How Much To Feed A Cat?
By Sara Ochoa, DVM April 30, 2019
One of the most common mistakes that cat owners make is feeding either the incorrect amount of food or the wrong type of food altogether. Just because there is food in your cat’s bowl doesn’t mean you are feeding them correctly. There are many things to consider when ensuring the health and well-being of your feline friend. The correct food, the right amount of food, and the necessary nutrients in your cat’s food are some aspects to consider in helping your cat grow and stay healthy.
How Much To Feed A Cat?
The amount of food you should feed a cat is influenced by both size and age. A kitten needs 100 to 130 calories per pound of body weight. An adult cat needs 20 calories per pound of body weight. This means an average size cat needs around 200 calories a day.
Age And Feeding Frequency
It is very important to feed a kitten 3 to 4 times a day up to six months old. During this time, it is imperative to feed a food specifically formulated for kittens so that it provides all the necessary nutrients and calories a growing kitten needs.
From six months to a year old, feeding can be dropped to twice daily. However, the food should still be kept in line with the kitten specific diet.
After twelve months of age, your cat is considered an adult. At this time, it is important to switch their food to an adult diet which contains better protein and fewer calories. Kitten diets contain more calories and can rapidly cause obesity if fed to an adult cat. An adult cat is no longer at their growth stage, so fewer calories are required.
Always read the food manufacturer’s guidelines and recommendations to make sure you are not over-feeding or under-feeding your cat. Most food packaging contains a list of how much to feed and how often to feed depending on the weight and size of your cat.
Wet Food, Dry Food, or Both
You might be wondering which food will benefit a cat more. On one hand, dry food is easier to store for longer periods of time. It is more beneficial to a cat's dental health. As a cat chews dry food, the kibbles scrape along their teeth and help knock off any plaque or tartar build up.
Then there is wet food. Wet food tends to contain more water content. The additional water content can be very important to cats that have kidney disease or to those that are prone to urinary disease. Cats are notorious for not drinking frequently, so wet food can supplement their water intake. Furthermore, cats who are finicky eaters may be more receptive to wet food because of its moisture and tendency to smell more appealing.
Both quality wet and dry foods can provide all the necessary nutrients your cat needs to stay healthy. It really just boils down to what you want to buy and what your cat will eat. Read our article about wet food versus dry food to get a better understanding of both.
Risk Of Feeding Too Much
Overfeeding can be very unhealthy for cats. When cats are overfed, the side effects of obesity can be life threatening. Health issues related to obesity are heart disease, diabetes, difficulty breathing, arthritis, joint pain, and liver disease. Furthermore, a cat can develop all of these symptoms at the same time and the consequences may be irreversible. This can lead to life long illness and even death.
An overweight cat will have fat pads that swing between their legs when they walk. You will not be able to feel your cat’s ribs easily nor will they have a nice waistline. So if your cat is overweight, it is important to feed for the amount of weight they ideally should be and not the weight they are to help them lose weight. To learn more about helping your feline friend lose a few extra pounds, read our article about weight management for cats.
Risk Of Feeding Too Little
Feeding too little especially in the case of a growing kitten can be exceedingly dangerous and life threatening. Not getting the proper number of calories means a kitten will not have the energy to move around or the appropriate amount of calcium needed for their bones to grow. Even if their diet is changed to feed the appropriate amount, sometimes the damage to their bones is permanent. This will result in the kitten never reaching their full size. They will remain underdeveloped and stunted in both organ and bone growth, which can result in lifelong health issues.
In general, healthy cats that have access to water can survive 2 weeks without food. However, cats can only live 3 days without water.
Getting The Appropriate Amount of Nutrients
Cats are carnivores by nature. This means that they rely on a very high level of protein for their bodies to function and to maintain a certain level of health. If you want more detailed information, then read our article on the cat diet.
Appropriate Water Intake
Cats need anywhere from 3 to 5 ounces of water daily to maintain a healthy body. But just because you don’t see your cat drinking from the water bowl, doesn’t mean that they’re not getting any water. If you feed wet food, then your cat may be getting enough hydration and may not need to visit the water bowl as often. However, if you see your cat drinking excessively, then it is recommended you visit your veterinarian. Signs of diabetes and hyperthyroidism may be present with excessive water intake, which can easily be diagnosed by your veterinarian. To learn more, read our article about your cat’s water requirement.
We all love our cats and want them to stay happy and healthy. Feeding appropriately is one of the ways that can help ensure your cat lives a healthier and happier life. If you are unsure about how much your cat should weigh or about how much to feed your cat given your cat’s situation, don’t hesitate to contact your veterinarian.