If this is your first time owning cats, “How Much Should I Feed My Cat?” is likely one of your first questions when you bring your cat home. Even if you’ve owned cats for years, sometimes you wonder if your cats are getting too little or too much food. Let’s go over a few factors to consider when answering the question “How much should I feed my cat?”
How Much Should I Feed My Cat? The basics
The answer to “How Much Should I Feed My Cat?” Is based on many variables including a cat’s weight and age, whether you are feeding wet cat food or dry cat food, the cat’s activity level, and whether or not it is pregnant or breastfeeding.
The brand of food you feed also makes a difference when we answer the question “How much should I feed my cat?” A dense, high quality cat food contains more nutrients than a poor quality food and therefore requires smaller servings in order to provide your cat with the same amount of food.
Many cat owners give their cats free access to dry food, supplemented with canned food once or twice a day. A dry food-only diet isn’t necessarily a bad pet diet if you’re feeding good quality food. However, you need to encourage your cat to drink a lot more water to compensate for what they are not getting canned.
When should i feed your cat?
When bringing a new cat home, it is important that you continue to feed her the same amount of the same food on the same schedule that she is used to, and then gradually migrate to your own food and schedule. Cats are very sensitive to change, and a new cat will deal with a lot of stress in the new environment. So, keeping the feed and schedule consistent will make their transition easier and keep the bowel upset at bay.
When you’re ready to switch your cat on your own food and schedule, you need to determine what type of food you are feeding her (wet or dry, raw food, or a combination), and the caloric values you use to determine how much in each food of what kind she should feed.
What are you feeding your cat – wet food or dry food?
Another important factor in answering “How Much Should I Feed My Cat?” think about what you are paying your cat. Healthy cat food is based on meat-based proteins such as meat, fish or poultry. Dry food should be high in animal protein and low in vegetable protein (cats are poorly equipped to digest). Carbohydrates should not make up more than ten percent of the cat food ingredient mix.
Wet foods should consist primarily of meat with as few by-products and fillers as possible.
I still ask myself, “How much should I feed my cat?” Some calculations
According to the Animal Medical Center in New York, a healthy, active 8-pound adult cat needs about 30 calories per pound per day. For example, the average 8-pound cat needs roughly 240 calories a day.
Typically, dry food contains about 300 calories per cup, and canned foods contain about 250 calories in each 6-ounce can. (or 125 per 3 ounce can). Using these counts as a guide, an 8-pound cat would need 4/5 of a cup of dry food or just less than a full 6-ounce can (or two 3-ounce cans) of wet food per day. You can adjust the proportions depending on whether your cat prefers more or less dry or wet food.
If you can feed your cat dry food, measure the daily amount of food in your dry food dispenser every day. This will reduce the amount of food that is stale and needs to be thrown away. It also helps you monitor how much your cats are eating. If you need to take a skinny cat to the vet, knowing exactly how much she is eating per day will help a diagnosis.
Portioning the food will prevent your cats from overeating. Free-choice feeding is a major contributor to obesity in cats.
How often to feed a cat
Another factor in determining how much to feed my cat depends on how often you feed your cat. And how often a cat needs to be fed depends on what you are feeding it. Most cat owners feed their cats morning and evening and may or may not supplement those feedings with free dry food throughout the day.
Does your cat eat enough – or too little?
Throughout your cat’s life, you will need to adjust their diet to meet changing metabolic and nutritional needs. Feel your cat’s backbone and ribs. If the ribs and backbone show through your skin, it is too thin. If you can’t feel the ribs, your cat is likely overweight. Adjust your portions accordingly.
Preventing your cat from becoming obese is much easier than dieting an obese cat. And it will make you and your cat a lot happier.
Thumbnail: Photography © bluebeat76 | Thinkstock.
This piece was first published in 2009.