If you’re a first-time cat owner or have recently taken home a new pet, one of the first questions you’ll ask yourself is, “How much should I feed my cat?” Unfortunately, there is no easy answer. Just like people, our pets’ dietary needs change throughout their lives and depend on factors such as size, metabolism, exercise and even your cat’s environment. Understanding what a balanced diet means for your individual pet, then, will be key to keeping him healthy throughout his life.
The first decision when feeding your pet is whether to give him dry food, canned meat or a mixture of both. Many owners feed their cats dry kibble alone, which is nutritionally sound as long as the formula is complete and balanced—namely, a low-carb, high-animal protein feed. Make sure cats eating a kibble-only diet have plenty of access to fresh water, too, as they normally receive a large portion of their daily water intake from meat. Though dry food is cheaper, many cats prefer canned food over kibble, so watch that your pet isn’t overeating if you feed him an all-meat diet. It’s also acceptable mix canned and dry food, as long as you keep portion control in mind.
After selecting the right food for your pet, establish a feeding routine that suits his age and body type. Kittens are growing, so require more frequent feedings than adult cats. A good rule of thumb is to feed kittens three meals a day until they’re around six months old, at which time most cats do well with one or two meals a day. This pattern should work throughout your cat’s senior years, too, as long as he is in good health. Arrange mealtimes around your own schedule so you can keep them consistent, since cats can be sensitive to changes in routine.
Many cat owners allow their pets free access to dry food, which works well for self-regulating felines. Some pets, however, will overeat when given the opportunity, especially in multi-cat households where competition for food is common. To control Kitty’s portions, follow the label on his pet food, adjusting to meet your cat’s individual needs. A general guideline for an active, 8-pound cat is 30 calories per pound per day, but this may be too much for a less active pet or too little for a playful kitten. For help determining whether your cat is over- or underweight, check his backbone and ribs: If they show through his skin, he is too thin, and if you can’t feel his ribs, he is likely overweight.
Whether he’s a hungry kitten or a senior who requires a special diet, your cat’s food is the brick and mortar of his health. By finding a nutritionally balanced formula and establishing a feeding routine that works for your pet, you can ensure he stays healthy throughout his life.