How Much Food Should I Give To My Cat?
Bringing a cat home can be a magical experience. But...
“How much do I feed my new furry friend?”
This is a question many—if not all!—new cat parents ask themselves. And what about quantity? Are you feeding them too much or just enough? Are you feeding your cat the right food? Of course, next you start to wonder if your new cuddly bundle of joy is getting the right combination of nutrients.
All of this can feel overwhelming at first, but worry not. There’s a wealth of information out there to help you give your cat a happy and healthy life.
Is Every Cat Different?
The short answer is: there is no one-size-fits-all formula that you can use. According to the Cornell Feline Health Centre, the amount and frequency of meals is influenced by variables such as:
The other factor to consider is that the same volume of different foods will have different nutritional content. As you may have guessed already, this question is further complicated by the different types of cat food that are available in the market.
Let’s break this down and look at this puzzle piece by piece.
How Old Is Your Cat?
Is your cat a newborn kitten or an adult cat? Cat food manufacturer Whiskas has conveniently created categories that you can use to identify your cat’s nutritional needs based on their age.
Is your cat a kitten, an adult or a senior? Depending on which of these buckets they fall into, your cat is going to need different amounts and types of food.
How Healthy is Your Cat?
Humans are not the only animals that get sick. Cats too suffer from disorders and illnesses like diabetes and hyperthyrodism. In old age, your cat may find it difficult to chew food because their teeth go bad or they develop gum disease.
If your cat is diabetic, s/he is definitely going to require a special diet. In some cases, your cat’s illness may be treated and then you can continue to feed them normally. The best person to talk to about this is your cat’s veterinarian. They’ll know your cat’s history and are in the perfect position to give you the guidance you need.
If you’re one of those cat parents with a healthy cat, congrats! But keep an eye on your cat nevertheless. According to Robin Downing, DVM, DAAPM, DACVSMR, CVPP, CRPP, a change in regular eating habits can be a sign of illness.
How Do I Make Sure My Cat Gets The Food S/He Needs?
First, let’s look at frequency. How many meals should your cat be given?
According to Dr Francis Kallfelz, DVM, Ph.D., board certified by the American College of Veterinary Nutrition and James Law professor of nutrition at Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine, kittens up to six months of age may require up to three meals a day. From this point on to maturity, your cat can do with two meals a day.
Your kitten becomes an adult at about one year of age. At this point, you can feed once—at most twice—a day. If your cat is a senior (i.e. they are seven or more years old), you can continue to feed them the same amount of food, but you will probably need to adjust their diet to make sure their specific nutritional needs are being met.
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s look at how much you should feed your cat. We’ll look at this in more detail later in the article (you need to weigh the differences between the different types of cat food), but here’s a quick sneak peek:
Dr Jennifer Coates over at PetMD suggests starting with the feeding guide on the cat food label. For dry food especially, this can be very useful, as the manufacturers will highlight the amount of food your cat can eat per day. For example, they may list the number of cups you can feed your cat based on their weight.
Wait wait. Did you get that right? Per day, not per meal. Be careful! Overfeeding will lead to a lot of stress and health problems for your furry friend.
And now finally, when should these mealtimes be scheduled?
Experts agree that it’s important to establish a meal schedule that your cat can rely on. Many cats usually have a two-meal-a-day system. (Again, talk to your veterinarian. Your mileage may vary.)
Make sure you’re on time every single day! Your cat is a creature of habit and even a small deviation in the routine can throw them off. Having set mealtimes helps them feel secure and confident enough to adapt to changes that may be taking place in your household.
Besides, this will condition your cat to get hungry at specific time, which will prove useful if you need to change up the types of food they eat for whatever reason.
What Do I Give My Cat?
Now that you’ve gotten a fair idea of mealtimes and frequency, let’s circle back to question we began with: how much food should I give my cat? Like we said earlier, this in influenced in large part by the type of food your cat is going to eat.
Most people feed their cats dry food. There are a couple of advantages to this. First off, dry food tends to be less expensive than wet (canned) food. It stays fresher longer and it’s simply easier for people to manage. But is it good for your cat? Dr Kallfelz says it is, as long as it’s “complete and balanced”.
Dry food does not typically supply your cat with all the water s/he requires, so make sure they have constant access to fresh, clean drinking water. All cats need water, so make sure your kitty’s bowl is always full.
Wet food typically comes in cans and contains 70-80% water. Your cat will typically get all their water requirements from wet food directly, but there’s no harm in making sure water is available. Some cats may prefer wet food to dry food.
You can also offer your furry buddy a mixture of dry food and wet food. Just make sure they’re getting the right amount of calories for their age and weight.
We hope this article helped answer your questions!
It’s important that you remember that every cat is unique, so your mileage may vary. The best person to consult before finalising—or revising—your cat’s diet should always be their veterinarian.