How Much Should I Feed My Cat?

How much is too much?

cat licking lips with paw in food bowl

Does your cat follow you to the kitchen every time you get a snack? Or always beg for some table scraps at dinner?

If so, you’re probably wondering why he acts so hungry and if you’re feeding him enough.

The Dodo spoke to Dr. Michelle Burch, a veterinarian from Safe Hounds Pet Insurance, to find out exactly how much you should feed your cat.

How much food should I feed my cat?

Different cats need different amounts of food, just like people.

“Individual cats will have unique needs for calorie intake per day,” Dr. Burch told The Dodo. “I recommend speaking with your veterinarian.”

Your vet can recommend what’s best for your cat since they’ll be familiar with him and his health.

For an estimate, though, this chart can show you approximately how many calories your cat needs per day based on his weight, age and neuter status. If your cat needs to go on a diet, the chart also shows how many calories are needed to lose weight.

So, as an example, if your neutered adult cat weighs 6 pounds, he’ll need to consume about 179 calories a day.

Dr. Burch also recommends using a cat calorie calculator like this one. Just enter your cat’s weight, spay or neuter status, the amount of calories he currently eats, his body condition score and his goal weight (if he needs to lose a few pounds). The calculator will let you know how much your cat should be eating per day.

If you know how many calories your cat needs, take a look at your cat’s food label to see how many calories are in a serving to determine how much food to feed him. There should be a feeding guide on your cat’s food label that can give you a rough idea of how much to give your cat based on his weight, as well.

So if your 6-pound cat eats Instinct wet cat food, which contains 105 calories per 3-ounce can, he’ll need to eat about one and three-fourths cans of this particular food each day.

Factors that affect how much to feed your cat

Here’s what you should take into consideration when thinking about the amount of food your cat needs:

  • Age — Kittens need a lot of calories and need to be fed more frequently because they’re growing and using up a ton of energy.
  • Weight — An overweight cat will need to eat less food to lose weight, while a cat who’s underweight may need to eat more until he reaches an appropriate weight.
  • Size — Larger breeds need more calories.
  • Lifestyle — Cats who get a lot of exercise will burn more calories and need to eat more during the day.
  • Indoor versus outdoor — Outdoor cats are usually more active than indoor cats, so they’ll need more food to keep up their energy levels.
  • Spay or neuter status — Cats who are spayed or neutered need fewer calories because the reduction in hormone levels slows their metabolisms. Pregnant and nursing cats need a lot of food to provide nutrients for their kittens.
  • Health issues — Cats with certain diseases, such as hypothyroidism, have slower metabolisms and need fewer calories to maintain their weight.
  • Type of food – Different types of cat food, such as dry and wet food, can have different calorie counts for the same amount of food. Typically, cats who eat wet food consume fewer calories because it has a higher water content than dry food.

How often should I feed my cat?

When it comes to how often you should feed your cat, most cats do well with two meals a day. “I recommend feeding your cat twice a day instead of free-feeding your cat,” Dr. Burch said. “It can be easier for owners to ensure they provide their cats with the correct amount at each meal with measured scoops of kibble or cans of food.”

Kittens need to be fed more often because they’re still growing. They should be fed about three or more small meals throughout the day.

Cats like routine, so it’s also a good idea to come up with set mealtimes for your cat.

“I recommend feeding your cat at the same time every day, creating a schedule,” Dr. Burch said. “Cats who have a routine schedule typically have less anxiety and behavioral abnormalities.”

This feeding schedule can help your cat if there are other stressful changes in your house, like if you move.

How to stop my cat from overeating

To prevent your cat from overeating, Dr. Burch recommends “measuring or weighing your cat's food at each meal. It can be easy to overfeed your cat when not using measuring cups or food scales, leading to obesity.”

And not only does a feeding schedule help set up your cat’s daily routine, but it will help you control the amount of food he eats, too. Free-feeding is more likely to lead to overeating because your cat will be able to graze throughout the day, and you won’t know how much your cat actually eats.

You can also try out a slow feeder for your cat if he eats too quickly. This cat slow feeder earned The Dodo’s Paw of Approval, and you can get it from Amazon for $15.99.

How to tell if your cat is overweight

Vets use a body condition score to tell if your cat’s overweight or underweight.

“Cats who are overweight have fat covering their ribs, making it challenging to feel easily,” Dr. Burch said. “Their waist can be poorly discernible or absent. The abdomen will be rounded to distended with fat.”

You can look at the images on the body condition chart and compare them to your own cat’s size to see if he seems to be a little too chubby. But basically, if his stomach sticks out and you can’t see his hips, it’s probably time for a diet.

Here’s a Royal Canin diet dry cat food that you can get (with a vet prescription) from Chewy for $46.99

How to choose a good cat food

According to Dr. Burch, the essential nutrient to look for in cat food is taurine. “Taurine is an essential amino acid found exclusively in animal-based proteins,” Dr. Burch said. “Cats cannot manufacture taurine in their body, so it must be included in their diet. Taurine is essential for normal vision, digestion, heart muscle function and maintaining a healthy immune system.”

“Additionally, cats need vitamins, minerals, fatty acids and amino acids in their diet to maintain health,” Dr. Burch said.

Here are some other things to look for to pick the best cat food:

  • The label has the AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) statement. Pet foods that have this label are considered to be complete and balanced.
  • The cat food should name the protein (like chicken and turkey, for example) and not just say “meat.”
  • Check that the food is not expired.
  • Choose a food for your cat’s life stage (if your cat is a senior, get a cat food formulated for senior cats, for example).
  • Research the brand to make sure it’s reputable and that there are no recalls.

And when in doubt, talk to your vet. They can help you choose the best cat food for your cat and help you determine how much to feed him.

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