Cats like to graze and eat at their leisure – some will scarf down a whole bowl of food in a minute, but most cats you can free-feed.
Unfortunately, this method of feeding has led to the #1 health issue for indoor cats around the world; becoming overweight or obese.
So, how much should you be feeding your cat? If you’re wanting to keep your feline friend healthy and trim, then read further to find out the best way to feed your cat.
Should You Free-Feed Your Cat?
One of the first mistakes that many owners make is free-feeding their cats. Free-feeding is where an owner fills up a pet’s bowl with food and allows them to eat as they please throughout the day. This is fine with any cat that can simply graze and not overeat, but the reality is that cat is a rare feline.
Households with multiple cats always have issues with one eating more than the others, leading to some eating too much and others eating too little.
Veterinary professionals do not recommend free-feeding your cat. It inevitably ends with them overeating. It is best if you can supply your kitty with enough food for a morning meal and then give them another evening meal later in the day.
How Much Food Should You Give Your Cat Per Day?
Understanding what quantity of food to give your cat can be tricky. You will have to compare a few factors before you will truly know how much to feed them on a daily basis.
- How old is your cat?
- How active is your cat?
- Are you feeding wet food, dry food or both?
- Does your cat need to lose weight?
Calculating Their Calories
If you know your cat’s body weight, then you can calculate their nutritional calorie intake for a day. This is based on an average adult cat and their IDEAL body weight. If your cat is overweight, then this needs to be calculated based on what they should weigh.
Adult cats require about 25 calories per pound of body weight. Dry, adult cat food is around 450-500 calories per 8 oz of kibble, so a 10 lb cat will require about 250-300 calories PER DAY. This will equal out to be around ⅓ to ½ a cup of dry food a day for an adult cat.
If you have a very lazy cat that lives a pretty sedentary lifestyle, then you will want to feed them at the lower end of the quantity range.
How Much Should You Feed Your Young or Old Cat?
It’s no surprise that young cats will usually spend more time running around and being active while older cats will enjoy spending their time napping and sunbathing. This is why age will play a large factor in how much energy and calories that your cat is burning in a day.
Young cats should eat kitten food that is labeled for growth until they are about a year old and senior cats should eat a higher fiber senior diet.
The average young cat should have around 250-280 calories per day. If they are a large breed cat like a Ragdoll or Maine Coone, they will eat a little more, usually needing around 300-360 calories per day.
An older cat will require the same number of calories that the average old cat needs in a day, usually around 250-300 calories.
It is important to remember that they should eat a senior diet that has a higher fiber quantity to help them with regular bowel movements. Constipation in senior cats is very common and can quickly get out of hand.
Are You Feeding Your Cat Wet Food or Dry Food?
Different brands of foods have different calorie amounts and the same goes for wet food and dry food. Typically, a 6 oz can of wet cat food has around 250-280 calories present. That’s really all they need in one day!
Supplementing a small amount of wet food with some dry food can help to spread the quantity of food out, especially if your kitty is begging for more. The dry food tends to be more filling.
It is important to check the food that you are giving your cat, as different brands will vary slightly in the amount of calories that are present. You can see what the recommended feeding amount is for your cat’s ideal weight and get an idea of the caloric content of that food.
Is Wet Food Better for Cats?
There is some debate among veterinary nutritionists about whether or not wet or dry food is better for cats. The thing is, they both have their pros and cons.
Wet food is full of water, as a matter of fact, most canned cat food is around 25% water, which is great for cats because they tend to have a lower thirst drive than most mammals. Because cats aren’t great about drinking water on their own (they are desert creatures after all), it is common for them to suffer from kidney issues later in life.
Dry food is great for making cats feel fuller with the same amount of calories as a can of wet food. However, dry food is well… dry and adds nothing to a cat’s daily fluid intake. On the other hand, dry food does tend to keep their teeth healthier for longer when compared to wet food.
You can’t go wrong with either dry or wet food, but many professionals recommend giving both.
How Active Is Your Cat Throughout The Day?
Just like people, cats vary in personality and energy levels. The build is important, not all cats are created equal; some are stocky and portly whereas others are tall and lean, or small and petite.
Before going with the recommended average amount of food and calories, you will need to consider your cat’s unique body type and activity levels first.
If you have a cat that is on the lean side and is quite active, you can safely add some additional food and calories to their daily regimen. However, if you have a chubby cat that prefers to spend her time basking in the bay window instead of playing, then you should consider giving them less food than the average.
As mentioned earlier, cat breeds such as ragdolls and Maine Coons will have larger builds and will require more calories to keep up with their bigger size.
Does Your Cat Need to Lose Weight?
Putting a cat on a diet is not something that will be a walk in the park. They will certainly tell you all about how upset they are with your decision to make them lose weight. The truth is though, your cat will feel much better after they shed the unwanted excess pounds.
If you were originally free-feeding your cat, that has to stop right away. Feeding your cat on a schedule is the best way to control how many calories they are ingested daily.
Next, is cutting back the amount of food they were getting. You will need to look at the food they are eating, see how much you were giving them, and cut that back to the recommended ⅓ to ½ a cup of food a day.
Tips For Helping Your Chonker Lose Weight
Your cat is going to complain and most likely retaliate over the food bowl being empty, but stick with it and don’t give in to their pestering.
One of my favorite ways to get your cat to lose some weight is to make them walk around the house more. You can encourage this behavior by hiding small bowls of food around the house (make sure it’s not additional to what they are already eating!). They will certainly go through the effort of finding more food and not even realize the benefit.
Another excellent option for exercise and weight loss in cats is a feeding toy. These usually have a compartment that you put food in and they have to play with it and roll it around in order to make it drop food.
The final recommendation for exercise in cats is to simply play with them more! That’s right, bust out that laser pointer or the fishing pole toy and get your cat rolling around, running and playing more. Not only will it be a fun activity for them, but you will enjoy it as well!
Conclusion: How Much Should You Feed a Cat
Indoor cats only require, on average, about 250 calories a day. While this number doesn’t suit every cat’s energy levels, build, breed or age, it is a great starting point and rule of thumb for most cat owners.
Remember that the important thing about feeding your cat is to not overfeed them, as obesity is the #1 nutritional health issue in house cats around the world.