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How Much Should I Feed my Cat? A Simple Cat Feeding Guide

Posted in: Cat Care, Cat Food - Last Updated: June 8, 2023 - Author: Rebekah Carter
Posted in Cat Care, Cat Food 
Last Updated: February 9, 2022  
Author:  Rebekah Carter
how much should I feed my cat

“How much should I feed my cat?" It’s a question pet nutritionists and vets alike hear on a regular basis from cat owners. 

After all, while the canned food and bags of cat food you buy for your furry friend often provide feeding guidelines, these are rarely as accurate as they should be. Sometimes, even if you follow the manufacturer’s guidance and feeding instructions down to the letter, you end up with a chubby kitty or a cat stressed by lack of access to the correct, vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. 

Figuring out how much to feed a cat, the right amount of food, how often you need to feed them, and how to alter their diet, can be a complex process. In some cases, it may even be best to speak to your vet, as certain cats have particular needs. 

In the meantime, let’s cover some of the kitty basics of how much food you should be giving to your cats.

How Much Should I Feed My Cat? The Basics

In general, you’ll need to feed your cat enough to keep them healthy and happy, but not so much they end up overweight. A lean, healthy weight cat will generally live longer than a kitty with weight problems, and they’ll require fewer visits to the vet too. 

The biggest problem with feeding your cat the right amount is it’s not always obvious how many packets of wet food or cups of dry kibble you should be offering. The amount you feed your cat is dependent on a number of factors – which is why the instructions on the packaging aren’t always as reliable as you’d think. Elements that influence how you feed your cat include:

  • Age: Kittens and older (senior) cats require different levels of nutrients and calories to adult cats in generally good health. You’ll need to ensure you’re feeding your kitty a full and balanced diet for their appropriate life stage.
  • Size: There isn't really an average cat. Cats come in a range of sizes. A Maine Coon (one of the largest breeds of cat) will need to eat significantly more than a Siamese, and so on. It’s also worth noting cats can vary in their body frame size, and petite cats usually need less food.
  • Indoor/Outdoor: Outdoor cats can burn more calories than indoor cats because they’re usually more active. However, these felines may also catch some of their own food outdoors.
  • Reproductive status: nursing or pregnant cats have a higher calorie requirement because of the greater nutritional demand on their body during this time. Neutered and spayed cats usually require a lower number of calories.
  • Activity level: Cats who spend a lot of the day lazing around will burn a lot less calories than cats who are constantly getting exercise. Every cat also has its own metabolic rate.
  • Body and health condition: Overweight cats or those with an illness may be less active than their counterparts, which may mean they need less food. Some illnesses can also affect a cat’s metabolic rate, which causes them to burn more calories.
how much to feed a cat

How Much to Feed a Cat: FAQ

When you bring a new cat home, you’ll often continue feeding them on the same schedule, and type of food they’ve grown accustomed to with their breeder. However, as your cat begins to grow, you’ll need to adjust your strategy accordingly. 

Here are some questions to help:

Q: Can I trust the instructions on the cat food bag?

The numbers and directions given on your cat’s food bag or box are just rough guidelines. They cover all life situations, and amounts are often not set for specific cat needs or problems. The guidelines on a food bag could be significantly less or more than your cat actually needs. It’s often best to speak to a vet initially to help get insights and recommendations into what your cat's nutrition requirements are

However, keep in mind your cat’s dietary requirements and feeding regimen will naturally change over time as he or she grows older, and their life situation changes.

Q: How do I measure cat food?

If your vet gives you instructions on how to feed your cat, including how often you should feed your feline friend, make sure you get specifics. Being told you need to give your kitty a cup of kibble every so often can be complex because everyone has a different size of cups at home.

Using a digital scale or a set of scales to measure your cat’s food each day will make it much easier to manage your furry friend’s intake. A kitchen scale is a great option, or you can access specialist scales for pet food online.

Q: Does it matter if I’m feeding wet cat food or dry cat food?

Cat food comes in a range of options, including both wet and dry food. When you’re feeding your furry friend and asking “how much should I feed my cat?” remember to consider the caloric intake of both kinds of food.

If you’re giving your cat both wet and dry food, you’ll need to ensure you’re not over-feeding them by providing access to too many options.

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Usually, cats will require less wet food than dry food, simply because it contains a higher amount of nutrients. However, this is all dependent on what kind of cat food you buy.

Q: What is the nutritional adequacy statement?

Choosing the right food for your cat's health is an important step in ensuring they get the right amount of nutrition each day. The nutritional adequacy statement on the back of the food label will determine whether the food is nutritionally complete and balanced for the life stage of your cat.

If your chosen food has been approved by the AAFCO for all life stages, you know you’re giving your kitty a complete meal. If a food is labeled as being for supplemental feeding only, this means the food does not contain the right selection of micronutrients and macronutrients to be used as a sole source of nutrition for your kitty.

Q: How often should you feed your cat?

Aside from “how much should I feed my cat?” how “often” you should offer food is one of the most common questions. The frequency with which you’ll need to feed your cat will depend on a range of factors. This topic is highly debated in many circles, but most people find the answer is unique according to their cat.

Some cats like to graze slowly on food throughout the day, while others like eating at specific times at the day. The big factor is whether you’re available to monitor your cat’s eating. Make sure you aren’t just constantly filling your cat’s food bowl, as this can lead to your cat becoming overweight, as not all felines are good at regulating their food intake.

how much food should i feed my cat

How Much Should I Feed my Cat? Life Stages

As mentioned above, there are various factors that influence how much you should be feeding your cat, and when. However, one of the most significant factors for most people will be the age of the cat. Here are some guideline insights into how much you can feed your cat during the various stages of their life.

New-born (0-4 weeks)

A newborn kitten will be almost entirely reliant on its mother’s milk as its primary source of nutrition. You probably won’t need to feed these kittens at all provided their mother is present and feeding each kitten adequately. Keep an eye on the kittens to make sure they’re all getting plenty of nutrients from their mother.

If you’ve rescued an orphan kitten, you’ll need to bottle-feed them with a kitten milk replacement which mimics the nutrition in their mother’s milk. You cannot use standard kitten or cow’s milk.

How much should you feed your kitten?

Generally, you’ll need to follow the instructions on the package of milk replacer you’re using, or the guidance of your vet. The usual measurement is around 2 tablespoons of kitten formula per 4 ounces of body weight.

How often should you feed your kitten?

Newborn kittens will usually feed frequently throughout the day, latching onto their mothers every couple of hours. You can mimic this feeding schedule when bottle feeding, gradually reducing the frequency for meals to around 4-6 times per day.

Young kitten (4-8 weeks)

Kittens usually begin to wean when they’re around 4 weeks old. During this time, they begin moving from milk and formula to solid kitten foods. At around 4 weeks, bottle feeders can gradually begin transitioning their kitten to watered-down cat food. Loose slurries of wet food and formula are often useful for weaning a young cat.

How much should you feed your kitten?

At this stage, your kitten will need around 3 times as many calories as they would as an adult. You’ll be giving your kitten something like 60 calories for every pound of body weight.

How often should you feed your kitten?

Again, your kitten will be looking to eat regularly, but they can go a little longer than a new born without food. Most young kittens will be fine with around 6 to 8 hours between meals.

Growing kitten (8-16 weeks)

This is the stage in your kitten’s development where things begin to feel really exciting. Your kitten’s personality will be developing, and their predatory, playful nature will be coming out. At this point, your kitten should have weaned fully onto a meat-based food delivering plenty of fatty acids, and protein for suitable development.

How much should you feed your kitten?

Your kitten is an important stage of growth at this point, which means they need a lot of calories to keep them on the right track. Growing kittens usually need around 250 calories per day at a minimum, but larger breeds might need up to 360 calories pre day.

How often should you feed your kitten?

Ideally, you’d feed your growing kitten around five times per day. However, kittens over the age of 8 weeks can also be given the freedom to eat dry food freely. Just make sure you’re careful about how much you give your kitten to graze on through the day. Too much dry food can lead to problems with weight gain.

Adolescent kitten (4-6 months of age)

At this point, your kitten will be starting to settle into a consistent dietary routine. This is why it’s a good idea to be extra careful about establishing good habits. Feed your youngster a great, varied diet full of flavors to help stop them from becoming finicky. Don’t forget the occasional treat too

During this stage, your kitten may begin to get a taste for dry food and may become less interested in their wet food. If your cat doesn’t enjoy wet food as much anymore, make sure you provide them with lots of water for hydration.

How much should you feed your kitten?

At this point, your kitten will still require a lot more calories than usual (per pound). Refer to the guidelines on your cat’s food as an initial guideline but be careful. Remember kitten food usually has more calories than adult food. 

Most kittens will need at least 60 to 65 calories per pound of bodyweight each day. This would mean a 5 pound kitten would need around 325 calories per day.

How much should I feed my kitten

Adolescent kitten (4-6 months)

While a 4 week old kitten will need about 5 small meals each day, you can reduce his feedings each day to around 2-3 meals by the time they’re about 6 months old. You can also give your kitten treats throughout the day. However, calories from treats shouldn’t exceed more than 5-10% of your kitten’s calorie intake, so be cautious here.

6 Month to Adult Cat

While older kittens still need plenty of calories to keep them growing healthy and strong, your cat’s metabolism will gradually begin to slow down, and their nutritional needs will begin to look similar to those of an adult. By the time your kitten reaches his first birthday, he can even switch to adult food.

Larger-breed cats can continue to grow until they’re around 3-4 years old and may continue to eat a growth-oriented diet too. If you’re not sure exactly what your cat needs based on their breed, it might be worth talking to your vet, or your breeder.

How much should you feed your adult cat?

As your kitten transforms into a young cat and his or her metabolism begins to slow down, you might begin to notice an increase in their weight. Obesity can be a common problem among adult cats, and it can lead to complications if it’s not managed as quickly as possible.

Focus on giving your cat a high-protein diet without a lot of excess fat and calories. If you notice a lot of excess weight starting to gather around your kitty’s tummy, it might be a good time to reach out to your vet and ask for some additional advice.

How often should you feed your adult cat?

As your cat gets older, they’ll begin to develop a preference either for eating at specific times during the day or grazing frequently. It’s up to you to determine what kind of schedule you want to put your kitty on. Most cats will eat around 2-3 meals per day.

Senior years (11+)

As a cat gets older and enters their senior years, their dietary requirements are likely to change again. Compared to middle-aged and younger adults, senior cats have more specific nutritional needs. Certain cats will struggle to metabolize protein at the same rate as their younger counterparts, which means their muscle mass begins to deteriorate.

During your cat’s senior years, you’ll need to ensure you’re providing plenty of easy-to-digest protein to support the development of lean muscle mass. Cats at this age can also develop arthritis and other inflammatory conditions, which might mean you need to look into supplements like omega-3 fatty acids.

How much should you feed your senior adult cat?

Senior cats and elderly felines require more calories per pound of weight, similar to a kitten. If your cat seems like they’re losing muscle mass, you’ll need to increase their calorie intake and protein. Make sure you speak to your vet for extra advice if your cat has any specific health issues or dietary requirements which need to be addressed.

How often should you feed an older cat?

For the most part, your senior cat will continue to maintain the same feeding schedule they’ve been used to for the majority of their life. You can continue to feed your cat around 2-3 times per day.

Not Sure How Much to Feed a Cat? Speak to your Vet

Remember, if you’re not entirely sure, asking your vet “how much should I feed my cat?” is the best way to get a reliable response for peace of mind. Your vet will be able to consider the unique needs of your cat based on their health condition, breed, and other factors.

Don’t forget every cat needs access to constant fresh water too, regardless of whether they’re eating wet or dry meals. This will help to keep your cat’s organs healthy.

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About the author

Rebekah Carter is a dedicated animal lover. Her Savannah cat, Roscoe, has a lot of attitude, while her Maine Coon, Dukino, is full of love. When not writing, she’s looking after her cats and researching ways to help them live their best possible life. Her passion for animals and natural skill for writing led her to pursue pet blogging.