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How often should I feed my cat?
Most cats need at least three or more meals per day depending on preference and owner schedule.
Kittens need at least four meals per day for rapid growth.
Many cats prefer small frequent meals due to their evolved hunting habits, eating up to 7-20 meals per day.
You should calculate how much dietary energy your cat needs and divide this amount evenly throughout the day.
In this article, I’ll go into detail about the question “How often should I feed my cat?”
I’ll talk more about how to calculate your cat’s dietary energy needs, how to organize your cat’s eating schedule, the best bowl to use, and advice about ‘free feeding’.
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 the article.
How Much Food Should My Cat Eat Every Day?
Before you know how often to feed your cat, you need to know how much to feed your cat.
I have gone in-depth on this topic in this article, but I’ll cover the basics here to get you started.
An online calculator is a fast and easy way to get a ballpark amount of calories to give your cat.
Regardless of how often you feed your cat, they always need to be getting a balance of nutrition to maintain optimal health.
Let’s go over the steps to finding out how much to feed your cat.
Step 1: Weigh Your Cat
Weighing your cat will help you find out how much to feed your cat.
To work out how much your cat weighs, pick her up and stand on a scale.
Subtract the ‘human+cat’ weight from the ‘human’ weight and you now have your cat’s weight.
You can use this information and enter it on an online calculator or work out your cat’s energy needs manually from here on out.
Step 2: Calculate Your Cats’s Resting Energy Requirement (RER)
Once you are done finding out your cat’s weight, check the chart below to find out the RER.
Alternatively, you can use this calculator for adult cats.
Step 3: Use Factors To Adjust Your Cat’s Energy Needs
Like humans, not all cats are the same.
Some have more or less nutritional needs at the same weight. There are a variety of reasons for this which relate to growth (in kittens) and regulating the right body fat.
What you need to do is take your REE and then multiply it with the appropriate activity factor below.
If you are looking for more information on this, check out the article I linked earlier.
Step 4: Calculate How Much Food To Feed Your Cat
Once you have the number of calories you need for your pet, you can find out their dietary needs.
There are three types of food for cats.
- Dry food
- Wet food (canned)
- Raw food
This post isn’t going to how much of each you want to give to your cat to eat. There’s a case for all three in different situations. Check out my guide to owning a cat to learn more about nutrition.
What you need to do is decide what route you are going down and then how much food from each category you’ll use.
For example, you might use a 50/50 split of dry and canned wet foods.
If your cat needs to be fed 300 calories/day, that would mean 150 calories from dry and wet respectively.
In that case, it would be a matter of checking the nutritional panel of the food. That will tell you how much you need for your cat.
How Much Food Do I Need to Feed a Kitten?
Kittens require a higher amount of calories per body weight than adult cats. This is due to their rapid growth requirements at this age.
A kitten aged 0-4 months needs their REE x 2.5 to determine their calorie needs for the day.
A kitten aged 4-12 months needs their REE x 2.0 to determine their calorie needs for the day.
How Much Food Do I Need to Feed an Adult Cat?
Calculate an adult cat’s nutrition using their REE and the factors mentioned above.
This will depend on an individual cat’s needs. Some cats need to reduce their intake for medical reasons such as obesity.
Neutered adults require approximately 10% fewer calories as they are less active than intact cats.
Other disease states (e.g. cancer) may impact diet and nutritional needs. Consult a vet for situations such as this to give your cat the best advice and care.
The goal of the diet is to maintain a healthy body weight, which is important for longevity.
How Often Should I Feed My Cat Dry Food?
This will depend on your cat’s calorie needs and how much of their diet you want to give as dry food.
For example, if your cat needs 300 calories/day and you want to give them 50% dry/wet foods – you will need 150 calories of dry food.
You will need to examine the nutrition label which contains this information. Here is an example below:
What you are looking for is the ME, which is the energy content of the food product.
This package contains 3,850 kcal/kg. If you want 150 calories worth of food, you’ll need to do quick math.
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 cat food for the menu with enough water.
Also, note that on the right side of the package is a ‘Recommend Feeding Portions’ column. This shows an approximate number of grams needed (if providing 100% of the diet) per day on your pet’s menu.
For example, if my cat was 4-5kg they would need between 86-105g of dry cat food to get enough nutrition for the day.
How Often Should I Feed My Cat?
In the wild, cats eat 7-20 small meals from prey such as rodents and birds.
Although this is a lot of feedings, it points to cats preferring frequent small meals as opposed to a few big meals.
I recommend feeding your cat between 3-6 times per day for best results.
Reducing portion sizes helps decrease the chance of your cat throwing up from eating too much food at one time.
Kittens require up to four meals per day due to their growth needs.
Example Meal Plan (working a day job):
- 0600 – Meal 1
- 0800 – Meal 2
- 1800 – Meal 3
- 2100 – Meal 4
This would be better than two big meals in the morning and evening.
What Type Of Bowl Should I Use To Feed My Cat?
You should feed your cat with a flat saucer if possible.
A cat’s whiskers are sensitive to friction which creates whisker fatigue.
It is uncomfortable to rub against a bowl to get at the cat food.
Check out my guide to the best cat food bowls for more.
Is Free Feeding Bad For My Cat?
Free feeding often leads to cats eating too many calories and gaining weight especially if fed only dry kibble.
Dry cat food is more calorically dense than wet canned cat food. Cats tend to overeat this type of food.
The main advantage of free-feeding is giving your cat a chance to eat when you aren’t in the house.
However, the amount of food must be limited and weighed out per your cats energy needs.
Example Meal Plan (with Free Feeding):
- 0600 – Meal 1
- 0800 – Meal 2
- 0900-1700 – Free Feeding (dry food left for cat whilst at work)
- 1800 – Meal 3
- 2100 – Meal 4
The remaining dry cat food may be used as part of the remaining meals to ensure your cat gets the right amount of food for the day.
Dry food has the advantage of allowing a cat to graze over the course of a day as it does not spoil quickly.
For people with erratic schedules, this can be useful to ensure your cat is well fed whilst you’re gone.
Your cat’s food should always be aligned with their calorie needs. Free feeding must not lead to excess food intake.
For help with weight loss, check out my best wet cat foods for weight loss.
Why Is My Cat Hungry All The Time?
In the wild cats must hunt and kill many small animals and insects during the day and night.
This is how they get their nutrition.
It’s common for cats to want to wake you up for an early meal and eat many little meals. This is not unusual.
The main thing is to calculate your cat’s energy needs properly and space them out with regular meals during the day.
Small frequent meals are the name of the game with cats.
Keeping a few tins ready to open and divvy out in advance is a great strategy to keep your cat satisfied.
Keep in mind:
Disturbing your pet’s usual meal times and eating habits leads to hunger and anxiety. If you miss your cat’s usual meal times they start chasing your down to get their fill.
If your cat has hairballs, it can often vomit out parts of its partially digested food. If this is a frequent issue, consult with a vet as it can affect feeding your cat.
Disease states and medical conditions (e.g. hyperthyroidism, diabetes, parasites) can lead to hunger.
Again, consult with a vet if you notice any abrupt changes in cats eating patterns and weight.
How Often Should I Feed My Cat (Quick Guide)?
Here is a quick way to find the answer to your question “How often should I feed my cat?”
- Weigh your cat on a scale
- Use an online calculator to find your cats energy needs
- Using a diet of at least 50% wet canned cat food, work out how much of each food your cat needs a day (use the online calculator for help)
- ___ g/C wet canned cat food
- ___ g/C dry cat food
- Divide your cats food needs into 3-6 meals over the day (give kittens at least 4 meals a day)
- Write down your cats schedule on a diary, note, or planner and stick to these time periods to make sure your cat remains satisfied
- Seek advice from a vet if your cat is losing or gaining weight or has any other digestive symptoms that interfere with eating (e.g. vomitting, diarrhea, coughing)
Note: If you’re away for work then you may leave dry cat food however you must weigh the proper amount for your cat in advance and only leave that amount. Make sure you provide your cat with fresh water away from the food bowl at all times.
Conclusion: How Often Should I Feed My Cat?
That wraps up the question “How often should I feed my cat?”
Most cats need at least three or more meals per day depending on preference and owner schedule. Kittens need at least four meals per day for rapid growth.
Many cats prefer small frequent meals due to their evolved hunting habits, eating up to 7-20 meals per day. You should calculate how much dietary energy your cat needs and divide this amount evenly throughout the day.
Cat eating schedules vary from cat to cat, as well as age. The question of ‘How often should I feed my cat?’ is individualized to the situation. Ask a vet for guidance for specific health conditions that may impact a cat’s dietary needs.
After more articles on cats?
Check out our guides below.