How Often Should I Feed My Cat?

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If you have adopted a cat and chosen the best food for your cat, the struggle doesn’t end there. How often you should feed your cat can be an even bigger concern. The answer to this question is not so simple and straightforward, as there are many factors involved, but finding the right balance ensures the digestive health, overall wellbeing, and happiness of your cat.

Before you can determine exactly how much to feed your cat, you should consider a few things like whether you will be meal feeding or free feeding, their age and current health status, and what you will be feeding them – raw, fresh or dry cat food. In this article, we will go over all of these factors and help you assess the needs of your cat.

» You might also want to read: the best chew toys for cats and the basics of caring for a cat.

Meal Feeding or Free Feeding? 

cat eating

Meal feeding is feeding your cat canned or dry food at a specific time of the day. Free feeding means food is available to your cat all the time. Only dry food can be given by this method because leaving wet food in the bowl throughout the day affects its freshness and can cause health problems.

Although free feeding has the advantage of allowing your cat to eat on her schedule, it can lead to overeating and obesity for some cats. Meal feeding is widely considered the best method because it allows you to closely monitor the food intake of your cat. Whether this needs to be a concern for you really depends on the nature of your cat.

Another situation when meal feeding might be more important is when you have multiple cats. If fed at the same time, all of your cats will have equal access to the food without one being dominant over the others.  

You might be interested in reading more on whether your cat can eat bread, tuna or cheese.

Top Factors Affecting Feeding Frequency

cat eating from bowl

1. Age

Age is a major factor determining the frequency of feeding. A cat’s feeding habits should be in accordance with their nutritional needs, which changes with their life stages. It wouldn’t be appropriate to feed a kitten and a senior cat the same amount of food.

Kitten

A kitten is in its growth phase and has high nutritional requirements which need to be met, so you’ll want to feed them more often throughout the day. Not getting enough calories can affect their growth and overall health.

If your cat is younger than six months, you should feed her four to five times a day, while cats above six months of age should be fed three times a day for optimal growth. Feeding them too much or too little can lead to obesity and malnourishment respectively.

Adult cat

If your cat is about one year old, feeding her once or twice a day is recommended because it matches the caloric intake they need as an adult.

For an adult, it is advised to keep a routine and feed them at the same time or times of the day. Maintaining consistency will help them with their digestive health and it is easier for you to notice any kind of discrepancy in feeding, which could signal a health condition that needs attention. 

Senior cat

For senior cats (age 7+), having the same routine as an adult cat is recommended until health-related issues that require a different method or frequency of feeding crops up. It’s possible your cat won’t need an adjusted feeding schedule. Just be mindful of the changes your cat might be going through at this older stage.

cat eating

2. Health status

The health status of your cat can greatly affect the diet and frequency of feeding. The most common health issues include:

Hyperthyroidism

Hyperthyroidism is an overproduction of thyroid hormone which stimulates hunger, making your cat want to eat continuously. It is a treatable disease and should be treated as soon as you notice it.

Until you get your cat treated for this disease, you can keep your cat well-fed by offering small meals frequently. Small meals will not cause obesity and will make them feel energetic throughout the day. After the treatment, you can return to their normal routine of feeding.

Diabetes 

A diabetic cat is required to be fed whenever insulin is administered.  It is important to feed them before you give an insulin injection. Typically, you will feed your cat twice a day. It is acceptable to provide them snacks during the day but not at night to maintain the consistency of feeding with the insulin administration. 

Periodontal disease 

As the cats get older, they become susceptible to teeth and gum diseases. This not only changes the type of diet you are feeding the cat but also how many times they are being fed. Because of their delicate and sensitive teeth, they need more time for chewing and need to have a consistent feeding schedule. 

cat licking its lips

3. Caloric Needs

Just like with humans, ever cat has specific caloric needs, based on the rate at which they burn calories. This comes down to their general activity level, their size, and how fast they burn calories naturally.

Metabolic rate

Every cat has a different metabolic rate i.e., the rate at which they burn calories. It ranges from very high to low and affects the amount of food you are feeding them. Cats will signal to you that they’re hungry by meowing loudly next to their bowl. If you notice your cat is getting hungry more frequently than you’re feeding them, it’s a good indicator that they have a high metabolic rate.

Activity level

A cat that is physically active and gets a lot of exercises burns calories faster than a cat that just lays around and is less active. Observe your cat for a week or so to gauge its level of activity. If your cat is always up and on the go, you will need to feed him more than if he’s sleeping frequently. This also changes with age, as a cat becomes less active in their older age.

Size

The size of a cat varies with its breed. A larger breed of cat requires more food than a cat of a small breed. It also varies by age, because obviously a kitten is smaller than a grown cat and will need a different amount of food in relation to age and size.

So How Often Should I Feed My Cat?

There are a lot of different factors to consider when determining the frequency of feeding your cat. It is important to look at all of the factors when pondering this choice. The general consensus is to feed your cat twice a day with the amount of food you’ve determined to be adequate.

You can then listen to your cat and gauge whether what you’ve been doing actually meets his caloric needs. If your cat is frequently hungry outside of those two meal times, you may need to increase the amount of food you’re giving, or give a snack midday.

If your cat doesn’t seem to be eating all of the food you’re putting out twice a day, that is an indication you’re either over feeding at those times, or they don’t require two feeding times.

Listening to your cat is the best way to know how often your little one needs to eat to be happy. If you find that you can’t get it right and your cat doesn’t seem to be giving enough clues, you can contact your veterinarian and ask their professional opinion based on your cat’s specific factors.

Best Cat Food Options

When it comes to keeping your cat healthy and happy, it’s important to choose the highest quality food. Our team has curated a list of the best cat foods, based on customer reviews, quality ingredients, and price.

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CONCLUSION

Feeding your cat is probably one of the biggest hurdles to overcome as you learn how to take care of your cat and as they grow from kitten to adult. Basing the decision on the needs of your cat will help you get in touch with your cat and Everyone will be happy!

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