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How Much Should I Feed My Cat? Everything You Need To Know

By Bridget Reed


You know the tricks your feline friend tries when they’re hungry: big eyes, a few gentle paws on your legs, and maybe even a few longing meows. As their pet parent, you likely put a lot of thought into what type of food you give your cat, but it can be hard to know exactly how much you’re supposed to feed them. 

Serious health issues can arise when you underfeed or overfeed your four-legged friend. Usually, we tend to overfeed our felines, especially when they’re extra persistent at mealtime. Although it may feel like the correct decision at the moment, overfeeding can lead to obesity and various health issues such as diabetes and high blood pressure. 

For these reasons, determining the correct amount of food to feed your cat is very important. This article will closely examine the factors that affect how much you should feed your cat and other helpful tips to keep your feline happy and healthy.

What Factors Affect How Much I Should Feed My Cat?

Unfortunately, there isn’t a simple answer to how much you should feed your cat that works for all felines across the board. Instead, the exact amount of food your cat need is dependent on the following factors: their age, activity level, whether or not they are pregnant, overall health level, and size.

How Old Is Your Cat?

Depending on how old your cat is, the amount of food they need will vary greatly. Generally speaking, growing kittens up to six months old need the most food. Kittens consume more food per pound than adult cats. 

There is some debate as to whether or not it is better to free-feed your kitten or give them three structured meals a day. However, regardless of how you feed your kitten, it is important to give them food made specifically for kittens so that they can get all the nutrients they need. 

Adolescent cats between six months and one year old should be fed around twice daily if you practice scheduled feeding with your feline. Adult cats are also usually fed twice a day. Some adult cats can be fed once a day, but feeding frequency depends on any health conditions your feline may have. 

Cats are considered “senior” cats once they are over seven years old or you notice their activity levels decreasing. Like adolescents and adults, senior cats are usually fed twice a day. However, you may have to change the amount of food you give your senior cat to avoid weight gain if they are far less active than they used to be. 

How Active Is Your Cat?

Determining how active your cat is compared to other felines is another important way to determine how much food they need. Some cats are extremely energetic, curious, and playful throughout their lives, whereas others are more comfortable taking long naps in the sun and only occasionally engaging in play.

Veterinarians use three classifications to determine a cat’s activity level. If your cat is at the normal activity level, then the amount of food they need can be calculated solely based on their body weight and age. 

Less active cats may require as much as a 10 percent decrease in their scheduled feeding amount, whereas an active cat may need up to 20 or 40 percent more food than the recommended amount.

Given that you are the only one who can determine your cat’s activity level, keep an eye on how much they seem to move around when you’re not playing with them. If you have a trip to the vet, try to pay special attention in the days leading up to the visit so that you can accurately describe your cat’s activity level. 

Is Your Cat Pregnant?

If your cat is soon to be a mom, her nutritional needs will be slightly different. Pregnancy is a demanding process, so make sure your feline has access to nutritional, healthy food. With the kitten growing inside her, she may have less room for food, so it may be advisable to switch to a free-feeding approach and leave food out for her at all times.

On the other hand, cats that are neutered and spayed need slightly less food because they tend to have slower metabolisms due to the lack of hormones in their body.

How Healthy Is Your Cat?

Your cat’s overall health is another important factor when determining how much food you should give them. If your cat has just been ill or had surgery, your vet may recommend dietary modifications to ensure that they recover quickly and without any major issues. 

Additionally, if your cat takes medicine regularly, you may have to follow a specific feeding schedule and highly monitor the amount you give them. For example, pet parents of diabetic cats need to time their cat’s meals with their insulin dosing. 

It can be overwhelming trying to figure out when and how much you should feed your furry friend if they are recovering from an illness or need medication. Make sure to talk with your vet if you are concerned about your feline’s schedule so they can provide you with specific instructions.

What Size Is Your Cat?

Your cat’s size and body condition will also greatly influence how much food you should give them. Specific cat breeds, such as Maine Coons need to eat more than smaller breeds simply because they are larger. Some cats are also born with a smaller frame and will therefore require less food. 

It is recommended that cats should eat anywhere from 24 to 35 calories per pound. However, if your cat struggles to gain or lose weight, their caloric needs will differ. That’s why it is always best to talk with a veterinarian to get an exact measurement for the amount of food your furry friend needs.

How Do I Convert Calories Into Portions?

Once you determine how many calories per day your cat needs, you may be a little confused about how to turn that number into a portion size. Luckily, cat food manufacturers have to put the food’s caloric content on the label, which will usually be written as kcal/cup. 

Kcal stands for kilocalorie, which is the same as a calorie, so you don’t have to do any conversions. You will see the measurement kcal/kg, kcal/cup, or kcal/pouch on wet food. 

To determine how large your cat’s portion sizes need to be, divide their daily caloric needs by the number of kilocalories in the food. The answer to this simple equation will be the amount of food your cat needs daily. 

If you free-feed your cat, that is how much food you should place in their food bowl at the beginning of the day. If you schedule-feed your cat, take the answer and divide it by the number of meals you give your cat to determine how much food they should get at once. 

For example, Optimeal Turkey & Barley Nutrient Balance contains 411 kcal ME/cup. If your cat weighs 10 pounds and has a normal activity level, they’ll need around 300 calories daily. That means they will need about ¾ of a cup of food daily. If you feed them twice a day, you’ll need to give them ⅜ of a cup in the morning and ⅜ of a cup at night. 

Remember that although manufacturers often put recommended portion sizes on their bags, they are trying to give a rough estimate for all different types of cats. Usually, the amount of food recommended on a bag is for an unneutered male cat. However, given that your furry friend has their own specific needs, you should use those guidelines as a place to start but modify your cat’s portion size based on their lifestyle and overall health. 

How Much Wet Food Does My Cat Need?

Unfortunately, given that wet food varies so much depending on quality, there is not one guideline for how much wet food your cat needs. Optimeal Chicken & Turkey In Gravy Tender Morsels contains 70 kcal ME/pouch, whereas Optimeal Real Shrimp & Salmon In Savory Sauce Tender Morsels contains 83 kcal ME/pouch. 

Given that there can be a large discrepancy between two similar, high-quality wet foods, it is important to talk with your veterinarian about how much wet food your feline needs. If you are transitioning them from kibble or another type of wet food, it may also be beneficial to discuss how you can safely make the transition.

What Are the Benefits of Wet Food?

There is ample debate regarding the benefits of wet food over dry food and vice versa. Similarly to how there is not one standard amount you need to feed your cat, there is not one type of food that is universally better for all cats. 

That said, people generally choose to feed their cats wet food because of the high moisture content. Since wet food can contain anywhere from 70 to 78 percent moisture, it can help keep your cat hydrated. Some cats struggle with a low thirst drive or have health conditions requiring them to drink more, which can be helped by wet cat food. 

What Are the Benefits of Dry Food?

There are also several benefits to dry cat food. If you can find a healthy, high-quality dry food such as Optimal Chicken & Brown Rice Recipe Nutrient Balance, you are not sacrificing any nutrients by feeding your feline dry food. 

Usually, kibble tends to be a less expensive option for pet parents and lasts far longer than wet food. If you are free-feeding your cat, dry food makes more sense because it can be left out all day. 

How Often Should I Feed My Cat?

Now that you know more about how much you should feed your cat, you may wonder how often you should feed your cat. As previously mentioned, there are two different methods for feeding your feline: scheduled feeding and free feeding. 

Each method has benefits, and this section will take a close look at both to determine the best method for you and your furry friend. 

What Are the Benefits of Scheduled Feeding?

Scheduled feeding involves giving your cat anywhere from one to three scheduled meals a day. Much like humans, cats’ stomachs are very simple. When a cat eats, their stomach fills with food, and once it is full, it empties itself over a few hours. 

Once your cat’s stomach is completely empty, their brain begins to receive messages from their stomach that they are hungry.

For this reason, many prefer scheduled feeding to offer their furry friends meals as they get hungry. You can also monitor your cat’s behavior more with a feeding routine, given that you can control how much they eat and when and observe them after meals. This is especially beneficial for cats with medical issues.

What Are the Benefits of Free-Feeding?

Another method pet parents use to feed their felines is free-feeding. Free-feeding involves leaving a food bowl and water bowl for your cat and allowing them to graze throughout the day. This method works very well for some cats who are not food-motivated and owners who are busy and cannot adhere to a feeding schedule. 

The only thing to remember if you choose to free-feed your feline is that you still need to measure their food to avoid overeating. Free feeding might not be the right method if your cat looks forward to meals and will likely eat all their food at once. However, free feeding can be extremely beneficial for senior cats who sometimes lose their appetite. 

How Much Should My Cat Weigh?

A general rule of thumb for domestic cats is that they should weigh around 10 pounds. However, this can vary significantly based on your cat’s breed and body structure. Maine Coone cats can be healthy and weigh up to 25 pounds. 

If you are concerned about your cat’s body weight or want to know exactly how much they should weigh, talk with your vet, who will take all of your feline’s health information into account. 

What Are Mistakes People Often Make When Feeding Their CatsCat?

As you can see, there’s a lot to consider when feeding your cat, and it can be easy to make mistakes. In this section, we’ll closely examine a few of the most common feeding mistakes pet parents make.

  • Skipping water at mealtimes. With all the talk about what type of food to feed your cat, when to feed them, and how to feed them, it can be easy to forget to give your four-legged friend water at meal times. However, your cat must have access to water, especially if they eat dry food.

  • Cutting meat out of your cat's diet. Cats are obligate carnivores, meaning they need a diet of meat to stay healthy and strong. Feeding your cat a strictly vegan or vegetarian diet is not recommended. There are nutrients found only in meat that your cat needs to thrive.

  • Feeding your cat too much. Overfeeding is an easy mistake to make, especially as your cat ages. That’s why it is so important to keep an eye on your feline to see when they become less active as they age so you can adjust their portion size accordingly.

  • Making all of their food homemade. In recent years, homemade diets for felines have become more and more popular. Although you can make a healthy diet at home, it is difficult to correctly balance the amount of calcium, protein, and nutrients your cat needs. If you want to feed your cat only homemade food, go over their diet closely with a veterinarian. 

How Can I Successfully Put My Cat on a Diet?

Obesity is one of the most dangerous and common health issues that cats experience. If you have an overweight cat, they may be more likely to develop health problems like arthritis, urinary tract disease, and diabetes. 

If you notice that your cat is starting to put on weight, you may want to put them on a diet and curb their eating habits to achieve weight loss. Here are some tips for successfully putting your cat on a diet:

  • Gradually cut back the amount of food you give them. If you change your feline’s portion size significantly at one time, they will be miserable. Instead, try slowly cutting down the calories you give them over time so their body can acclimate.

  • Measure the amount of food you give them and measure them. The best way to lower your cat’s weight is to be very precise about the amount of fresh or canned food you give them. We know it can be tempting to eyeball their serving sizes, but taking an extra minute to measure their food can make a huge difference for your furry friend.

  • Help them get exercise! Much like humans, diets for cats work best when paired with exercise. You can buy engaging toys, set up “hunting” games at home, or even take your cat on a walk to ensure they are moving enough daily. 


It can be difficult to get your cat to a healthy weight, but thinking closely about the amount of calories you feed them daily can be extremely beneficial in achieving that goal. To improve your cat’s health, talk with your vet about how much you should feed them and the type of food they recommend. 

Remember, there is no ideal weight for all cats. Instead, you need to take into account your cat’s life stage, overall health, and size to determine the right amount of food for them.


Feline Diabetes | Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine

Urinary tract infection and subclinical bacteriuria in cats: A clinical update | NIH 

Overweight in adult cats: a cross-sectional study | NIH

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