"How much should cats eat?” is a question I get asked an awful lot, especially by first-time cat owners. My response will vary on a cat by cat basis…Even if you have owned cats for years, you may sometimes wonder whether you are overfeeding or underfeeding your cat, I know I do with Giles – this is completely normal and worth seeking advice on.
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The good news – figuring out the amount that you should be feeding your cat isn’t overly complicated. It is based on a number of variables, including your cat’s age and weight, whether your cat eats dry or wet food, whether the cat is pregnant as well as your cat’s general activity level.
There are dozens of varieties of cat food available in supermarkets. If you feed your cat the wrong kind of food, she/he won’t maintain good health. A dense, high-quality cat food will contain more nutrients/protein, and your cat is likely to require less as a result.
All commercial cat foods come with feeding guidelines. However, these are only guidelines – each cat will have a different rate of metabolism and different level of activity. Do not be surprised if a 14-pound cat requires less food than a 10-pound cat – this is often the case. We have detailed our own feeding guidelines, which can be found here.
How Much to Feed a Cat a Day – Average
The ‘acceptable’ calorie intake per pound (of cat!) varies greatly. Whilst the guidelines range, the following serves as a good starting point/indicator:
- 50 calories per pound for an outdoor and extremely active cat.
- 35 calories per pound of body weight for active cats.
- 15 calories per pound of body weight for inactive indoor cats.
The average cat requires about 20 calories per pound. But remember, dry foods normally have 300 to 500 calories per cup while canned foods have a lot less (180 to 220 calories per 5.5 ounce can). An average adult cat, therefore, requires one 5.5 ounce can of cat food per day.
Not All Calories Provide the Same Nutritional Content
All of the guidelines above are based on the fact that you are feeding your cat a good-quality cat food that has the right balance of carbohydrates, fats, and protein. Like humans, cats use fats and proteins far more efficiently than carbohydrates. Dry cat food has high levels of carbohydrates, which translates to lots of “empty calories”. Cats were not designed to digest carbohydrates – the less the better.
In an ideal world, you should feed your cat wet food / or a raw cat food diet (more about that here!) But, if you have to feed your cat dry food for convenience – make sure that you strike the right balance between wet and dry.
Age Makes a Difference
Kittens require more food per pound of body weight than adult cats. Why? They need to support their growth and should, therefore, be fed more often throughout the day. Kittens that are up to 6 months old require at least three meals a day. From 7 months to maturity, most cats will do very well with just two meals per day.
Once a cat gets to 1 year, you can reduce feeding to once or twice a day. Senior cats (age 7 and above should maintain the same feeding regime. Dr. Francis Kallfelz, of Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, said that it is okay to feed a cat once a day when it reaches adulthood as long as it is healthy and has no disease that calls for a specialized feeding program.
The Health of Your Cat Matters
It goes without saying and is a sad fact of life – cats fall ill. Cats can suffer from serious conditions such as urinary tract disease, osteoarthritis, heart disease and diabetes. If your cat, for instance, suffers from diabetes, you may need to have your veterinarian prescribe it insulin.
Cats can also suffer from hyperthyroidism, meaning they will want to eat all the time. If your cat experiences this symptom – take your cat to a veterinarian. It is a treatable problem.
When a cat ages, she/he may develop gum disease and her teeth may go bad, making it difficult to chew dry food. If this is the case, you should offer your cat canned food, or small nugget sized food. Mash up dry food and mix it with some water to make it easier to chew.
Best Type of Cat Food
Many cat owners feed their cat’s dry food, which we don’t 100% advocate. Dry food is less expensive than canned food and is not fresh in any sense. However, if you feed your cat dry food, please make sure that you provide it with lots of fresh water to prevent the development of urinary tract blockages. Follow our best cat food guide, for more information.
Canned cat food is usually 70% – 80% water – much better for cats. Cats are all different, but in my experience cats find canned food more palatable and often overindulge if allowed free access. The most important thing is that your cat’s calorie intake is met in the freshest and most natural way. Wet food is high in protein, low in carbohydrates and can be low on fat.
How Much To Feed A Cat A Day: Conclusion
You will need to modify your cat’s diet throughout his/her life to accommodate changing dietary and metabolism needs. Feel your cat’s ribs and backbone. If the backbone and ribs show through the skin, then he/she is too thin. If you can’t feel her backbone or her ribs, then it is likely that she is overweight.
I tend to work out how much to feed my cat a day, then ensure they are fed that amount by using an automatic cat feeder – they are extremely useful and I’d highly recommend this one.
Remember, keeping your cat fit and is far much easier than forcing an obese cat to cut their portion size or stay on a diet. Regularly take your cat to the veterinarian as they will also advise you on any issues relating to the weight of your cat.
Thanks for reading!