How Much To Feed A Cat
How Much to Feed a Cat: Complete with a Chart
Cats are notorious for their fiercely independent qualities, and while that’s part of why we love them, those characteristics can also make them fickle and fussy eaters. More than once, we’ve had a feline friend turn their nose up to our mealtime offering, only to cry for food a short while afterward.
These irregular eating patterns can make knowing how much to feed a cat challenging, especially for newcomers to cat ownership.
It's no wonder that the questions that most cat owners find themselves asking are about food. Should I feed my cat raw cat food? How much do I feed my cat?
If you’re concerned about providing your furry companion with proper nourishment, but confused over the correct amount of food needed to foster healthy development, fear not! We have the answer to how much to feed a cat to help you ensure you’re keeping your purring pal fueled up and growing strong.
Key Considerations When Determining How Much to Feed a Cat
Cats, like humans, vary drastically from individual to individual. Some cats are fussy eaters and prefer one specific type of food, while others may enjoy many different food types—or even lick their lips at the savory aroma of your human food. Likewise, their need for sustenance differs based on a number of factors. To determine how much to feed a cat, one must consider the following:
- Stage of life – The amount of food a cat requires may not differ much throughout their life stage, and in general, both kittens and adult cats require 4–6 oz of food per day. However, your cat’s development can dictate differences in the size of their meals and how frequently you feed them. Kittens are still growing, and their smaller bodies and stomachs might need smaller meals more frequently throughout the day than an adult cat. While an adult cat may be happy with two 2-oz meals, you may need to separate a kitten’s food into four smaller 1-oz meals.
- Activity level – Is your feline friend climbing the cabinets, swatting at shoelaces, and persistently on the prowl? Or are they more of a sleepy lap cat? Is your cat an outdoor or indoor cat? Like all creatures, every bit of energy a cat exerts in its daily activities must be replaced in caloric intake to ensure proper health and wellness. The more active your cat is, the more significant its calorie requirement.
- Breed and size – Pedigree can often be hard to discern in cats unless one specifically seeks out a certain breed. Nevertheless, feeding larger portions to broader and bulkier breeds should help keep them properly fed. Just be sure not to serve up too much food and watch out for signs of feline obesity.
- Health – The amount of food a cat needs will generally stay the same throughout its lifespan and shouldn’t change drastically day-to-day, although some senior cats may simply eat less as their activity level declines. However, any sudden, dramatic shifts in eating patterns could be a sign of sickness.
- Motherhood – Pregnancy and feeding suckling kittens increase a cat's need for food drastically. Expecting mothers should be monitored to ensure they gain the necessary weight for their pregnancy without risking obesity. Meanwhile, nursing mothers should be offered “free choice” of as much food as they will eat—they know how much is enough for themselves and their growing babies.
With so many factors contributing to a cat’s dietary requirements, one can easily see why many people wonder: “How much should I feed my cat?”
Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to that question. However, there are some simple standards that we can use to establish a baseline for your fuzzy buddy’s nutritional needs.
How Much Food Does a Cat Need for Healthy Development?
When your cat’s hunger strikes, spending a lot of time pondering how much to feed them isn’t always feasible. Fortunately, the following serving suggestions and simple techniques can help you make sure your kitty is getting proper cat nutrition at each stage of its development.
- Kittens – Newborn kittens will feast solely on their mother’s milk for the first month of their lives. At about the four-week mark, you can begin to offer solid food to supplement their suckling. This food should be high in moisture, like a fresh, cooked food or a high-quality canned food option. Once they get a taste for solid food and their mother stops lactating, you can begin to introduce other foods, including fresh, freeze-dried, and raw options once they reach four months of age. Be sure to prioritize high-quality, nutritious meals for your kitten, as not all pet foods are created equal. Up to six months, kittens should be fed up to four times a day to meet their growing body’s needs. After the first half of a year, they can transition to a twice-daily feeding schedule.
- Adulthood – Most cats are considered fully grown when they reach one year of age. By this point, they should already be attuned to eating meals twice a day, which is a fine routine to maintain in most cases. For some less active and smaller cats, once-daily feeding will suffice. As a baseline, the average neutered or spayed adult cat requires around 25 calories per pound of body weight per day. A cat's weight varies widely based on breed and genetics, but, on average, a common mixed-breed normally weighs from around 8 to 10 pounds. Therefore, around 200 to 250 calories a day is appropriate for a healthy adult cat. This number is a starting point and can vary based on your companion’s specific needs. To help you better determine how much to feed your cat, examine the food’s nutritional labels thoroughly.
- Pregnancy – As previously mentioned, pregnant cats may need more food during their pregnancy, while lactating mothers should be offered as much food as they will eat. Cat nutrition is even more important during pregnancy as the developing kittens create an increased caloric need for their mother. Slight loss of appetite and increased time spent sleeping is normal. Be sure to also keep the drinking bowl full, as a cat’s need for water will increase during pregnancy as well.
- Old age – Many humans see a decrease in their appetite as they age and may assume their feline companions will follow suit. However, elderly cats can actually require an increased caloric intake versus younger adults, given equal activity levels. Furthermore, a cat’s ability to digest and absorb protein weakens as they age, meaning you’ll need to pack more of the macronutrient into their diet. Generally, you’ll have to start paying special attention to these dietary shifts after about a decade of life.
How to Know if Your Cat’s Diet is Right for Them
While there’s no perfect weight for a housecat to aspire to, there are some sizes that are healthier than others. Essentially, overfeeding and underfeeding are both contributing factors to medical issues in cats.
Underweight cats are more prone to health risks, and disinterest in eating can be a sign of sickness. Though a higher percentage of owners report believing their cat is underweight (38%) versus overweight (30%), the reality of the situation tells a different story.
Feline obesity is more common than any other nutritional disorder affecting domestic cats. Feline obesity is classified as 20% above a cat’s normal weight for its breed.
But what is 20% more than average? It’s not easy to judge if a cat is overweight in some cases, especially in larger and broader breeds.
And what about more slender kitties? Most breeds are naturally thin and can feel almost boney to the touch—a possible explanation for why more owners think their cats are underweight than too heavy.
If you’re not sure where your cat’s weight falls on the scale, you can talk to your vet to find out whether your cat’s weight is within a healthy range. This can help you determine the appropriate diet. However, with the tips below, you can start to gauge whether or not your kitty is the correct size.
How to Tell if Your Cat is the Correct Weight
A few specific breeds, such as Maine Coons and Norwegian Forest Cats, are wider, fluffier, and more muscular than common mixed-breeds. The average housecat, however, has a general shape that you can check for to see if they’re being overfed or underfed.
- Ribs – Exposed ribs are a dead giveaway that a cat is undereating. Alternatively, if you can’t feel your companion’s bones when running your hand down their side, they might be too big. There should be a thin layer of fat separating the ribs from the skin, but they should still be discernible to the touch.
- Back – Similarly to the ribs, an overly prominent spine is a sign of an underweight kitty. Likewise, an inability to feel their spinal cord through the fat of their back is a sign they’ve been eating too much.
- Belly and waistline – Get a glimpse of your buddy from the side to see if their stomach is hanging low to the ground. If it’s a bit bulbous, cut back on the snacks. If they’re looking gaunt underneath, then it’s time for larger portions. For male cats, a smooth arch from hips to ribs with no bones poking out is indicative of a healthy lifestyle. However, some cats—particularly female cats who’ve given birth—may have a primordial pouch that hangs down from their belly. This “pouch” doesn’t necessarily mean they’re overweight, so it’s important to consider your cat’s health as a whole when determining if they’re a suitable weight for their size.
If your kitty appears to be outside the healthy range, augment their diet as needed. For underweight cats, increase portion size and frequency until they gain a healthy amount of fat.
If your feline friend is too large, switching to a high-protein, low-carbohydrate meal plan can help them shed those excess ounces and improve their overall health.
Feeding your pet an ancestral diet that was formulated to meet their body’s specific needs can also help them maintain a healthy weight and enduring health as they age.
Feed Your Cat a Healthy Diet With Food From Darwin’s
Providing your pet with a happy, healthy home and the nutrition to help them thrive starts with understanding their needs. That doesn’t always mean one cat’s needs are the same as the next, but every feline friend deserves a high quality, nutritious diet.
Darwin’s makes natural cat food that’s inspired by nature and informed by science. Our foods are produced from the same type of natural ingredients that cats have been eating since before they became humanity’s household companions.
Our pet advisors strive to create an optimally nutritious menu for your feline sidekick—meals that cats can enjoy from the age four months old and up. And with the right food to fuel them, your kitty will benefit from meals they crave and the nutrition they need.
No matter how much you’re feeding your feline friend, consider feeding them raw pet food from Darwin’s—the healthiest choice for owners seeking a health-conscious option to fill their pet’s bowl.
For dog feeding and schedule, visit our Feeding Chart For Dogs and How Much To Feed A Puppy Chart blogs for more information.
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Pet Food Industry Association Australia. The Ultimate Cat Breed Portion Guide. https://pfiaa.com.au/
NIDirect. Welfare of cats: the need for a suitable diet. https://www.nidirect.gov.uk
Connecticut Humane Society. Pregnant Animal Care Handout – What to expect when they are expecting?. https://cthumane.org/
Delgado M, Dantas LMS. Feeding Cats for Optimal Mental and Behavioral Well-Being. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/
Blue Cross. Cat Weight. https://www.bluecross.org.uk/