Your cat is a Lion at heart
Your cat, just like its larger cousins, is a natural born predator, with a body designed to get the nutrients it needs from the prey it kills and eats
Wild cat diet
Like any animal, its diet should mimic the foods it naturally eats in the wild. You can argue that your cat is not a wild cat, but for the last million odd years, it has evolved a body which works well on the food it eats, and that will not change in a few dozen generations of domestication. The best diet for a human (ignoring all the fad diets) is fruits, vegetables, and a little meat, this is because our ancestors were 'hunter-gatherers'. If we deviate from this diet and eat excessive sugars, meat, or carbohydrates, or don't get the vitamins from fruits and vegetables, we become ill or overweight. The same principle applies to cats, although cats are not 'hunter-gatherers' but predatory animals, and should have a diet comprised of meat. There is no such thing as a vegetarian cat, only vegetarian owners.
Commercial meat diets
Commercial cat food is based on meat and is usually available in flavours like rabbit, chicken, liver, fish, tuna, salmon, or poultry. Although similar, cat food is not the same as dog food (or any other animal food) and contains a different balance of nutrients, so if you have both cats and dogs, they still need their own foods. Dog food tends to contain too much vegetable matter and not enough protein for cats. Most brands of cat food are fairly similar and although you may find your cat prefers a particular type, it is always best to try and feed different brands and flavours of food to keep up a varied diet. If a food is marketed as 'complete', it means it contains everything your cat needs.
Given the opportunity, cats like nothing more than raw meat
Meaty treats for your cat
Cats love a bit of natural food, whether it is chicken, fish, or ham and there is no harm in using these types of foods as treats for your cat. However, it should be stressed that these are treat foods, and not cat food replacements. The main reason for this is that on their own, commercial cuts of meat do not have all the vitamins and nutrients a cat needs, and certainly not at the right quantities. In addition, some animal experts will argue that raw foods contain bacteria that can cause food poisoning, and even enzymes which can prevent vitamin uptake. Pre-cooked treats of small pieces of meat rather than raw foods, or ready-to-eat fish like tinned tuna are fine as small supplements.
Not impressed: Vegetables are not much use to a natural meat eater
Perhaps not the best acronym (Barf is a slang term used for being sick), BARF stands for Biologically Appropriate Raw Food, and is a method of feeding raw foods which is growing in popularity. The diet is based on mimicking a natural diet as much as possible, for cats this means not just meat, but also bones, liver, brain and other tissues. These are vital parts of a natural diet since they are the areas which contain nutrients found nowhere else. Many animal owners swear by the BARF diet as a natural alternative to commercial foods and there is strong evidence (both in human and animals) that the chemicals and preservatives used in prepared foods are contributing factors to many health problems, particularly skin and allergy difficulties. For any cats with these types of illnesses or health problems, the BARF diet is worth serious consideration.
Does this mean feeding animals to my cat?
Feeding a BARF diet does not mean you need to go out and trap mice or shoot rabbits, there are plenty of food companies and pet stores which stock pre-packed ranges of raw meat foods. These are balanced foods with all the right 'bits' added in and to prevent choking on bones, these parts are normally ground up and mixed in with the other meats. Expect to pay more for this type of diet and it is worth noting that not everyone is convinced of its effectiveness or safety, so do your own research and decision making first.
Your cat is part of your household, and when it see's you eating, it will naturally assume that whatever you are eating must be tasty and will want to join in. Far too many owners give in to their cats begging and end up giving them pieces of food. Whilst a little bit of meat (one cat mouthful) is generally fine, anything prepared with mixed ingredients or manufactured should be avoided, and don't assume that all raw foods are safe, many can be poisonous to cats.