The amount of food your cat needs per day depends on several factors like age, size, activity level, and whether your cat is spayed/neutered. On average, most adult cats need between 150-200 calories per day. Kittens need more food for growth and development. The best way to determine your cat’s ideal food intake is to consult your veterinarian.
How much should an average adult cat eat per day?
The average adult cat that is spayed or neutered and has a normal activity level needs about 25-30 calories per pound per day. So for a 10 pound cat that would be 250-300 calories per day. However, every cat is different. Some guidelines for daily calorie needs by weight are:
|Calories Per Day
These are just general estimates. It’s best to start with these guidelines and adjust up or down depending on your specific cat’s needs and body condition.
Factors that influence calorie needs
Kittens need more calories per pound than adult cats because they are growing and developing. The average kitten needs about 200-300 calories per pound per day. So a 2 pound kitten would need 400-600 calories daily. By 6 months, kittens can start transitioning to adult cat food and portions.
Cats with very active lifestyles need more calories than sedentary cats. Active cats that go outside, play frequently, or are highly energetic may need up to 40 calories per pound. Less active indoor cats likely need 20-30 calories per pound per day.
Intact male cats and unspayed female cats need more calories than neutered or spayed cats. Intact males need about 30% more food than neutered males. Unspayed females need 25-30% more calories when not pregnant or nursing kittens.
Cats with certain medical conditions like diabetes, hyperthyroidism, cancer, and kidney disease may need tailored meal plans. Work with your vet to determine the ideal calorie intake for cats with health issues.
Consider your individual cat’s body condition, weight trends over time, and response to different feeding amounts. Some cats are naturally lean and active while others are more sedentary and prone to obesity. Tailor your cat’s food to maintain ideal body condition.
How to determine ideal calorie intake
Calculate resting energy requirement (RER)
You can calculate your cat’s RER, which is the minimum calories needed per day at rest. The formula is RER = 70*(body weight in kg)^0.75. For example, a 10 pound (4.5 kg) cat would have an RER of 70*(4.5)^0.75 = 187 calories.
Adjust for activity level
Once you know the RER, multiply it by an activity factor:
- 1.2 for inactive cats
- 1.4 for moderately active cats
- 1.6 for active cats
- 1.8 for very active cats
For that 10 pound cat with an RER of 187 calories, if moderately active, it would need 1.4*187 = 262 calories per day.
Monitor weight and body condition
Weigh your cat weekly and monitor body condition score on a scale of 1-9. Adjust food intake up or down as needed to maintain ideal weight and condition.
Consult your veterinarian
Your vet can help determine ideal calorie intake based on age, health, activity level, reproductive status and more. They can recommend appropriately portioned cat foods and any diet modifications needed.
Types of food to feed
Dry kibble is the most convenient and affordable option. It has a long shelf life and helps keep teeth clean. Feed high quality kibble appropriate for your cat’s life stage and activity level. Follow package instructions for portion sizes.
Wet canned food has more moisture and protein. This can help with hydration and be easier to digest for some cats. Feed wet food alone or combine with dry food. Limit to twice daily to avoid decaying teeth.
Home cooking cat food can be an option but it requires recipes formulated by veterinary nutritionists to avoid imbalances. Do not make cat food without vet supervision.
How often and when to feed cats
Most adult cats do well with two meals a day. Kittens under six months need 3-4 smaller meals throughout the day to support growth. Some cats prefer several smaller snacks. Work with your vet to determine the best frequency.
Feed cats around the same time every day, spaced 8-12 hours apart typically. Make sure food is available when cats naturally want to eat – early morning and evening. Avoid leaving food out all day.
Feed cats a larger meal right before bed to satisfy their nocturnal inclinations. Then give a smaller morning meal. Just don’t feed within 2-3 hours of bedtime as that can cause digestive upset.
Using a kitchen scale to weigh portions is ideal. Each cat food package has calorie information per ounce or cup. Weighing allows precise calorie counting.
If you don’t have a scale, follow package recommendations for cup measurements. Depending on calorie density, an average 10 pound cat may need 1/4 to 1/2 cup per meal.
Listen to your cat
Start with package guidelines then adjust based on your cat’s behavior. If they beg for more food right after eating, leave food in the bowl, or gain weight, reduce portion size.
Tips for proper feeding
Don’t free feed
Free feeding, leaving food out all day, often leads to overeating. Feed portioned meals at consistent times instead.
If you have multiple cats, feed them in separate rooms to ensure each one finishes their own meal.
Good quality food
Feed a complete and balanced commercial cat food optimized for your cat’s stage of life.
Routine vet visits
Your vet can monitor your cat’s weight, body condition, and health at annual wellness exams to ensure they are getting proper nutrition.
Along with proper feeding, ensure your cat gets daily exercise through playtime and enrichment to burn calories.
Common feeding problems
Obesity is common in cats. Gradually switch to measured portioned meals rather than free feeding to promote weight loss.
Food allergies cause itchy skin, ear infections, and tummy troubles. Switch to a hypoallergenic cat food after consulting your vet.
Not drinking enough
Dehydration is common in cats. Feed wet food, add water to dry food, use a cat water fountain to encourage drinking.
Occasional vomiting can be normal but frequent vomiting can indicate illness. See your vet and try small, frequent meals for sensitive stomachs.
When to seek veterinary advice
Consult your vet about your cat’s diet and portions if you notice any of the following:
- Significant weight loss or gain
- Excess begging for food
- Lack of interest in food
- Difficulty chewing or swallowing
- Increased or decreased food intake
- Gastrointestinal issues like vomiting or diarrhea
- Food allergies
- Dental disease
- Any other concerning symptoms
Veterinarians can help assess your cat’s health, determine any underlying issues, and recommend personalized dietary plans and portion sizes.
Determining the right amount of food to feed your cat per day depends on many unique factors like age, activity level, and health status. While average adult cats need about 150-200 calories daily, the ideal food intake can vary widely. The best approach is to start with general guidelines based on your cat’s weight and adjust portions up or down based on body condition, energy levels, and consultation with your veterinarian. Feeding cats the optimum amount of quality food in a consistent schedule is key to keeping them healthy and happy.