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cat parent basics

How much food should you feed your cat?

Whether you adopted a kitten or have a senior cat, here’s a guide to help you figure out how much and what to feed them.

Updated August 31, 2021

Created By

Victoria Lancaster,

The essentials 

  • Nutrition plays a key role in your cat’s health —  Diet is the most important way to keep your pet in good health.
  • Different factors determine how much you should feed your cat —  Your cat’s activity level, age, and weight are all factors to consider.
  • Feed your cat once or twice per day Feeding your cat more or less than this can cause health issues.
  • The ideal weight for each cat is different Healthy weights for cats can range from 5 to 25 pounds.

A healthy diet plays an important part in your cat’s health, from their kitten to senior years. Cats are carnivores and rely on nutrients that come first and foremost from the food they eat. A healthy cat needs a variety of nutrients, most of which they can get from a balanced diet.

Here’s a guide to help you figure out what, when, and how much your cat should be eating to keep them happy and healthy!

Important factors to your cat's diet

These things determine exactly what and how much your cat needs to eat on a daily basis.

Your cat’s activity level

The more exercise a cat gets, the more food they need for fuel. Cats that are active throughout the day need more calories. Felines that spend lots of time napping or sleeping, on the other hand, probably need to consume fewer calories on a daily basis.

Age

As a cat gets older, they require a different amount of nutrients. Kittens need more meals more often to stimulate healthy growth. Older cats may have a harder time digesting their food, so they tend to need smaller meals than a growing kitten.

Older cats may also have problems with their teeth and chewing, so wet food or dry cat food with smaller kibbles may be more suitable for them. In fact, wet food is an ideal option for cats of all ages.

Pregnant or lactating cats have their own specific requirements when it comes to nutrients. The food intake of a pregnant cat should increase after nine weeks of pregnancy all the way to when she finishes nursing.

Weight

It’s important that your cat maintains a healthy weight to enhance their health and bones as they grow and approach their senior years. There’s a different ideal weight for various ages and breeds of cats. Most felines should weigh around 10 pounds.

Large breed cats like Maine Coons can weigh up to 25 pounds. They take more time to grow, so they may need to eat the higher calorie diet of a kitten for longer. Some kitties, like Siamese cats, can weigh as little as 5 pounds and need to eat less food than other breeds.

👉 Indoor cats are more prone to obesity (since they’re less active). It’s important to feed your cat the right amount of food according to what your vet prescribes.

General health

Cats with certain health issues, like diabetes, have very specific dietary needs. If your cat receives insulin on a daily basis, the vet will tailor their feeding regimen to these needs. If your cat is prone to things like urinary tract infections, it’s very important for them to drink substantial amounts of water. Wet food is ideal for cats with frequent urinary infections as it helps them stay hydrated.

Kitten feeding chart 

When deciding on how much to feed a kitten, it’s best to feed based on age. It’s important to choose a food formulated for kittens to support their growth. Also, check your cat’s food, most bags or containers of food will list the amount of food your kitten should eat based on their age.

How much to feed your kitten by age

Age Amount
6 weeks ¼-⅓ cups a day
7 weeks - 5 months of age ⅓ to 1 cup a day
6 months - 1 year ⅔- 1 ¼ cups a day

A note on milk for kittens

You may be wondering if your cat needs to drink milk alongside their regular food (you might picture cartoon kittens lapping up milk in a bowl). Kittens should be either on their mother’s milk or kitten milk. After your kitten stops nursing from their mother, they don’t need it in their diet anymore.

👉 Most adult cats are actually lactose intolerant, so avoid giving them milk altogether.

Adult cat feeding chart  

When deciding how much food to give your grown up cat, you should feed based on their weight. Not sure when to make the transition from a kitten to adult feeding schedule? Vets recommend swapping your cat’s portion after their first birthday. It’s also important to swap them from a kitten to an adult food formula. In most cases, adult cats need to eat less food than kittens.

How much to feed your adult cat by weight

Weight Amount
5-9 lbs ⅓- ⅔ cups a day
10-14 lbs ¾ to 1 cups a day

Types of cat food, explained 

You can either feed your cat dry or wet food, or both. You should only feed your cat high-quality food. While most dry cat foods offer all the nutrients a cat needs, they may not get as much hydration from it as they would from wet food. Kittens and older felines may find it easier to eat wet food, as it’s easier for them to chew.

We recommend choosing cat food from a trusted brand. Cheap cat food can have lower-quality ingredients, and expensive cat food isn’t always better than middle-tier options. Ask your cat’s vet about the best brand and type of food for your furry friend.

Cats can be picky too

If your cat isn’t eating, they may just not like their food. When your cat is a kitten, try feeding them different types of food. Changing food too frequently, however, can cause diarrhea.

Pay close attention to their bowl to get to know what they like. It may help to feed your cat a few types of food so they don’t get bored of what they’re eating. For example, some felines love a mixture of wet and dry cat food. If you have swapped your cat’s food, it can take a few weeks or months for them to get used to it, so make sure you give them enough time for their tummy to adjust.

👉 Be careful and check with your vet before you switch up your cat’s diet.

How much and when to feed your cat

Once or twice a day is suitable for feeding most cats. Kittens may need three meals a day to make sure they’re getting enough nutrients. Try to get your cat on a consistent feeding schedule that works well with your own. Most cats naturally want to eat several small meals a day. Less frequent, large meals may lead to more begging (with a paw or tail in your face).

It’s very important that senior cats (ages 7+) stick to the same feeding routine. Feed them the same amount at the same time every day. The time of day you feed your cat isn’t too important, just as long as you’re feeding at consistent times. The daily calories your cat consumes should also remain the same.

If you do leave your cat’s food out for them to nibble throughout the day, make sure the food is always fresh. You can leave small amounts of dry food out to be picked at and feed canned food once or twice a day.

👉 Never leave cat food out for more than a day. Don’t leave out wet food for more than thirty minutes because it will go bad.

Tips for feeding your cat 

Make sure you’re giving them clean water — Always give your cat access to fresh water. If you notice your cat doesn’t tend to drink much water, consider trying something like a cat water fountain.

Don’t overfeed — Overfeeding a cat can lead to feline obesity. While it may be suitable to leave food out for a kitten to graze or “free feed” throughout the day, it’s not the best idea for adult cats. You should make sure you’re aware of exactly how much they’re eating, regardless of whether or not your cat is eating as they’d like.

Mix wet cat food with dry food — You can mix dry and wet food into your cat’s diet as long as they’re consuming the right number of calories. By mixing some wet food into the diet of a cat who typically eats dry food, you can help ensure they’re getting the right amount of hydration. Make sure to check with your vet on how much you should be feeding your kitty.

Elevate their food bowl — If you notice your cat isn’t eating their food, you can try elevating their bowl or changing the type of bowl that they’re eating from. You can also try feeding “mice” that cats can hunt to help with both exercise and regular feeding.

Lower their stress levels — Make sure your cat eats in a peaceful environment where there’s not too much noise or other animals that may distract them from their meal.

Frequently asked questions 

How do I know if my cat is allergic to their food?

Your cat may display certain signs if they have a food allergy. If your cat regularly has diarrhea or wheezes, especially after they eat, they could be allergic to their food. Don’t self-diagnose your cat’s allergies and consult the vet. Pay attention to the food label to let your vet know what your cat is eating.

What happens if I overfeed or underfeed my cat?

If you overfeed your cat it could be very dangerous for their health in the long term. While treats are fine for cats every so often, they should only account for ten percent of their total food intake. Just as overfeeding can be dangerous, underfeeding a cat can lead to malnutrition. Pay attention to your cat if you notice they’re losing weight.  If you’re not sure how much to feed your cat, you should consult your vet about their caloric and nutritional needs.

🚨 If your cat goes 48 hours without eating, contact the vet for a visit right away.

How do I feed multiple cats?

If you have multiple cats at home you want to ensure that they’re all getting the right amount of nutrients. You may not realize it, but some cats may hog or steal food from others in the home. Try feeding your cats in separate rooms.

How do I know if my cat is not getting enough food?

Your cat may not be eating enough if their body condition changes or if you can see their ribs. If you notice your cat is meowing or crying around the time they feed, they may be hungry. If your cat becomes weak or depressed it’s a tell-tale sign to head to the vet. Here’s a weight chart from the AVMA that will help you determine whether or not your pet’s at a healthy weight.