Feeding Your Cat: Essential Tips for a Healthy Diet

How Much Food For Cat?

In nature cats are opportunistic hunters that patrol their territory on morning and evening walks, and may catch several mice or other small prey items. They eat these on an as-needed basis, not at every meal.

This is why many owners end up with a cat who seems to always be hungry and can develop secondary diseases such as obesity. How much food a cat needs depends on age, life stage and more.


Protein provides a cat with essential amino acids needed for growth, muscle support and overall health. When selecting a cat food, consider the dietary protein level. The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) recommends that a cat food for adult maintenance contain a minimum of 26% crude protein on a dry matter basis. Crude protein levels can be misleading as they are calculated without the inclusion of water, which weighs more than the food. Therefore, it’s important to read the guaranteed analysis on the label and subtract the water percentage to compare foods.

Growing cats require more food per pound than mature cats, so may need to be fed more frequently. Once a cat reaches adulthood, two or three feedings per day should be sufficient as long as the calorie content is adequate. When choosing a protein source, look for high quality protein that is easily digestible. Examples include meat, fish or poultry meals, organ meat and plant-based proteins. Avoid filler ingredients and byproducts, which are not as easy for a cat to digest.


Cats need carbohydrate for energy, but too many carbohydrates can lead to obesity and related health problems. A diet low in carbohydrates is important for the health of cats.

The best source of information about your cat’s nutrition is a veterinarian. Your veterinarian will be able to answer your questions about the type and amount of food to feed your cat, as well as other aspects of your cat’s diet.

If you are adding canned food to your cat’s diet, look for cans that state that the product is complete and balanced. This will help you determine how much dry kibble to decrease when feeding canned food.

Use your cat’s weight to figure out approximately how many calories they need each day. Then, divide their daily caloric needs by the food’s calorie content (kcal/can or kcal/cup) to find out how much they should get at each mealtime. Ideally, meals should be about 12 hours apart.


A cat is a carnivore that eats primarily meat, so it needs a relatively high proportion of fat to make up for the lack of carbohydrate calories. However, too much fat can lead to weight gain, so it’s important to choose a healthy source of fat for your pet.

The AAFCO minimums for cat foods are 30% protein and 9% fat on a dry matter basis (which is calculated by subtracting the moisture content from the total nutritional value). Higher levels may be necessary for highly active cats or those with weight issues, and some cat foods incorporate specific types of fat such as unsaturated vegetable oils or animal fats that have been rendered to remove all the cholesterol.

Some cat owners like to feed their pets a mixture of wet and dry food, which can be convenient for preparing meals at home. In this case, it’s best to use the feeding recommendations on the back of the bag for a starting point and assess your pet’s body condition to determine if the diet is working for her or not.


Feeding your cat the correct amount of food is crucial for maintaining a healthy body weight. Too little can cause nutrient deficiencies and overfeeding can lead to obesity and its many health complications.

The feeding guidelines on the back of a bag can provide a good starting point. But be sure to evaluate a cat’s body condition to get a more accurate picture of their needs. For example, highly active cats need to eat more energy-dense foods than their sedentary counterparts. And pregnant or nursing cats require more nutrients than their spayed or neutered counterparts.

Wet food is typically higher in water content than dry food, which helps treat and prevent kidney and lower urinary tract disease and obesity. It also may have a more appealing taste to older cats and kittens who find chewing dry food difficult. When selecting canned foods, look for a guaranteed analysis that lists ingredients on a “dry matter basis” to compare nutrient levels.

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