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How Much Should I Feed My Cat? A Complete Guide for 2021

How much should I feed my cat?

The easiest way to know how much to feed your cat is to weigh your cat and then check the label on your cat food package to get an estimation of what your cat needs.

You should aim to feed your cat enough to maintain a healthy weight that is not too thin or too overweight.

Cats gain weight by eating more energy than they burn off and vice versa.


In this article, I’ll go into detail about how much to feed your cat.

I’ll talk more about different things that affect your cat’s calorie needs, how to use a calculator or work out your cat’s needs by yourself, and some other tips for health.

My name is Derrick, and I write for Simply Cat Care. Our goal with this website is to help cat owners learn more about taking care of their cats.

I am not a veterinarian and I recommend seeking the advice of a vet for any further questions relating to your cat’s health.

Let’s get into it.

1. How Much Should I Feed My Cat?

The fastest way to find out how much to feed your cat is by using an online calculator.

The main thing that affects your cat’s food needs is their weight.

The higher your cat’s weight the more they burn on average.

However, your cat’s needs are also affected by other things such as age, activity, desexing, type of food, and pregnancy.

The online calculator needs you to complete the following fields:

  • Pet Weight
  • Spayed, Neutered, or Intact (select your cat’s desexing status)
  • Body Condition Score

Let’s talk about each field and how to enter everything into the calculator.

How much should I feed my cat?

1.1. How Do You Weigh Your Cat?

You need to weigh your cat to find out how much to feed them using the online calculator.

Let’s go through how you do this:

  1. Stand on a scale and weigh yourself. This is your person weight.
  2. Hold your cat and stand on the scale. This is your person + cat weight.
  3. Substract the person weight from the person + cat weight to find out your cat’s weight.

Here is an example:

Example

Joe weighs 70kg

Joe holds his cat and stands on the scale – it reads 75kg

Joe’s cat weighs 5kg ( 75-70 = 5)

1.2. How Do You Work Out Your Cat’s Body Condition Score?

Using the online calculator you’ll need your cat’s body condition score.

What Is A Body Condition Score?

This is a measure of how ideal your cat’s weight is for health.

You don’t want your cat to carry too much (over ideal) or little fat (under ideal).

If a cat has too much body fat, they have a higher risk of diabetes and other health issues. They also have a higher risk of illness if they are too skinny.

On the Pet Alliance website, you’ll be able to use the Body Condition Score chart to check your cat’s fat level and then enter the number on a sliding scale.

Complete all the fields to get the estimated daily calories to feed your cat.

1.4. Putting It All Together: How Much Should I Feed My Cat?

If you have all the information you need, you can go ahead and enter everything into the online calculator.

This will tell you how much to feed your cat.

Here is an example below:

Example – Mary has a 12.0lb male intact cat. His body condition score is a 6 using the BCS chart.

  • Pet Weight: 12.0lbs (make sure you select the right unit as pounds (lbs))
  • Spayed, Neutered, or Intact: Intact
  • Body Condition Score: 6

Once you enter all the data you’ll get an estimated initial daily calories which tells you how much to feed your cat.

In this example, I got 249 calories.

You do not need to enter anything into the current calorie intake and ideal pet weight fields (unless your vet recommends how much your cat should weigh).

You may use the current calorie intake if you already feed your cat a specific amount of calories.

2. How Much Should I Feed My Kitten?

Kittens need more calories per pound for growth.

Use this online calculator to work out how much to feed a kitten.

Up until the age of 6 months, your feline is growing rapidly. Kittens need enough food to support healthy development.

Here’s how to use the online calculator.

I’ll use the following example:

Example – I have a kitten called Frisky The Cat who is 2 months old. He is an intact male that weighs 2.0 lbs.

Here is how I would enter the data using the online calculator. Make sure to select the right species.

You can leave your kitten’s body condition score at the default 5/9 unless they are underweight.

If your kitten is struggling to eat talk with a vet for help.

Based on the calculator, I need to feed my kitten 163 kcal/day and I need 0.7 cups of water for him.

Check out my article on the best-wet kitten foods to get started with feeding your kitten.

3. How Much Should I Feed My Senior Cat?

After the age of 12, old cats have a reduced ability to digest fat and protein.

This may result in a loss of muscle (sarcopenia) and reduced mobility.

Energy needs increase at the age of 13 years.  An older cat has a higher protein and fat requirement to make sure they stay strong and healthy.

You can use the Pet Nutrition Alliance online calculator for senior cats.

If you notice your older cat is losing weight, make sure to adjust the body condition score. This will make sure your senior cat is getting enough food for strength.

Check my top wet canned cat food choices for senior cats.

4. Why Do Cats Need To Be At An Ideal Weight?

A cat carrying either too much or too little fat isn’t ideal for health.

Overweight cats have a higher risk of diabetes and mobility problems.

Being overweight reduces your cat’s chance of living out a long and healthy life.

In 2017, 60% of cats in the US were analyzed as being overweight or obese

Being too thin can also create health problems for your cat such as loss of muscle mass and increased risk of illness [5].

Keeping your cat at an ideal weight is the best way to keep your cat healthy.

Use the Body and Muscle Condition score chart to assess your cat’s condition. The Muscle Condition score chart will help you find out if your cat is losing muscle.

5. How Much Should I Feed My Cat (Manual Calculation)

Using an online calculator is the fastest way to find out how much to feed your cat.

However, you can also use a manual calculation.

This will give you a more precise number to work with.

Here’s how you manually calculate your cat’s food needs step-by-step.

5.1. Find Out Your Cat’s Resting Energy Requirement (RER)

The RER is the number of calories a body burns at rest.

Even when your cat is lazing around the house, they still burn calories to fuel body processes such as digestion and thinking.

RER strongly correlates with body weight.

Use the chart below to work out your cat’s RER based on weight.

Source: https://vet.osu.edu/vmc/companion/our-services/nutrition-support-service/basic-calorie-calculator

5.2. Apply An Activity Factor

An activity factor is a multiplication that adjusts your cat’s energy needs.

A lot of things affect energy needs including age, activity, neutering status.

Use the chart below to apply the necessary activity factor.

Source: https://vet.osu.edu/vmc/companion/our-services/nutrition-support-service/basic-calorie-calculator

Example

My cat weighs 4.5kg.  I check the RER chart and see the RER is 218 Calories

I use the factor ‘neutered adult cat’ and multiply this with RER (1.2 x 218 = energy requirement)

That equates to 262 Calories/day.

Remember:

Kittens need more calories per pound than adult cats due to rapid growth.

Also, underweight cats need more calories and vice versa to get to an ideal weight for health.

If you’re having trouble with using the online calculator or the manual calculation method, talk with a vet for help.

6. How Much Food Do I Feed My Cat?

Use the estimated calorie needs from the online calculator or manual calculation to find out how much food to give your cat.

I’ll walk you through this process:

Use the Pet Nutrition Alliance calculator and click on the FOOD tab.

You have three options for working out how much food to feed your cat.

  • Calories Per Cup
  • Calories Per Can
  • Calories Per Kilogram

Here’s what you have to do:

Get your cat food out and look on the label for the nutrition panel on the bag or tin.

Find any of these three numbers and enter that into the calculator.

I picked up a tin of Ziwi Peak East Cape 85g/3oz canned cat food.

The calorie content is 1,500kcal ME/kg.

Here is how this looks in the calculator:

The calculator suggests I feed my cat 149.25 grams of Ziwi Peak East Cape.

This is slightly less than 2 tins per day.

What I can do is open two tins and weigh out the contents I need into a bowl. The remaining portion can form the next day’s food provision.

Depending on what metric you use, you’ll get a different way of measuring your cat’s food but it will all add up to what they need in terms of calories (i.e. cups, tins, or grams).

However, you might want to use a few different foods over the day and not just one.

For that, you’ll need to do a manual calculation.

6. 1. How Much Should I Feed My Cat On A Mixed Diet Of Dry and Wet Food?

Let’s say you want to use a mixture of dry and wet canned food to feed a cat for the day.

I’ll use an example of applying a 50% dry and 50% wet cat food feeding schedule.

You need to divide your cat’s daily calorie needs accordingly:

In other words – if your cat needs are 300 kcal/day, that would mean 150 kcal/day from wet cat food and 150 kcal/day from dry cat food. 

To figure out how much food this works out as use the nutritional labels.  In the example below, I’ve looked at a nutritional panel for dry cat food.

What you are looking for is the ME, which is the energy content of the food.

There is 3,850 kcal/kg in this product. Kcal is short for Calories (technically, a kcal is 1000 calories, but writing Calorie with a big C is a short way of writing this).

We need to figure out how much food we need for 150 Calories. Let’s work through the example.

Example

How much dry food would we need for 150 Calories/kcal (50% of dietary intake)?

Since there’s 3,850 kcal in one kg of this food, that means there’s 3.85kcal per 1 gram of food.

We need 150 kcal so that means 150/3.85 = how many grams we need.

That equates to 38.9g of food – which you can round to 39g.

Weigh up 39g of dry food for your cat and give this with sufficient water.

Do the same process with your wet cat food and you have your daily allotment figured out.

Of course, you can use the ‘Recommended Feeding Portions’ section of the food label which is on most pet foods.  However, in this case, it assumes you’re feeding your cat ALL dry food during the day. 

That’s why you want to figure out how much dry and wet food you’re providing – or whether you are pre-preparing meals for your cat.

7. Should I Feed My Cat A Dry or Wet Canned Cat Food?

In terms of calories, it doesn’t matter if your cat eats dry and/or wet canned cat foods.

A calorie is a calorie:

You only need to make sure your cat gets the right amount of calories for the day based on its estimated calorie needs.

Dry cat food is more calorically dense compared to wet food which contains a lot more moisture.

In other words, giving your cat the same volume of dry cat food will result in more calories.

One cup of dry cat food has a lot more calories than one cup of wet cat food.

Make sure not to get the two mixed up when divvying up your cat’s daily food.

7.1. Which Type Of Cat Food Is Best For Health?

Wet canned cat food is better for health than dry cat food.

This, of course, depends on the brand and type of food provided but wet canned food has more benefits on offer to your cat’s health.

Dry cat food does not provide enough water for kidney health and cats tend to drink little water to compensate.

Wet cat food contains more moisture and fewer carbohydrates which is easier for cats to digest.

Check out our top 9 tips to feed your cat for awesome health for more information.

You might also want to check out my guide to homemade cat food for information on that hot topic.

8. Can I Freefeed My Cat?

It is possible to just let your cat decide what they want to eat.

After all, in nature, it’s not like a wild lion calculates how many calories are in the antelope it’s eating:

‘Oh no, I should watch my calories, better be mindful and not eat too much antelope!’

Unfortunately, our environment isn’t at all like the wild.

In nature, cats are obligate carnivores that consume a lot of small animals such as birds and mice.

They have to use a lot of energy hunting their food.

The domestic cat spends more time indoors and doesn’t work for its food. This means they tend to eat too much if food is available at all times of the day.

Another thing to keep in mind is cats are nocturnal and eat during the night – this means they may keep eating food at night if kept in a bowl.

It is best to stick to a planned eating schedule for your cat. Create a scheduled plan for feeding and stay consistent.

Check out my guide on how often to feed a cat for more help.

Conclusion: How Much Should I Feed My Cat?

In this post, I answered the question; ‘How much you should I feed my cat?’.

An online calculator is a fast and easy way of finding out how much to feed your cat. You need to adjust how much to feed your cat based on age, activity, neutering status, and weight.

Commercial dry and wet canned cat food will give you calorie information on the label. You can use this to find out how much of your cat food to feed your cat.

Continue to monitor your cat’s weight and adjust their diet if needed.

Talk to your veterinarian for more assistance with determining the amount of food needed for your cat.

Want to learn more about anything cat-related?

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