Catster logo

Can We Make Our Cats Smarter by What We Feed Them?

tabby cat eating food from feeding bowl
Image Credit: Daisy Daisy, Shutterstock
Last Updated on December 1, 2023 by Catster Editorial Team

I have a smart cat. Casey quickly masters tricks such as paw hellos and figure-eight weaves between my legs, and he always trots my way when I call his name.
In the pet first-aid classes I teach, Casey serves as my feline assistant and displays his feline smarts by always finding where I hide his treat bag and leaping on the table when it’s time to demonstrate the safe way to wrap an injured cat in a bath towel.

But could he be smarter? Read on to find out…

The Top Feeding Tips for a Smarter Cat

1. Provide Enrichment

Providing mentally and physically stimulating indoor enrichment items such as food puzzles, cat furniture trees, and feather wands that tap their innate hunting talents.

2. Making wise choices at chow time

The types of foods, treats, and supplements we give our cats greatly influence their intelligence and give their overall health a boost.
In my quest to create a nation of smarter, healthier cats, I turned to one of the country’s renowned experts on holistic health and nutrition — Dr. Jean Hofve. This retired holistic veterinarian operates little and just unleashed her
latest scientific-backed e-book called What Cats Should Eat: How To Keep Your Cat Healthy With Good Food.

“Good nutrition and indoor enrichment are important for brain and body health,” Hofve said. “The optimal nutrition for a cat is a mouse, but that’s not practical. So, what we try to do is build a better mouse.”

3. Dish up “brainy” omega-3s

DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaneoic acid) are two vital omega-3 essential fatty acids that ease inflammation and encourage cognitive development (aiding in memory and learning). DHA is the primary fat that comprises the structure of the brain, and EPA is found in cell membranes and keeps cell membranes flexible and ensures that neuron messages are transmitted. Good sources of omega-3s include krill oil, sardine oil, and anchovy oils.

Melissa Kauffman / Lumina Media

4. Power up your Ps: prebiotics and probiotics

It’s easy to confuse the two. Prebiotics are fibrous additives that feed good intestinal microorganisms and are found in some pet foods. Probiotics are live intestinal microorganisms more sensitive to heat and moisture and are more commonly packaged as capsules. Probiotics are nutritional supplements used to treat diarrhea, constipation, and other digestive issues. The quality and efficacy varies, so consult your vet for recommendations to meet your cat’s health needs.

5. Up the antioxidants

Think of antioxidants as your cat’s bodyguard, disarming toxic free radicals before they can damage healthy cells and inflame tissues. “Free radicals cause inflammation, and inflammation causes the diseases of aging and heart disease,” Hofve said. Vitamins A, C, and E are good choices to protect and repair brain cells.

6. Seek out dietary supplements for senior cats

Dr. Cynthia Rigoni, a veterinarian who operates the All Cats Veterinary Clinic in Houston, has seen success in improving the brain function of senior cats battling dementia when given a product called Senilife manufactured by Ceva. This dietary supplement contains ginkgo biloba, vitamin B6, vitamin E, grape extract, and phosphatidylserine.

7. Research fish

Photo by Shutterstock

It’s a misconception that fish represents a natural feline food. Some types (like farm-raised salmon) are unsafe to feed cats, Hofve said. She said that some fish used in some canned pet foods come from the decaying leftovers of the seafood industry around the world. “It’s a mishmash that’s high in phosphorus and magnesium, which can be a serious problem in cats with a history of urinary tract disorders or kidney disease.” Some fish also contains chemicals like harmful histamines and toxic pollutants, such as mercury, PCBs, and BPA.

8. Scrutinize fish meal and fish oil sources

“In general, small amounts of fish meal included as a flavoring and/or source of omega-3 fatty acids in cat foods are not a problem,” Hofve said. “Bonito flakes, a popular cat treat, are fast-growing and they bio-accumulate fewer toxins and therefore are acceptable in moderation.” Fish oils vary in quality, but look for products containing wild-caught fish like herring, anchovies, sardines, or even mussel oil.

Selecting brain food and supplements may turn your feline friend into a genuine smarty cat, but don’t expect him to be smart enough to solve Sunday’s crossword puzzle.

Bonus brain tip

Photo by Shutterstock

Read out loud to your cat. The act of building brainpower is called neurobics. One easy way is to read out loud in the presence of your cat.

“The sound of your words activates and expands neuron pathways in your brain — and in your cat’s brain,” said Dr. Dale Anderson., a retired surgeon, author, and founder of “While these activities may seem simple, they actually help your brain make new pathways by exposing you and your cat to new sensations. Keeping the brain alive is all about making new connections and branching out.”

Featured Image Credit: Daisy Daisy, Shutterstock

About the Author

Arden Moore
Arden Moore
Arden Moore, The Pet Health and Safety Coach, is a pet behavior consultant, master certified pet first aid instructor, author and host of two shows: Arden Moore’s Four Legged Life national radio show and a podcast called the Oh Behave Show on Pet Life Radio. Learn more at

Get Catster in your inbox!

Stay informed! Get tips and exclusive deals.


Follow Us

Shopping Cart