When you adopt a cat, there’s more to feeding her than just placing some food in a bowl. It’s crucial for pet owners to know how much to feed a cat and how often should you feed your cat depending on your pet’s individual needs, health condition, and age.
Because cats of each age and even individual felines have a certain way and amount that they need to be fed, knowing the right amount and feeding times can improve your cat’s health, prevent illnesses and even extend her lifespan. Feeding the right type of good quality cat food, whether it’s grain-free food or wet cat food, is another step forward.
There are some common feeding mistakes which you may or may not be making. One of the main ones is overfeeding a cat. In fact, the most common nutritional disease in cats is obesity, according to veterinarians and studies.
“The American Veterinary Medical Association estimates 35 percent of our pets are overweight or obese. For our pets, just like us, that means a high price to pay in health and quality of life.”
Obesity is often the result of poor food choices, but more often than not it’s primarily because pet owners don’t know how much to feed a cat and how often should you feed your cat and the right amount of calories.
There are other some other mistakes pet owners make with regards to feeding cats, which we will now explore. We’ll also discuss the right amount of food and nutritional content, how much to feed a cat on a daily basis, how often should you feed your cat during the day, and more.
How Much to Feed a Cat, Types of Cat Food, and How Often Should You Feed Your Cat
How Much Should I Feed My Cat?
One of the things a cat owner may do is to feed the family cat too much food at a feeding time. When your cat eats too much food, it can lead to obesity, arthritis, diabetes, and urinary tract disease. In fact, it can even cause your cat to develop metabolic syndrome.
Answering the question of “how much food should I feed my cat?” is not as simple as just giving you the number. There are individual factors at play, so here are the things you must consider first:
- Your cat’s activity levels
- Your cat’s current weight and size
- Your cat’s current health condition
- Your cat’s age
With the above in mind, you’ll be able to make a more accurate assessment on the right nutritional needs and know how much to feed a cat using those parameters.
Here’s an example and some numbers:
An adult cat that is healthy and has no illnesses, that is active daily, and has a weight of approximately 8 pounds will generally require 30 calories per pound of body weight.
This means the above cat would need 240 calories per day.
Now, let’s take a look at your cat’s food choices.
How much wet food to feed a cat?
On average, a 6 oz can of wet cat food will have approx. 250 calories in it. So if your cat only requires 240 calories per day, feed her a little less than the full can of wet cat food.
How much dry food to feed a cat?
A one-cup service of dry cat food will contain approx. 300 calories. So if your cat only requires 240 calories per day, then you need to feed her 4/5 of a cup of dry cat food.
This answers how much to feed a cat on a daily basis. It may sound a little daunting doing the math at first, but once you do this a few times, it’s going to be the same thing over and over, and you won’t need to make any adjustments (provided your cat stays the same as when you first figured out her daily caloric needs).
But there are more things you need to know about how much should you feed your cat, and we’ll get to those in a second.
How Often Should You Feed Your Cat
Another important question pet owners have besides how much to feed a cat and her daily caloric needs is the timing or schedule, and how often should I feed my cat on a daily basis. But once you figure out the caloric needs and how to hit those numbers every time, the actual feeding schedule will sort itself out.
Unless you’re free-feeding a cat, the most common approach to the feeding schedule is half of the caloric needs in the morning, and half in the evening. This is the easiest way to remember to feed your cat and the one that works well for most felines. Once both you and your cat get into this routine, the process is simple and easy to remember.
Improper Feeding of Your Cat
Metabolic syndrome in cats is when enzymes made by the cat’s body for the metabolic process to work don’t function properly. When the enzyme function isn’t working correctly, then a metabolic disorder may develop.
The reason why metabolic syndrome in cats is so bad is that it can damage tissues or affect energy production. A metabolic syndrome in cats may be acquired or inherited. However, in most cats, a metabolic disorder is more common from feeding a cat incorrectly.
Now it’s easy to overfeed your cat because as she grows older, she becomes more sedentary. Her need for nutrition is lower than a younger cat’s, so her food intake needs to be adjusted accordingly. In addition, your cat may only need 24 to 35 calories per pound to keep her weight at a healthy level. If you aren’t sure what your cat’s healthy weight is, ask your vet to help determine the body weight score of your cat.
Don’t Feed Only Dry Food
Dry cat food is convenient; you can let it sit out and it doesn’t smell or spoil quickly. And there are many good-quality cheap dry cat food brands out there. But only feeding your cat dry food is a mistake in most instances.
One reason is that cats don’t drink water as often as a dog does. Because a cat drinks less water, her urine is going to be highly concentrated. This can cause a urinary tract problem which will put her at the vet’s and cost you money.
A cat’s nature is to consume water when they eat too. So, if a cat eats a mouse, it’s about 70% water. Canned food has about 78% water and dry food has about 5%-10% water though. Giving your cat canned food will help to keep your cat hydrated and feeling good.
Remember to Hydrate Your Cat
Water makes up between 60% to 70% of your cat’s body weight. If your cat doesn’t drink enough water, she can develop a serious water deficiency. This deficiency can contribute to serious illnesses and even death.
Now your cat eating wet foods does help replenish her water needs, but she also needs fresh water. A cat should have several sources of water throughout your home. So watch where your cat likes to be and place a dish of water in that room.
Keep in mind too that some cats don’t like the taste of chlorine in the tap water and may refuse to drink it. If that’s the case, you may have to buy bottled water. Other cats like to drink from running water. There are several types of running water fountains for cats which can be purchased.
Some other ways to get your cat to drink more water could be to use fresh catnip. Pick some catnip (it can be grown easily from seed in a container) and run water. As the water is running into the bowl, crush the catnip under the running water. You cat will love it!
What NOT to Feed Your Cat?
Knowing the right type of foods, how much to feed a cat and how often should you feed your cat is not the only things to keep in mind. There are some things which you should never feed to your cat, and there are many dangerous human foods for cats that must be avoided at all costs if your cat may have access to your kitchen.
But sometimes, cat owners do things on purpose without realizing that they may be causing harm to their feline. Some cat owners try to make their cats into vegans or vegetarians, for example. Cats are carnivores though, and they need meat and animal organs to stay healthy. One reason is that in animal tissue the amino acid taurine is found. Cats need this amino acid to prevent blindness, heart problems, and even death.
Another thing to keep in mind is that homemade food for cats isn’t always a wise choice. While there are many good homemade cat food recipes, just because it’s homemade doesn’t mean that’s it’s healthy and especially not advisable to feed only homemade cat food. If homemade food is unbalanced, it can do more harm than good.
This doesn’t mean that you can’t feed your cat homemade food. Once you’ve figured out the right caloric needs, how much to feed a cat and how often should you feed your cat, homemade can be a good addition. The meat just has to be balanced with the right amount of calcium.
Because a cat hunts, she not only eats the meat, but also the bones of her prey. This provides the correct ratio of calcium to phosphorus for the cat.
Also, if you feed your cat a diet of too much liver, liver oil, or tuna, she can develop vitamin A toxicosis. This can result in joint and bone pain, brittle bones, and dry skin. In addition, if you give your cat a diet which is too rich in raw fish, it can destroy the distribution of Vitamin B1. This can result in seizures, muscle weakness, or even brain damage. If you want to make your cat’s food, it’s a good idea to talk to your vet who can steer you in the right direction.
Even if you already know how much to feed a cat, what’s her daily caloric needs and nutrient requirements, and how often should you feed your cat, you may still run into problems. You need to keep an eye out if your cat is getting overweight.
For example, to see if your cat is overweight, there are three ways to check. The first one is to put both thumbs on the backbone of your cat. Spread your hands across her ribcage. You should be able to feel her ribs. You feel because on some cats, the coat is so thick though you can’t check by sight.
The second way is to look at your cat’s profile. Her abdomen should be up under her rib cage, not potbellied. The third way is to look at your cat from overhead. You should be able to see a defined waist behind her ribs.
Why the Age of Your Cat Matters
The age of your cat does make a difference because a kitten eats more than an adult cat does, especially when you’re trying to figure out how much to feed a cat. A kitten eats more food per pound of body weight and needs to be fed several times throughout the day. Also, a kitten under the age of six months may need to eat three meals a day, and all kittens must only be fed special kitten food brands.
Once your kitten matures into an adult cat, which is at about one year of age, you can feed her once or twice a day. This is the time frame at which your cat stays the longest and it’s the easiest to feed her with a set schedule. It’s also the easiest to figure out how much to feed a cat that’s of adult age and how often should you feed your cat.
Then, when a cat becomes a senior, which is at seven years of age or above, once a day feeding should be sufficient as long as there aren’t any disease issues. Note that just like kittens, old cats require special senior cat food brands in their diet. If your cat is having some health problems, then the vet may put her on a different feeding schedule.
For example, if your cat has diabetes, when her insulin is administered may affect how you should feed her. On the other hand, if she has hyperthyroidism, she’s going to be hungry all the time and you’ll have to follow what the vet says. The same applies to cat food allergies or things like stomach upset. So if your cat has a sensitive stomach, then you’ll probably need to switch to a sensitive stomach cat food brand to help her.
The main problem with figuring out how to feed a cat and how much should you feed your cat that’s of senior age is their consistently deteriorating health. For example, as cats get older, they may have trouble with her teeth. They can develop gum disease which may make it too hard to chew dry food.
So if your senior cat is having a hard time chewing, then switch her to soft food. You can also buy cat food in a smaller nugget size or mix it with water, mashing it up, for easier chewing.
A Few Tips on Feeding Your Cat
Before we wrap up this article on how much to feed a cat and how often you should feed your cat, there are a few personal experience pieces of advice I’d like to share. Just to make feeding your cat easier, effective, and more fun, here are some tips on using your cat’s instincts and senses to help you, along with other interesting cat facts.
- A bowl or a plate: With your cat, her whiskers are important. They help her to sense how wide an opening is, navigate in her surroundings and even express her mood. So, you need to decide which bowl works best with your cat’s whiskers. For instance, a shallow bowl is a good choice because her whiskers won’t get in the way when she grabs food. But be sure that the dish is still big enough to hold a whole day’s food. It additionally needs to have a lip on it that’s tall enough so that your cat can see the room over it. This is because cats like to use their sense of sight for their protection. A cat still has wild instincts after all. In addition, if your cat is making a mess, then switch to a larger bowl.
- Where to put the dish: A cat likes to be able to survey her surroundings when she’s eating. This is so that she can see any approaching danger, predators, or rivals. So, where her dish is important because she has to be comfortable when eating. So, if you put her dish in a corner of a room, it may upset her because she won’t be able to see the whole room. This is especially true if you have dogs or multiple cats. If you place the dish in the open, then the tension may be reduced.
- Using feeding toys: If your cat is a food gulper or likes to overeat, consider investing in a food distributor ball or a puzzle feeder. These can be found online or at a pet store. Both of these stimulate the desire in your cat to hunt and also work for her food. By giving a bite or two of kibble, it will additionally prevent your cat from eating all her food at once. Just make sure you check the feeder to be sure that she is actually eating the food.
- An active or curious cat: If you have an active or curious cat, you could place different portions of food in separate dishes. Then place these dishes in different rooms in your home. Your cat then can find the dishes throughout the day, and it will add heightened interest to eating.
- Kittens: If you’re feeding a kitten, moistening the food will help the kitten to swallow it easier. Here, take the amount of food which is recommended for your kitten and split it into several servings. Only moisten one of these servings at a time so it stays fresh.
Hopefully, this answers your questions on how much to feed a cat, how often should you feed your cat, and the right amount of nutrients and calories that your pet needs. Having a cat or kitten can be a real joy and bring a lot of happiness in your life. By feeding your cat or kitten properly, you will add to her health.
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