Feeding cats

How Much Should You Feed Your Cat?

Whether this is your first cat or you have always had cats, just like humans, every kitty is different. Some cats are especially fussy about what they eat, how often and how much they eat.

There really is no one-size-fits-all feeding method for cats. The label on the bags, boxes, or cans of food is a general guideline, but you may have to adjust the amount and schedule for your pet. If you have more than one cat, they may eat at different times or eat different amounts.

If you have multiple cats in your home, it is important that each cat have her own feeding area. Cats are solitary animals when it comes to eating and prefer to eat alone. Making sure that each cat knows where her own food area is makes it easier to monitor each cat’s diet.

Starting with Kittens

If you are bringing home your first kitten, you want to ensure it gets the right nutrition, so it grows into a healthy, happy cat. Kittens are actually easier than adult cats since they have not developed their finicky attitudes yet.

Kitten food tends to be relatively cheap as well, especially if you feed them dry food. Many brands of kitten food come in individually packed pouches, so you know you are feeding them the correct amount each day.

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However, different breeds and sizes of kittens will each eat different amounts, so use the suggested amounts on the package labels as a guideline and monitor how much your kitten eats at each feeding.

As they grow, you should start feeding them only once or twice per day instead of three or more times. Many other factors determine your cat’s feeding schedule as they grow.

Adult Cats – Factors That Play Into How Much Your Cat Should Eat

Again, like us humans, you need to consider your cat’s age, size, exercise, her metabolism, and breed to figure how much she eats. For example, younger, more active cats will eat more than an older, less active cat.

Some cat breeds may be rather lazy so you would not need to feed them as much as a more active cat of the same age and size.

The type of food your cat likes will also determine how much to feed her. If the food were dense and higher in calories, you would feed her less than a lower calorie food. Your cat may like both wet and dry food so you will need to calculate how much of each to feed her each day.

Figuring Out How Much to Feed Your Cat

Feed your cat

Start with the guidelines on the label. If the amount is per day, set aside a sealed container with that daily amount in it and put half of it in her bowl in the morning and the rest in the evening. Make sure everyone in your household knows to feed the cat from that day’s portion and not from the main food can or bag.

The amounts listed on the label are a range based on your cat’s age and weight, so they are not exact amounts. You may need to adjust the amounts accordingly if your little friend starts to gain or lose weight.

How Should I Feed My Cat?

Cats are finicky, to be sure. Again, no two cats are the same. Some cats like eating on a strict meal schedule and others like to graze or pick at their food all day. Some cats enjoy wet food at their scheduled meal times and like having some dry food to nibble on in between meals.

There is no right way to feed your friend. By watching her closely and paying attention, she will let you know what she likes, and you can adjust the amount of food she eats daily.

Method #1: The Meal Schedule

Maintaining a meal schedule is easier when you have more than one cat. Each cat has her own food bowl so a dominant cat will not be eating all of the food during the day and leaving none for the others.

Meal schedules are also ideal for cats that tend to indulge themselves and overeat if food is always available. Feeding them on a schedule helps them stay at a healthy weight.

On the other hand, your cats may beg you for food in between meals. If you are already feeding her the correct amount, you can give her a treat in between meals, as long as she is still eating her regular food.

Kittens need feeding three times a day. As they get older, you can feed them twice or even once a day and introduce some treats in between the meals.

Method #2: Food Available 24/7

Free cats feeding

Also known as “free feeding,” you simply keep food available all the time. Self-feeding food bowls are ideal for free feeding a cat, but only with dry food. Your cat will not beg you for food since it are always available any time she wants to nibble.

However, while it is easier for you to fill your cat’s feeder just once a day, there are disadvantages to this feeding method.

You will not be as accurate in determining how much your cat is eating unless you notice the cat is putting on weight or losing weight. If you have multiple cats, you will not be able to tell which one is eating the most food or the one getting the least food.

Another disadvantage is determining if your cat’s appetite is changing, unless you are home all the time and you can monitor how much food she is eating during the day.

Method #3: Mixed Feeding

If your cat enjoys wet food but begs for more food between her scheduled meals, you can keep some dry food available during the day so she can nibble. Your cat gets the nutritional benefits of having both wet and dry food during the day.

Plenty of Fresh Water

Fresh water for cat

It is critically important that your little friend drink plenty of fresh water, especially if all she eats is dry food, as it helps prevent urinary tract infections. Make sure there is always a bowl of fresh water available at all times.

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An automatic water dispenser for cats is one of the easiest ways to make sure she always has water to drink without you having to monitor and refill it multiple times per day.

What if your cat isn’t drinking enough water? You may not realize it unless you closely monitor the water bowl. If your cat only eats dry food and does not drink enough water, she may develop urinary tract problems.

If this happens, it is best to introduce more wet food into her diet on a daily basis to compensate for her lack of drinking enough water.

Outdoor Cats Need More Nutrition

If you allow your cats to go outside often during the day, it is important that you set up an outdoor feeding station with plenty of water. Outdoor cats may like to go on long strolls, run more often and climb trees, making them more active than indoor cats. That means they need more calories and more food than indoor cats since they are burning more calories outside during the day.

Seek Your Vet’s Advice

How to feed your cat

If you are still not sure how much you should feed your cat, the best suggestion is to talk to your veterinarian. Your cat should have regular checkups, and your doctor can advise you on your little friend’s feeding schedule, foods to give her, foods or treats to avoid and any changes in her dietary schedule.

If you notice that your cat is eating more than she should and gaining weight, or conversely, eating less and losing weight, it is important to schedule a checkup with your vet as soon as possible.

Some senior cats may develop problems with their teeth and gums, making it difficult to eat their dry food. You may need to introduce more wet food to their diet and change to a soft dry food that is gentler on their gums.

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The bottom line – you want to keep your cat at a healthy weight with the right nutrition to help keep her active and happy.

"In ancient times cats were worshipped as gods; they have not forgotten this."
-- Terry Pratchett

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