How Much Should You Feed Your Cat?

Posted by bmedia on Thursday, February 4, 2016

Gresham Animal Hospital_Cat_feeding 

Over-feeding your cat often results in feline obesity, a condition that can trigger other health issues in your kitty. Much like people, it is important to adjust your cat’s diet depending on their lifestyle and age. Active outdoor cats and kittens need more food, while house cats or old kitties do not need as much food throughout the day.

The most common mistake: feeding too much

The most common mistake cat guardians make is feeding too much – and frequently, that’s because they follow the manufacturer’s feeding instructions on the label. Feline obesity is an epidemic, with more than 50% of America’s cats being considered overweight or obese, and it comes with all the same health problems in cats as it does in humans: diabetes, arthritis and other joint problems, heart and respiratory problems, a compromised immune system, and gastro-intestinal problems.

How much food does a cat need?

Calorie content can vary widely from one brand of cat food to another. Not all brands will disclose calorie counts on the label, and you may need to visit the brand’s website to find the information. General recommendations range from 24 to 35 calories per pound of body weight to keep an average adult cat at a healthy, normal weight. The body condition chart below can help you determine whether your young to middle-aged adult cat is at a normal weight.

In older cats, muscle condition is a better indicator. You will be able to feel bones in senior cats who are overweight if they’re starting to lose muscle mass

Since nutritional needs can vary considerably depending on the factors mentioned above, it’s a good idea to weigh your cat regularly and adjust the amount you feed accordingly.

How often should cats eat?

Leaving food out for your cat all the time is the single biggest factor in causing obesity in cats. Free choice feeding goes against the cat’s natural habit of being a hunter who may only eat two or three small meals a day. For most people, feeding two meals a day is the most practical solution, but if you work from home, you may want to consider dividing the total amount of food for the day into three or four meals.

Special considerations for kittens

Kittens need more food per pound of body weight than adult cats, and they will need more frequent meals. Use label recommendations as a starting point, and feed your kitten as much canned or raw food as she will eat until she is about four to six months old, in three or four meals a day. Since a kitten’s nutritional requirements vary even more than an adult cat’s, remember to monitor your kitten’s weight and body condition and adjust accordingly. Once your kitten reaches six months of age, you can start feeding her as an adult cat.

Always provide plenty of fresh water

You hopefully already know that dry food is not a good choice for cats. Not only does dry food not provide enough moisture for cats to stay properly hydrated and prevent urinary tract problems, it is too high in carbohydrates for an obligate carnivore like the cat. Cats do not have a high enough thirst drive to compensate for the lack of moisture in a dry diet by drinking more water. However, even cats who eat raw or canned food should always have plenty of fresh water available.

Looking for more cat care tips? Read our list here.

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