Whether you have been a proud owner of a feline for many years, have been presented with a fur (or no fur) pet, or have adopted one, you may be wondering, “How much food should I feed my cat?” The question may come as a natural inquiry when you are facing a new task introduced into your life or as a concern for a four-pawed resident of your house.
The wrong ways you could go about solving the problem are either by letting your cat eat as much as it will or relying on the general instructions you can find at the back of the package containing nutrients for your kitty. Those may work, but that’s like playing a lottery. Instead, we would like to equip you with the knowledge that will let you know for sure.
It’s crucial to make a feeding plan individually for your cat so that the animal receives an ideal amount of calories. That way, you can avoid overfeeding your pet, as well as denying it the necessary nourishment. Both could equally be bad for the cat’s current health and life expectancy, so it’s crucial that you know all the factors to account for.
How Much to Feed a Cat - Main Factors That Come into Play
To successfully create a diet, you need to know the daily intake of calories you’re looking for. It’s similar to how you calculate your own diet. And if you don’t, you can start with your pet because it relies on you to do the math and cat food portion control. Calories are used to measure how much energy a product provides. That’s right, the same energy your friend will need during the day for running, jumping, hunting, playing, climbing, or even snoozing. Even during sleep, there are processes taking place inside of any body, and those need energy.
So, the amount of calories is written on food packaging, usually displayed as kcal (don’t worry, that’s the same thing as a Calorie) per kilogram, pound, bag, or can. Once again, you may see the recommended distribution of this food given as well, but those instructions are way too general and may not be the best for your puss.
Never you mind fully understanding the science of it all. As long as you know how to calculate the appropriate number of kcals per day and per meal, as well as paying attention to certain parameters of your cat, all you will need is our calculator. We’ll go over each of those in more detail below, covering how to control the amount of food to feed a cat to witness the desired result.
You have to adjust the feeding pattern according to how old your cat is. Starting from birth, the first few weeks you’ll only have to worry about providing enough food for the mother. The kittens will get all they require from her with her milk. That’s about four-five weeks. After weaning and up until about six months old, they will have to be fed three-four times a day, getting food at a higher body weight ratio since they need it for growing. Depending on the situation, you may keep that schedule up until the kitties reach the age of twelve months, after which it’s acceptable to reduce the number of servings to two a day.
For cats, adulthood starts at one year and lasts for about another six years or as long as they are in their prime condition. Naturally, you want to keep things that way for as long as possible. So, how much should a cat eat a day at this age? The answer is as long as the pet gets its daily calories, and you will be able to calculate that quite precisely when you’re done reading this guide. It’s also a common practice to feed an adult purr machine twice a day, although specialists say that even once a day is okay. Once again, you’ll have to figure it out based on several factors, including your own schedule and what seems best for your pet.
There’s no need to change the feeding pattern after seven years, and abrupt changes would be a bad decision. You want to help the kitty’s body receive the necessary energy, but it’s possible that they stop eating certain types of food and become fussy about it. Then, you have to find a proper approach that would still provide them with the required calories. That may be done by experimenting with wet and dry cat food portions and changing their proportions. Additionally, if the cat’s health starts to decline, you may consult a vet and introduce foods that will have elements to strengthen certain organs and body functions.
The cat’s age is, of course, directly related to its size, especially when it’s still growing. After that, however, it’s important to establish the ideal weight along with the kcal intake for the pet’s size and body structure. It may be that one cat eats considerably more than the other does yet stays perfectly healthy while the other one is considered overweight. That may be the result of differences in their activity levels, size, breed, body structure, being pregnant or neutered.
This is going to be the main indicator that you need to change something about your cat’s diet. However, that can only be done successfully after you establish the desired weight for your cat. Certain breeds have tendencies to be bigger, therefore, having a larger weight, for example. You may have to consult additionally to find the ideal figures for your cat and adjust the portions according to the changes you see. However, you should be able to start by adhering to this cat feeding chart provided by the National Research Council.
Activity Level and Metabolic Rate
Since we’re calculating how much energy your cat needs to get with food, it’s just as important to consider how much energy it spends during the day. So, the calories have to be adjusted in accordance with your pet’s lifestyle. That’s one of the reasons why kittens require on average twice as many calories per their body weight as grown-up cats. As a rule, they are extremely active, running around, exploring the world, and wrestling with one another.
Now, there’s no need to overfeed your cat if it prefers to stay inside and just lie in different places. However, if your adult feline spends a lot of time outside or is simply more active and playful, you may need to increase the cat food amounts by 1.5 or even 2 times, depending on its metabolic rate. The same goes for breeding tomcats, who obviously require more energy.
Neutered cats have proven to be less active, therefore, you can start with giving them the regular amount of food and seeing how they pick up or lose weight after a week or two. It has been noticed that such cats are more prone to gaining weight, especially if you see how they now lead a different lifestyle and have new habits. Therefore, it’s something you need to pay attention to and adjust their diet accordingly. Help your cat be healthy and content so that it doesn’t accept its new round body as the norm, rushing down towards increased laziness.
Pregnant or nursing cats, although not too active, need an increased supply of calories, 2-3 times more than their regular diet, the coefficient depending on their weight and size. However, this may be difficult to establish precisely, so don’t bother trying to answer “How much should I feed my cat when it’s pregnant?” Naturally, you want to make sure the mother receives enough calories and doesn’t have to worry about not getting enough food for herself and her kids. Therefore, it’s best not to worry about her size and weight at this point, you can help to achieve the healthy figures later. For now, the better approach would be to feed her more often or provide free unlimited access to cat food and let her decide how much is enough.
Body Condition and Health
While some cat owners are used to their pets being overweight and think it makes them cute, that obviously has a negative effect on their health and how long they will be around. And since they may not be able to regulate how much and what kind of food they eat, it’s your responsibility to help them get into shape and avoid serious health issues.
Now, it may be easy to determine when a cat is obviously way too skinny or too fat. Determining borderline cases may be more challenging, yet it can be done by a simple visual check.
If your cat’s ribs, spine, and pelvis are easily palpated and even visible, it’s thinner than it should be. It’s a good sign that cat food portions should be increased.
Ideally, the animal’s waist should be visible, but there should be a slight amount of fat covering its body.
If the feline’s abdomen is rounded, the waist is partially or completely obscured, and if fat prevents you from feeling its ribs, well, you clearly need to reduce the food it gets and establish a more balanced diet.
You Need to Measure Your Cat’s Weight
So, you’ve done the visual check, but before you can begin calculating the feeding plan for your puss, you need to know its exact weight. Here are a few tips on how it can be done.
Hopefully, you have electronic scales. Place the basket or a box on the scales and switch it on. You should have it show zero, so the next number will be your cat’s weight and nothing else. If you have one of those boxes loving felines, it may even be a challenge to hit the button before the furry rascal jumps inside. If so, just weigh the box separately afterward and subtract that figure from the previous result.
There may be an obstacle in figuring out the amount of canned food to feed a cat if it resists getting onto the scales. There’s a graceful solution to that. First, see how much you weigh, then grab the kitty and step onto the scales with the purring troublemaker. Proceed with making the necessary mathematical operations to determine its weight.
So How Many Calories Does My Cat Need?
We are now ready to answer the ultimate question. First, you can look at the cans and bags of what you have been feeding your pet and evaluate how many calories it has been receiving so far. When you get the recommended number, you can compare them and see whether you will need to feed it more, less, or slightly adjust the diet.
The formula is based on the standard daily calorie intake for an average cat and its current weight, producing the amount you should feed it. This number is additionally adjusted by the lifestyle factor. Depending on it, the daily amount of wet or dry food to feed your cat may vary greatly, as the recommended calories amount may vary immensely based on the current weight and your future goals.
However, you can leave it out for now, it’s important to at least establish how much food it takes to keep your cat satisfied at its current weight without threatening its condition. And in a week, when you have followed this regime, you can weigh it again and see whether it’s losing or gaining pounds. Then, the lifestyle factor can be used to alter the calorie content based on whether you want to increase or reduce it.
If your cat suffers from serious medical issues, make sure to consult the vet, of course. Usually, though, the health condition may influence certain products and types of foods, as well as the preferred feeding schedule.
Wet Canned Cat Food
If you’re wondering, “How much wet food should I feed my cat?” our calculator will be able to answer that as well since the type of food is a separate parameter here. If you’re a new cat owner and have no idea what the difference is and which one to feed your new four-legged friend, here’s a brief answer.
You are likely to notice that canned food for pets is pricier. Does it mean it’s better? No, not necessarily. However, it does contain more liquid and, therefore, water. It’s also closer to what a cat would eat in the natural environment, like rodents that already have water in them. If your furry companion does not drink enough water, this may be a good solution, especially if there’s a record of it being affected by urinary tract blockages.
Dry Cat Food
If your cat has no problem with sipping water from a bowl and enjoys dry food, you can breathe with relief. That is if the price of wet food is a major concern to you and you would rather buy it less often. It will also last longer when opened, so that may be a considerable advantage. Some cats prefer to get a snack at different times of the day, so you can just measure the necessary amount and not worry about things getting messy when you get home, which could happen if you use wet food to feed cat.
Just make sure that there is always access to fresh water because your furry friend will not be getting it from its meals. The double-edged sword is sometimes you don’t get much of a say in deciding on the type of food if the cat obviously finds one more palatable than the other and refuses to eat until you serve what it wants.
How Much Wet Food or Dry Food to Feed a Cat
The required kcals number stays the same regardless of the type of food, whether you decide to go with wet or dry. People often choose the combination of two, making sure the cat receives the necessary vitamins that come from both options. It’s a good way to make their diet more varied as well.
If you like the idea of such an approach, you can start by dividing the necessary amount of energy between the two types of food. Then, check the bag and the can to see the calories content in the specific food, and calculate how much of each you need to take to get the required total.
You can use our cat food calorie calculator to figure out the shares if you decide to go with different proportions. For example, if your cat isn’t an avid wet food eater, you can mix some of it with dry food and expect the plate to be clean. Alternatively, if you don’t feel like being able to afford canned food all the time, you can use it as a treat from time to time, adding into the meals the same way.
Keep in mind that it’s all fine as long as there are no medical contraindications and the daily calorie count doesn’t change. Don’t be guided exclusively by recommendations on the food labels, they are average numbers and may not be ideal for your cat.
How Often Should I Feed My Cat?
The first factor that comes into play when answering that question is your cat’s age. As mentioned before, young cats or kittens need to be fed up to four times a day. Obviously, those meals have to be equally distributed over the day. Pay attention, the number of times does not affect the amount to feed cat on a daily basis. It’s just the number of parts in which you divide that calories count.
Speaking of adult cats, in general, twice or even once a day should be enough. You decide which one works for your Mr. or Mrs. Furry Paws based on how they tend to take their meals. The cat may be fine with eating its daily share at once or tend to eat only part of it, coming back for the rest later.
Your own schedule is the factor that will surely affect the final decision, as you or your close ones may not always be at home at the right time to refill the plate. Additionally, you may find mornings too chaotic to always remember about your animal companion or evenings too busy to bother with measuring out the calories, especially if their receiver is sleeping somewhere rather than actively meowing to remind you. So, you will have to choose what works best for both of you.
Some vets believe though, that to emulate the natural meal portions taken by cats (for example, a mouse at a time) you should break their daily calories into at least three meals. One could argue, though, that cats can’t always rely on regular meals in the wild, so that may not be the most relevant example for feeding domestic predators.
Free Feeding vs Measured Meals for Cats
If you feel like once a day is too seldom but can’t afford to be home to feed your cat more often, you can consider free feeding. It works best with dry food, of course, because it doesn’t get spoiled too soon. Still, that does not mean that you can just pour a pile of it and come back in a week. No, even dry food has to be renewed on a daily basis so that it doesn’t go stale.
So, you can see if your cat can do the further division of food, eating in convenient portions and letting it last through the day. If it likes to come and get an occasional (or a more frequent) snack, that should not exceed the cat food per day that you have calculated with calories in mind.
If that practice turns out to be unsuccessful, for example, if the kitty consistently gulps everything there is and comes back screaming for more later, you will have to switch to measured meals. That way, you can help it to have better distributed and timely meals that will provide it with just enough energy until the next feeding occasion.
Monitoring Your Cat’s Weight
Once you know how much wet food should a cat eat to receive the chosen amount of kcals, taking into account any dry food or other treats you may provide, let it be like that for about a week. You can, of course, make daily weight measurements, but you are unlikely to get visible results over the span of two days, and there can be other factors in play. So, a week should be a more reasonable period for assessing changes and planning further actions.
If the cat gains weight over that week, reduce the calories amount, but by much, go with 10% at a time, setting the new norm for the following week. The loss of weight should be met with a similar increase of calories by 10%.
Since no numbers can be precise for all cats, it’s up to you to monitor their weight and body condition, adjusting the food amount and calories count consistently. Repeat weighing every one or two weeks to see if any new adjustments are required.
Breed Specific Feeding Requirements
Can a cat’s breed define the amount of calories it needs? Of course, although that will still be related to its weight, activity level, and body type. So, naturally, the larger and more active breeds will require more kcals per day, and our guide and calculator still will be able to help you establish the starting point.
Nevertheless, there are diets and foods advised for specific breeds to keep their health in the best condition, so you should consult a vet for that kind of advice on what exactly to feed to your cat.