“How much should I feed my cat?” is one of the most common questions our patients ask. As a veterinarian and cat behaviorist, we must often answer cat food-related questions, such as “what is the best cat food“, “is dry food better for cats”, and others. No matter the type of food, the key question is how many grams of cat food per day should I feed my cat?
The only straight answer to this question is: Provide your cat enough cat food to maintain a healthy weight and not enough to gain excess body weight. Isn’t that brilliant? But how do you do that? Glad you asked.
In this article, you’ll learn how much to feed your cat.
Table of Contents
How to calculate daily food servings
The easiest way is to weigh your cat and check how many calories are in a serving of their food. There are additional factors to consider when determining how much your cat should eat each day. These include their age, activity level, body condition, health status, and physical activity. It’s important to use feeding guidelines specific to your cat’s weight, age, and life stage (for more on life stages, please see the next section).
For adult cats, a general rule of thumb is that an average healthy adult needs approximately 20 to 30 calories per pound of body weight per day. So an adult 9 pound cat needs between 180 and 270 calories per day, and an 8 pound cat needs around 160 to 240 calories a day.
Kittens have different nutritional requirements than adult cats. Kittens should eat kitten food (food designed specifically for kittens) until they reach six months of age, at which point you should transition your kitten to regular cat food. Most kittens need around 25-30 calories per pound of body weight per day.
For senior cats, a decrease in caloric intake is necessary to maintain an ideal body weight and avoid obesity. Senior cats should eat at least 10-15% fewer calories than they did when they were younger.
How to choose a quality cat food
To make sure that the cat food you are buying is a quality one, check that it meets the minimum nutritional requirements. It’s easy to do, just check the label for the statement:
“[Name of food] is formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO Cat Food Nutrient Profiles for [life stage(s)].”AAFCO
This statement means that it’s been tested and meets the nutritional requirements set by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) for each specific life stage of your cat. The life stages are:
- Growth and reproduction: For kittens, pregnant, or lactating cats (nursing).
- Adult maintenance: For adult cats.
- Senior: For older cats. Usually 7 years and older.
If you see this statement on the label, you can be confident that the what you are feeding your cat is nutritionally balanced and will meet your their needs.
Here are some other things to look for on the label of pet food
- The first ingredient should be a high-quality protein, such as chicken, beef, or lamb.
- It should be low in carbohydrates and fillers.
- It should contain none or as little as possible of artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives.
If you are unsure about whether a particular commercial food is right for your cat, it’s always best to consult with your veterinarian. They can help you choose something that is both nutritious and safe for your cat.
How do I weigh my cat?
There’re a few different ways to weigh your cat. The most accurate way is to use the pet scale at your veterinarian’s office. These scales are designed to weigh small animals and are very accurate.
If you don’t have access to a pet scale, you can try weighing your cat on your bathroom scale. To do this, weigh yourself first. Then weigh yourself again holding your cat. Subtract your weight from the combined weight to get your cat’s weight. This method isn’t as accurate as using a pet scale, but it can be a good option.
Another option is to weigh your cat in their pet carrier. To do this, weigh the carrier empty, then weigh the carrier with your cat inside. Subtract the weight of the empty carrier from the weight of the carrier with your cat inside to get your cat’s weight. This method also is’nt as accurate as using a pet scale, but it can be a good option if your cat doesn’t like being held.
No matter which method you choose, it’s important to be patient and gentle when weighing your cat. If your cat is stressed or scared, it may be difficult to get an accurate weight.
Here is a table summarizing the different options for weighing your cat and their accuracy:
|Option For Weighing||Accuracy|
|Vet’s office pet scale||Most accurate|
|Bathroom scale||Less accurate|
|Weighing in a carrier||Least accurate|
How many grams of dry food should a cat eat per day?
The average adult cat needs 50 to 70 grams of dry food per day (1.7 ounces to 2.5 ounces) or 150 to 250 grams of wet food (5.3 ounces to 8.8 ounces). The easiest way to determine how many grams per day to give your cat is to check the feeding guide on the package. If your cat isn’t on a commercial diet, you’ll either need to do some caloric calculations or go by feel (provide a tablespoon per meal and see how your cat’s weight changes).
Note: According to the American Animal Hospital Association, a lean cat needs 70 × Ideal Body Weight (in kilograms) x 0.75 kcal per day. Therefore an average cat weighing 4 kg (8.8 lbs) needs about 210 kcal/day. Please understand that this number depends on many things and is a guideline to start with. This does not apply to a kitten, pregnant cat, or overweight cat.
How much should a cat eat a day chart
Here’s a table on every cat food package (dry or wet) with an approximate amount of food necessary to a cat depending on its weight and/or age.
|Dry Food||Wet Food||Raw Food|
|1.7 to 2.5 oz (50 to 70 grams)||5.3 to 8.8 oz (150 to 250 grams)||3.5 to 7 oz (100 to 200 grams)|
An average cat (4 kg or 8.8 lbs of body weight) needs about:
- 50 to 70 grams (1.7 to 2.5 oz) of dry food
- 150 to 250 grams (5.3 to 8.8 oz) of wet food
- 100 to 200 grams (3.5 to 7 oz) of raw food
These numbers are only examples – always check the label.
If you provide your cat different types of food, divide those amounts into meals. For example, if you serve three meals to your cat, then one meal is 20 g of dry food, 50 g of wet food and 35 g of raw food. From there you can change from food to food as you think appropriate.
How to measure out cat food
Weigh once and either use a measuring cup or note the number of spoons or visually remember the amount. The easiest way is to measure a daily amount in the morning and then serve it in different meals until the cup is empty in the evening. For canned cat food it’ll be easier if you round the daily amount to full cans, cups or trays.
If the package states a range instead of a specific number, always start with the lowest amount of food and modify the amount depending on how your cat’s weight changes.
IMPORTANT: The only thing that tells you whether you feed too much or too little is if your cat puts on or loses weight. Your cat meowing at an empty bowl or stealing from the table is not necessarily a sign of hunger. See here for more help if your cat is constantly begging for food, despite being well fed.
Pros and cons of wet cat food
Pros of wet cat food:
- High moisture content. Wet food has a moisture content of about 75% to 78%, which is much higher than dry food, which is about 10% to 12%. This is important for cats because they are obligate carnivores (survive on mostly meat protein) and need to get most of their hydration from their food intake. A high moisture content can help to prevent dehydration, constipation, and urinary tract problems.
- More protein. Wet food typically contains more protein than dry food. This is because the protein in wet food is not as processed as the protein in dry food. Protein is essential for your cats’ health as it helps to build and repair tissues, muscles, and organs.
- More flavorful. Wet food is often more flavorful than dry food. This is because it contains more water, which helps to bring out the flavor of the ingredients. Wet food can also be more appealing to cats who are picky eaters.
- Better for cats with dental problems. Wet food is easier for cats with dental problems to eat than dry food. This is because it is softer and does not require as much chewing.
Cons of wet cat food:
- More expensive. Wet food is typically more expensive than dry food. This is because it is more difficult to produce and has a shorter shelf life.
- More perishable. Wet food must be refrigerated after opening and can spoil quickly if not eaten. This can be inconvenient for busy owners who may not have time to refrigerate their cat’s food right away.
- Can be messy. Wet food can be messy to feed and clean up. This is especially true if your cat is a messy eater.
Pros and cons of dry cat food
Pros of dry cat food:
- Convenient and easy to store. Dry cat food is easy to store and can be kept in a cupboard or pantry for a long time. This makes it a convenient option for busy owners who may not have time to prepare fresh food every day.
- Less expensive than wet food. Dry cat food is typically less expensive than wet food. This is because it is less processed and has a longer shelf life.
- Can help to keep teeth clean. Dry food can help to remove plaque and tartar from cats’ teeth. This can help to prevent dental problems.
- Can help to control weight. Dry food is more calorie-dense than wet food, which can help to control weight in overweight or obese cats.
Cons of dry cat food:
- Lower moisture content. Dry cat food has a moisture content of about 10%, which is much lower than wet food, which is 70% or more. This means that cats may not get enough hydration from dry food alone.
- May contain less protein than wet food. Dry food may contain less protein than wet food, especially if it’s made with low-quality ingredients. Protein is essential for your cats’ health, so it’s important to choose a dry food that is high in protein.
- May not be as flavorful as wet food. Dry food may not be as flavorful as wet food, which can make it less appealing to some cats.
- Can be difficult for cats with dental problems to eat. Dry food can be difficult for cats with dental problems to eat, as it requires a lot of chewing.
Which is better: dry food or wet food?
The best type of food for your cat depends on their individual needs and preferences. If your cat is prone to dehydration, then wet food is a good choice. If your cat is overweight or has dental hygiene issues (plaque buildup), then dry food may also be a better option. However, if you are on a budget, then dry food may be a better choice.
Ultimately, the best way to decide which type of food is best for your cat is to talk to your veterinarian. They can help you create a feeding plan that meets your cat’s individual needs.
Here are some additional tips:
- Choose a food that is high in protein and low in carbohydrates.
- Avoid foods that contain artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives.
- Serve dry food in a shallow bowl to prevent choking.
- Monitor your cat’s weight and adjust the amount of you give them accordingly.
- Make sure your cat has access to fresh water at all times.
By following these tips, you can help to ensure that your cat is getting the nutrition they need.
How much cat food should a kitten eat?
Kittens nutritional needs are different than an adult cat. They need more calories per pound of body weight than when they are full grown. As cats in the wild hunt, then consume their prey, they are used to eating many meals per day.
A research paper by Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine states that a growing kitten should be given 3 meals per day up to 6 months of age. Their stomachs are smaller than that of an adult cat so they can’t consume as much kitten food at each meal. They still need the calories to grow up strong and healthy. As kitten food is usually higher in calories, protein, and fat to support growth, make sure to follow the guidelines on the packaging.
After 6 months of age to one year of age, a kitten will do well on 2 meals per day. From one year of age (which is adulthood), once a day feeding should be enough to maintain an ideal weight. This assumes your cat is healthy and free from disease. If your cat has health issues, please work closely with your veterinarian to determine an appropriate course of action.
How much food should I feed my senior cat?
Once your feline friend reaches the age of 7 years of age, they are considered a senior cat. You’ve probably seen wet cat food and dry cat food marketed as “Senior Cat Food”. Sounds perfect right? Well, a research study done by the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine found those cat food brands that were marked as “Senior Cat” had similar nutritional profiles (e.g. calories, minerals, protein, etc.) except the “Senior Cat” one had more fiber. This is valuable as an older cat will feel more full for a given amount of food due to the fiber content. Further, the paper suggests that this will help promote weight loss or make maintaining your cats weight easier.
Should you free feed your cat?
Free feeding a cat is one of the most common ways to have an overweight cat on your hands quickly. This is where dry kibble is left out all the time giving your cat or cats unlimited access to food. It’s difficult to monitor your cats caloric intake with this method of feeding. This is further complicated with an indoor cat that gets less exercise in general.
Additional considerations about feeding your cat
The following are things to consider when talking about cat nutrition.
- Your cats diet may consist of wet food (usually known as canned food) which has 70-80% water in it, or dry food (most commonly known as kibble) which has about 10% water. So if you are feeding dry food only, your cat will require more fresh water. This is even more critical if your cat is prone to urinary tract infections.
- Monitor cat behavior. If your cat is eating everything in sight and still acting like they are starving, there may be a health issue causing this. Please bring this to your vet’s attention right away.
- As a loving cat owner, you’ll want to watch your cats weight closely to avoid weight gain. Set feeding times have many benefits especially when you have a multi cat household like we have. You can monitor each cat’s caloric intake.
- For a complete list of our articles we’ve published on feline nutrition, please see our complete list of articles on Cat Nutrition.
Now that you know how many grams of cat food per day to feed your kitten, adult, and senior cat, you can feel happy that you are feeding your cat the appropriate amount.
This way you will be happy and your cat will be happy. And keeping your Pet happy is what we all want.