How Much Should I Feed My Cat?

how-much-to-feed-cat

“How much should I feed my cat?” is a question I’m frequently asked, and the answer isn’t as simple as it would seem. Even though every can and bag of cat food provides feeding instructions, they’re pretty much useless.

Think about this for a moment: could you definitively answer the question “how much should a person eat?” Of course not. If you’re a fairly sedentary office worker, you wouldn’t (or shouldn’t!) eat the same amount of food as a professional athlete. Your 80-year-old grandmother won’t eat the same amount as your 10-year-old daughter. The same is true for cats: the amount a cat should eat varies with age, health, activity level, metabolic rate, gender and genetic make up, to name just a few factors.

The most common mistake: feeding too much

The most common mistake cat guardians make is feeding too much – and frequently, that’s because they follow the manufacturer’s feeding instructions on the label. Feline obesity is an epidemic, with more than 50% of America’s cats being considered overweight or obese, and it comes with all the same health problems in cats as it does in humans: diabetes, arthritis and other joint problems, heart and respiratory problems, a compromised immune system, and gastro-intestinal problems.

How much food does a cat need?

Calorie content can vary widely from one brand of cat food to another. Not all brands will disclose calorie counts on the label, and you may need to visit the brand’s website to find the information. General recommendations range from 24 to 35 calories per pound of body weight per day to keep an average adult cat at a healthy, normal weight. The body condition chart below can help you determine whether your young to middle-aged adult cat is at a normal weight.

feline-body-condition-chart

Click on image to enlarge

In older cats, muscle condition is a better indicator. You will be able to feel bones in senior cats who are overweight if they’re starting to lose muscle mass

Since nutritional needs can vary considerably depending on the factors mentioned above, it’s a good idea to weigh your cat regularly and adjust the amount you feed accordingly.

How often should cats eat?

Leaving food out for your cat all the time is the single biggest factor in causing obesity in cats. Free choice feeding goes against the cat’s natural habit of being a hunter who may only eat two or three small meals a day. For most people, feeding two meals a day is the most practical solution, but if you work from home, you may want to consider dividing the total amount of food for the day into three or four meals.

Special considerations for kittens

Kittens need more food per pound of body weight than adult cats, and they will need more frequent meals. Use label recommendations as a starting point, and feed your kitten as much canned or raw food as she will eat until she is about four to six months old, in three or four meals a day. Since a kitten’s nutritional requirements vary even more than an adult cat’s, remember to monitor your kitten’s weight and body condition and adjust accordingly. Once your kitten reaches six months of age, you can start feeding her as an adult cat.

Always provide plenty of fresh water

You hopefully already know that dry food is not a good choice for cats. Not only does dry food not provide enough moisture for cats to stay properly hydrated and prevent urinary tract problems, it is too high in carbohydrates for an obligate carnivore like the cat. Cats do not have a high enough thirst drive to compensate for the lack of moisture in a dry diet by drinking more water. However, even cats who eat raw or canned food should always have plenty of fresh water available.

What should your cat eat?

The optimal diet for a cat is a properly formulated raw, home-cooked or grain-free canned diet. Please read The Best Food for Your Cat for more information.

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145 Comments on How Much Should I Feed My Cat?

  1. Name*
    July 25, 2017 at 8:32 am (4 months ago)

    Hi not sure what else i can feed my cat besides dry food as he cant eat most wet food and only a little of the ones he can what else can i cook/get for him

    Reply
  2. Tricia
    June 18, 2017 at 7:11 pm (5 months ago)

    How much should I be feeding my 2 year old 17 pound cat I have him on the science diet light he was eating out of a aromatic feeder but was cheating it and getting more then he should any help on how much to feed him a day to get him to slim down thanks much

    Reply
  3. Wendy
    June 5, 2017 at 7:04 pm (6 months ago)

    Hi! Love your site πŸ™‚ I recently adopted a 1 year old male dsh from a local shelter. At the moment, we’re battling a lingering viral uri with conjunctivitis (he’s on erythromycin eye ointment, just started Famciclovir Saturday and was stopped being given amoxi/clav liquid 1.2ML – all of these 2x day; I’m also giving him 250mg l-lysine in am and pm meals). Gibson had a broken femur which was surgically repaired. Ended up in the shelter where we met and I fell in love with him. Basic, normal black cat, has to be some siamese somewhere in his lineage. The long body, arms, legs, neck. When he eats he “poofs” out on his sides for a couple hours. Luckily he didn’t inherit the siamese talking. Very sweet cat and I’m letting him dictate when he’s hungry – he gets fed. Normally he eats 1 3 ounce can Fancy Feast pate (I know, but so far it’s the only wet food that agrees with his system). That’s split between breakfast and dinner. I do add about 1/4 tsp. of digestive enzymes/probiotics to his dinner wet food. He also gets dry, but he’s getting dr esley’s cleanprotein chicken dry. It is absolutely grain free, rice, pea, potato, etc. free. I put down 2 measuring spoon tablespoons of that, 1 during the day and 1 at bedtime. He does not, will not, eat treats. Water is always available and I give him purified water. He has shown zero interest in any people food so far. He was being fed Meow Mix dry and I believe Friskies pate wet at the shelter. Have no issue with the Friskies pate, to be honest. The Meow Mix? nope, not happening.

    Gibson weighs between 8.5 and 9 pounds. I’d like to keep him at around that weight for overall health and to not put pressure on the hip or that leg that was broken because it’s healed, but it didn’t heal “straight”, he walks flat-footed on that back leg. He’s not super active, especially for his age, but I’m sure at least part of that is because he still doesn’t feel well. He can run on his ‘gimpy’ leg, walking he almost limps. Go figure! His blood work came back pretty clear, but there’s a note that he could be at risk for pancreatitis (the siamese in him?)

    The big question for me is am I feeding him enough. While I don’t want him overweight, I don’t want him under-nourished. Not sure if his appetite will pick up once he doesn’t have runny eyes and nose, sneezing, etc. If it does, would 1.5 3ounce cans of Fancy Feast pate, along with 2 TBL or even 1/4 cup of the dr esley’s dry be a) sufficient; and b) keep him at a good weight. I get flummoxed by grams and all that. Just want a happy, healthy kitty. My vet is great, but he’s not nearly as picky on food as I am, he thinks I’m slightly mental for buying the dr esley’s dry because it is pricey. But Gibson eats so little, there’s usually leftovers in the morning. I’m figuring because it’s so high in protein, it’s more filling. I note that dry has 544 kcal/cup and Fancy Feast classic pate runs in the 89 to 95 cal per can range.

    Sorry for the novel!! Thanks πŸ™‚

    Reply

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