Have you ever been giving food to your feline pal and wondered, “Exactly how much should I feed my cat?” I know I have! Understanding the right portion size for our cats is more than managing hunger; it’s about nutrition, quality of health, and overall happiness.
In a hurry? See this chart, check your cat food labels for calories, then measure out that amount of food and divide it by the number of meals per day to get exactly how much they should be eating.
To be more nuanced, the amount of food or calories you feed your cat depends on many factors. Join me as we unravel exactly what those are, the debate of wet vs. dry food, and guidance tailored to their life stages, plus more.
What Determines How Much To Feed Your Cat?
The question of how much to feed your cat can be influenced by several factors. Here’s a comprehensive breakdown of the elements to consider:
Kittens have different nutritional needs compared to adults or senior cats. They’re growing rapidly and require more protein and calories per day. As cats age, their dietary requirements change, often necessitating fewer calories as their metabolism slows.
A petite cat will naturally require less food per day than a large one. Always ensure the portion sizes match the size of your feline friend and their ideal body condition.
Different breeds may have different energy levels and metabolic rates. For instance, a Siamese might be more active and need more calories per day than a Persian cat.
Larger breeds like Maine Coons will often require a higher calorie count than smaller breeds. Maine Coons in particular, stay kittens for longer than other cats.
Outdoor vs. Indoor Cat
Outdoor cats tend to be more active, facing a wider range of stimuli and often larger territories to roam. This mean they burn more calories and might require a bit more food. On the other hand, indoor cats lead a more sheltered life, which may make them less active.
Activity level and dietary needs go hand in hand. An energetic cat that loves playing and running will need more fuel for their activities. If your cat loves lounging around, it might require fewer calories.
Certain health conditions can affect your cat’s appetite and dietary needs.
- A cat with diabetes might have specific dietary restrictions or requirements.
- Thyroid issues can significantly influence metabolism. Hyperthyroidism, for example, may increase a cat’s metabolic rate, leading to weight loss even if they eat a regular or increased amount.
- Cats with kidney (or renal) disease often require a special diet that’s lower in protein and phosphorus. Chronic kidney disease is a common condition in older cats.
- Conditions like Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD) can be influenced by a cat’s diet. For example, certain diets help manage the pH level of a cat’s urine to prevent crystal formation.
- Cats with GI issues might need diets that are easily digestible or specific to conditions like inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
Talk with your vet if you have questions.
A nursing mother will have vastly increased calorie and nutrient needs to help feed her kittens. Similarly, intact males may have slightly higher energy needs than neutered males. It’s essential to adjust food portions based on reproductive status.
Cat Feeding Chart
Below is a handy chart summarizing some of the above! I’ve broken it down by whether your cat is intact, needing to gain weight, or needing to lose weight.
Note these are only starting guidelines and each cat is uniquely different. I always recommend talking to your veterinarian before adjusting your cat’s diet.
|Weight of Cat||Spayed or Neutered||Not Spayed or Neutered||Cat Needing to Gain Weight||Overweight Cat|
|5 lbs||160 kcal||185 kcal||130 kcal||105 kcal|
|7.5 lbs||210 kcal||245 kcal||175 kcal||140 kcal|
|10 lbs||260 kcal||305 kcal||215 kcal||175 kcal|
|12.5 lbs||300 kcal||360 kcal||260 kcal||210 kcal|
|15 lbs||355 kcal||415 kcal||295 kcal||235 kcal|
|17.5 lbs||395 kcal||460 kcal||330 kcal||265 kcal|
|20 lbs||440 kcal||515 kcal||365 kcal||295 kcal|
Wet Food vs. Dry Food
A significant decision we cat parents face is the type of food to offer. While both wet and dry food have their places, for many cats, wet canned food is better.
- Hydration: Cats naturally have a low thirst drive, which may make them prone to dehydration. Wet food inherently has high water content, helping felines get much-needed water. This is especially beneficial for cats that aren’t avid water drinkers.
- Palatability: Some cats prefer the taste and texture of wet food. This is particularly advantageous for picky eaters or older cats who might be more inclined to eat when presented with a soft, moist meal.
- Lower Carbohydrates: Wet cat foods typically have fewer carbohydrates than dry foods. Cats are obligate carnivores, which means their bodies are designed primarily to process the amino acids in proteins and fats, with fewer carbs.
- Weight Management: The higher moisture and protein content in wet food help cats feel fuller without consuming excessive calories. This is be a valuable tool for help maintain a healthy weight.
- Reduced Urinary Tract Issues: The added hydration from wet food help dilute urine, which decreases the risk of urinary crystals and stones.
Dry food isn’t without merit. It’s more convenient for pet parents, especially those who aren’t home throughout the day, as it doesn’t spoil quickly. Dry kibble may also be more cost-effective and is easier to store. It’ll also flat out be safer to eat for longer periods of time.
However, the downsides include a generally higher carbohydrate content and a lack of the vital moisture found in wet food. Remember, no matter the diet your cat is eating, they need access to fresh water at all times.
How Much to Feed Cats at Different Life Stages
The dietary journey of cats shifts profoundly as they transition through life, evolving from playful kittens to mature adults.
In this essential phase, aim for 60-65 calories per pound of body weight. It’s advisable for kittens to eat multiple small meals of kitten food or formula throughout the day, with at least four meals daily for the first few months.
This can be gradually reduced to two or three times as they near their first birthday. A typical kitten might consume between ½ cup to 1 cup of kitten-specific food every day.
Wet food, being easily digestible and hydrating, is often recommended for kittens. If you opt for dry kibble, ensure it’s formulated explicitly for their young age, but offering a mix with wet food is recommended.
As cats grow, entering the age range of 6 months until 12 months, they still require substantial nourishment. At this stage, feeding two to three times a day is usually sufficient.
The quantity remains relatively consistent with their younger days, about ½ to ¾ cup daily. However, this period is also marked by a crucial transition from kitten to adult cat food.
A combination of wet and dry food can serve well, but lean more towards formulations meant for adult cats. Wet food continues to be valuable for hydration.
Average adult cats over 1 -1.5 years old require roughly 15-30 calories per pound of body weight, and thrive on two meals a day, although this varies based on individual preferences.
In terms of quantity, an adult cat’s consumption can range from ½ cup to 1 cup of food daily. This amount should be adjusted based on factors like activity level, size, and specific dietary needs.
Wet food remains a commendable choice for its hydration benefits, particularly for cats susceptible to urinary tract problems. However, if a diet is primarily composed of dry kibble, ensuring constant access to fresh water becomes paramount. Blending both wet and dry food can offer a balanced nutritional profile.
Converting Calories into Portion Sizes for Wet and Dry Food
When determining how much to feed our cats, understanding the calorie content of the food becomes paramount.
However, unless you’re equipped with a lab, it’s challenging to gauge the caloric value in different types of food just by eyeballing. Luckily, there are methods and guidelines to make this easier for us cat owners.
Wet Food Caloric Content:
Wet cat food generally has fewer calories per gram compared to dry cat food due to its high moisture content. On average, a standard 3-ounce can of wet cat food contains approximately 70 to 100 calories, but this varies between brands and formulations.
Example: If your veterinarian suggests that your adult cat needs around 250 calories per day and you’re feeding a wet food brand containing 90 calories per 3-ounce can, you’d offer roughly two and three-quarters cans of food daily.
Dry Food Caloric Content:
Dry cat food is more calorie-dense. On average, a cup of dry cat food ranges from 300 to 500 calories, but, again, this differs between brands and specific formulations.
Example: If the same cat, based on activity and size, needs 250 calories daily and the dry kibble you’ve chosen has 450 calories per cup, you’d give just over half a cup of that kibble for the day.
Tips for Conversion:
- Read the Label: Manufacturers often list the caloric content, either as kcal per gram, per cup, or per can on the cat food label. This information is the most accurate way to determine portion sizes.
- Measure Consistently: Invest in a measuring cup specifically for pet food. Using the same cup ensures that you’re giving a consistent amount each day.
- Consult with a Veterinarian: If you’re unsure about how many calories your cat requires daily, your vet can provide a recommendation based on your cat’s age, weight, activity level, and health status.
- Adjust as Necessary: Remember, guidelines are starting points. Monitor your cat’s weight and health, and adjust portions accordingly.
- Online Tools and Calculators: Several online tools can help you determine the caloric needs of your cat and convert those needs into portion sizes for specific foods. They require inputs like your cat’s weight or ideal weight, activity level, and the caloric content of the chosen food.
What’s the Ideal Feeding Schedule?
Feeding frequency is as vital as the type and amount of food you provide for your cat. Determining how often many meals per day to give to your fluffy pal often depends on their age, health, and lifestyle.
But first, it’s essential to recognize that cats thrive on routine. In the wild, they would hunt and eat multiple small prey throughout the day instead if a set feeding routine. So, it’s natural for domestic cats to prefer multiple small meals rather than one or two large ones.
Kittens: During their first few months of life, kittens are growing rapidly and require more frequent food intake. It’s advisable to feed them four or more times a day. As they approach their first birthday, gradually reduce this to three meals daily.
Adult Cats: Once cats are over a year old, they typically adapt well to two meals a day, mirroring a typical human routine with breakfast and dinner. However, some might still prefer three smaller meals.
Senior Cats: Older cats, especially those with health issues, might need specific dietary needs to increase their calorie intake. Some might benefit from more frequent, smaller meals, especially if they have a reduced appetite or digestive concerns.
I’m Gary Hu, a proud cat dad to a 15 lb Maine Coon. Have taken care of outdoor and indoor cats for over 10 years, and learned tons on behavior, habits, health, and products. I help new Maine Coon (or any other cat) parents with common questions and issues based on real, practical experience.