So what do Bengal cats eat? All cats are obligate carnivores. We see this every time we search for the best food to feed our furry friends. But what exactly does that mean? Are Bengal cats different from other cats with regards to what they should be receiving in their diet?
What is the craze with feeding raw food? I’ve heard rumors that “grain-free” is actually bad, how can that be? My Bengal kitten is getting older but I don’t know when to switch from kitten food to cat food! The ins and outs of feeding our kitties can get complicated. Especially with so much information out there. It doesn’t help that everyone is trying to sell something, as this leads to false advertising and misinformation.
That being said, some of the links in this article are monetized, but I tell you with absolute sincerity, I will never link to anything that I do not wholeheartedly believe will benefit your cat or kitten. The cat foods mentioned in this article are either used by me and support the health of my cats and kittens or backed by ingredients and research that I can’t fault.
Bengals are obligate carnivores
Is there a difference between a carnivore and an obligate carnivore? I’m glad you asked! Not all carnivores are obligate, but cats are.
The distinction is that cats actually lack some enzymes that allow other carnivores to extract nutrients from plant matter. For example, while dogs were domesticated ~30,000 years ago and have evolved their digestive tracts to fit the diet that humans have provided for them, cats have not had the same amount of time to evolve.
It was just a few thousand years ago that the domestication of some cats occurred. Then you consider that their diet still consisted of rodents (full prey) till the invention of the litter box less than 100 years ago, and you can begin to see why cats have a bit of catching up to do when it comes to eating the diets we are currently providing.
So what exactly defines what any cat should be eating?
The key to determining dietary needs, is to realize that cats have a much smaller amount of the digestive enzyme Amylase. While most mammals have this enzyme in their saliva to start the process of food breakdown immediately, cats only produce a small amount of this in their pancreas. This is the key enzyme for breaking down…. Carbohydrates!
See why this is a vital piece of information when determining the correct ingredients to search for in cat food? Not only does a cat barely produce Amylase, they don’t produce another key enzyme known as Cellulase in any form.
Unless a cat is given this enzyme as a dietary supplement, they are completely unable to break down vegetables and fibers. The lack of these two enzymes, and the accompanying short digestive tract that most Bengals have, can often lead to IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) i.e. diarrhea, vomiting, and gas, if your Bengal is fed an inappropriate diet. It can also lead to behavior problems, after all, wouldn’t you act out if you felt all these symptoms constantly?
What should I feed my Bengal cat?
Now that we know that none of our cats can absorb nutrients from vegetables and they can barely absorb nutrients from carbohydrates, we have our work cut out for us in finding them the right diet. So what are the options on the market?
Next, we will talk about Raw, Grain Free, Grain Friendly, and W\wet cat foods. It’s also important to note that how and when you feed can vastly affect your Bengal’s behavior due to the fact that Bengals are only a small step away from their wild ancestors, the Asian Leopard Cat.
Is a Raw Diet right for Bengal Cats?
Feeding a raw diet is the closest you will come as a Bengal owner to replicating a cat’s natural diet. However, it is not always easy to provide this safely and cost-effectively. If you can afford to spend more on your cat’s food than you likely do on your own, a great brand is Darwin’s Natural Pet Food.
Darwin’s offers a great balanced recipe for your Bengal cat. They offer multiple protein options, so even if your cat is allergic to one kind of meat, you can choose a different one. I also like that they allow you to customize your cat’s age and activity level before they calculate how much you should feed. Bengals are highly active cats with a very fast metabolism. So definitely mark highly active if you choose to buy from them.
Another way to feed raw food to your Bengal is to prepare it yourself. However, probably the number one reason that vets don’t recommend raw, is because they see so many cats that are eating an unbalanced raw diet. If research and measuring isn’t your thing and you don’t want to pay the exorbitant costs for pre-made raw food, I would absolutely recommend wet cat food over raw for you.
It is so important to get the ratios of meat to fat to organ to bone correct and even with raw, people often add some supplements to ensure that their cats are getting the nutrients they require. Another thing to consider when feeding raw is whether you can feasibly feed this to your cats in a way that is hygienic for the human members of your household.
There are bacteria in raw food, and while your kitties have the appropriate tools to deal with them in their digestive tracts, you and your children most likely don’t. So make sure you have a dedicated feeding area that you clean very regularly so that you aren’t growing a ton of bacteria all over your house.
Benefits of raw if fed correctly:
- Closest species-appropriate diet
- Best supports the health of your Bengals oral hygiene
- Provides more of the hydration that cats are accustomed too
- If you make your own it can be cost-effective
- Reportedly, it often means less smelly poop
- Good nutrition supports a healthy coat and skin = more hypoallergenic cat
Cons to the raw diet:
- Can be very expensive if you buy premade
- Homemade meals that aren’t balanced can be very harmful healthwise
- Possibility of more bacteria around your house
- You can’t leave it sitting out, more small meals are better than big meals
Dry Kibble for your Bengal Cat
Now let’s talk about the cat food that often has the least nutritional value for your cat: Dry food.
The first thing that makes dry food an unfortunate choice, is in the name itself… DRY! Cats in the wild receive most of their hydration from the prey they hunt and eat. Therefore they haven’t evolved to have a very high thirst drive. They are not the animals that are drawn to the watering hole by water, they are drawn there by prey.
As a result, that fancy water fountain you just bought for your kitty will get some use, but your cat will absolutely not utilize it as much as they need to in order to remain hydrated. Most domesticated cats live in a constant state of low-grade dehydration, not something that causes issues as young kittens, but as time goes on it can lead to lots of the most common health issues that cats exhibit: some of the most common are urinary health conditions such as crystals, kidney failure, and urinary tract infections.
Another reason that dry food is not your best option, is that it often contains those cheap fillers of carbohydrates and vegetables that allow producers to cut costs on actual animal proteins. It is important to realize that while your kibble bag says it contains X amount of protein, not all of that is animal protein, some of it is plant protein.
If you’ve learned anything about our obligate carnivores, it’s that cats cannot absorb and utilize those nutrients. So while you are paying more money for the best dry cat food with the most protein, half of those nutrients are being wasted and in fact, it is slowing down your cats’ digestion of the ingredients that they actually can absorb.
Grain Free and Grain Friendly Dry Cat food
So we know some of the issues associated with kibble. Does the Grain-free and Grain friendly movement make it any better? My recommendation is to read the ingredient list.
We already know that they aren’t going to provide any extra hydration, so there is strike one. But if you read the ingredient list and it isn’t a foot long and focuses mostly on protein and vitamins, then you are moving in the right direction.
The fewer vegetables and carbohydrates that you see on that list the better. A big problem with a lot of the grain-free brands is they switched their grains straight from carbs to veggies. So while their advertising is attractive, they are often not an optimal option.
The best grain free that I can recommend is ZIWI Peak and the grain friendly one that I would recommend is First Mate grain-friendly cat and kitten formula . Neither of these is cheap but they are some of the best of the worst.
I personally leave a bowl of dry food out for all of my cats so that when I am not around and they get hungry they can eat. Keep in mind that my cats are often pregnant and need extra food to maintain a healthy pregnancy, and dry food is a supplement to their main meals. I don’t condone feeding a diet that is solely dry food.
Wet cat food: A great compromise
The worst wet cat food is often better than the best dry food. But it is still important to consider nutritional needs. So what are we steering away from, carbohydrates (which are often not listed in the ingredients) and vegetables. Add the sum of the protein, fiber, fat, moisture, and ash: subtract this number from 100, and you will be able to determine the percentage of carbohydrates that are in the food.
Wet cat food provides a significant amount of moisture that kibble is lacking. At our house, we feed Weruva: Cats in the Kitchen Lamburger-ini as our main meals for the cats and kittens. We also add in Purina pro plan kitten wet food to make sure the kittens are getting the vitamins and supplements they need.
Because Cats in the Kitchen has so much protein, it is a great meal for the kittens too. Another wet food that I have used in the past and recommend is Tiki Cats, they have great proteins and all the proper supplements. I switched to Cats in the Kitchen because my cats preferred the flavor and wasted less food, but every cat is different and Tiki cats offer a variety of different proteins for your cats to choose from.
Free feed vs. Scheduled mealtimes
There are a couple of different thoughts on how cats should be fed. The two main ways are free feeding and scheduled feeding. I tend to offer a hybrid and it works in my house. I leave the best dry food formula that I can find out for my cats and kittens all day. But although it is out, they tend to go through it very slowly. This is because they know they are getting the good stuff three times a day.
I am lucky enough to work from home most of the time so I give my cats 3 good-sized meals a day. If you can only feed 2 your cats will be fine, since I have the option I spoil my cats and try to replicate their wild schedule as closely as possible.
An Asian Leopard Cat in the wild would hunt and then eat several times throughout the day. My version of that is to play with my cats to wear them out and then offer them a meal after that. Feeding in this manner can stop a lot of behavioral problems you may experience with your cats as well.
Cats need mental stimulation as well as food, so making a habit of setting aside the time to both play and feed your cat on a regular basis will lead to a happy cat. Keep in mind, that if your cat is gaining a lot of weight, it may be time to put the dry food away during the day. However, because Bengals are high-energy, high-metabolism cats, this often doesn’t ever happen. Or if it does it is in middle to old age.
When to transition your kitten to cat food
I get asked this question quite a lot. Bengal Kittens can continue growing all the way up to two years old, so it can be tricky to determine when to switch them to adult food.
I always encourage people to do their own research on cat food before they choose a plan for their kitten. If you follow the plan outlined above, a lot of the food options are good for both kittens and cats. However, if you are feeding specific kitten food I encourage people to always watch their cat for the signs it’s time to switch after the one-year mark.
Bengal kittens can eat a huge amount of food while they are growing because of their activity level and high metabolism, so a few good questions to ask yourself are:
- Has your cat maintained the same weight for a period of 3-6 months?
- Does your cat look like they have filled out and their body is fairly proportionate?
- Is your cat starting to gain weight even though you haven’t changed its diet?
- Has your cat slowed down on how much they eat?
These are all good indicators that your kitten may be ready to switch over to a cat diet.
There are a plethora of opinions out there on what is best for your Bengal kitten. The important thing is that you have the tools to determine for yourself what a good diet would be for your furry family member.
What is on the ingredient list? Can your cat digest those ingredients? Is your cat getting the hydration it needs? Your cat’s diet should lead to them being in the best health possible, so stay alert for the key signs that their diet may be causing them distress. As long as you are doing all of this, your cat has the best chance at a happy, healthy, long life.