato with their rice and meat can help to give valuable nutrients.


Cake and fried batters such as amandazi can be given as treats but try and moderate this because of the sugar content.


Eggs make a great, nutritional snack but remember to test that the egg is fresh. If you put an egg in a glass of water and it floats, it has gone off.

Most of these foods can be found in one form or another in most parts of the world. Try and introduce them one at a time so that if your cat does have a bad reaction you know what caused it. Also, introduce new foods when there are other foods available, don’t wait until your cat is really hungry otherwise it might eat something it doesn’t really want to just because there isn’t an alternative.

Categories: Health, Nutrition