How Much Should I Feed My Cat? Cat Feeding Guide For Wet And Dry Cat Food (With Charts and Calculators)

“How much should I feed my cat” must be one of the most commonly asked questions I hear at the vet clinic. While the answer will be as individual as your cat, with a few simple steps you can find out how much canned or dry food your cat should be eating each day.

There are several things to consider when working out the amount to feed:

  • How many calories are in the food I feed my cat?
  • What is my cat’s weight?
  • How many Calories does a cat need?
  • Is my cat in perfect body condition?
  • How active is my cat?
  • Has my cat got any special needs?

OK, so that might sound a little complicated – but trust me here, it is not so tricky! In this article I will explain what each of these questions mean.

A little time spent working out the correct amount of cat food to feed will pay off. It’s one of the most important parts of pet care and nutrition is vital for good cat health.

How good is it to know you are feeding your cat the perfect amount to keep your best friend happy and healthy!?

How Many Calories Are In My Cat’s Food?

You know how you read the back of the cereal box while you eat your breakfast? There is also a lot of useful information on the back of any bag or can of pet food!

This information includes the Calorie content. Have a look at this example, where the Calorie content has been highlighted. This can of food contains 1000 Calories per kg of food (which equals 1 Calorie per gram). Each can contains 185 calories.

amount of calories in wet cat food

What is a Calorie?

A Calorie is a measure of how much energy is in food, and the energy used to do an activity. We use this to work out how much food your cat needs to eat every day to fuel for the day’s activities…. hunting, climbing trees, and yes, even sleeping! Sometimes “Kcal” will be used instead of “Cal”, for the purpose of this article they are the same.

Canned Cat Food

Wet food contains more water than dry cat food, which means your cat must eat more canned food to meet their Calorie needs.

A typical adult wet food contains approximately 28 Calories per ounce, or 1 Calorie per gram.

Dry Cat Food

Dry kibble has a higher calorie content, which equals more concentrated nutrition.

The weight of food your cat needs each day will be less than if you were feeding your cat canned food. A typical adult dry food contains approximately 100 Calories per ounce, or 3.5 Calories per gram [1].

Learn more: Find The Best Cat Food For Your Cat

What Is My Cat’s Weight?

O.K. Garfield, this is where it gets real! It is time to weigh your cat. This is because the amount you feed your cat depends on their size (and ideal size).

A set of scales that can accurately weigh your cat is worthwhile investment. Place a carry cage on the scales, set the scale to zero, and then place kitty in the cage and record the weight.

Alternatively, record the carrier weight, and then subtract this from the combined cat plus carrier weight.

A third method is to weigh yourself with and without the cat and calculate the difference – this works if kitty is not too squirmy!

So How Many Calories Does My Cat Need?

A cat’s daily Calorie needs is based on your cat’s healthy weight. We put together a simple chart for you to easily work out your cat’s daily calorie needs here.

For the math geeks who need more detail on our calculations, here goes….

This formula is used to calculate how many Calories a cat should consume in a day [2]:

70 x (Weight in kg) 0.75 x Lifestyle Factor (0.6-2.5)

The “lifestyle factor” modifies the results for the individual cat. This factor can range from 0.6 for a cat prone to weight gain, 1.2 for a neutered adult cat, and 2.5 for a growing kitten [3].

Using this formula for an adult neutered 10 lb (4.5kg) cat, we get a result of 259 Calories (using a 1.2 Lifestyle Factor).

This is an estimate of the number of Calories that this cat would need to consume per day. Remember though, every cat is unique, and depending on the lifestyle factor used, the actual amount for this cat could range from 173 to 302 Calories per day.

If you want a Calorie Calculation tailored to your own cat’s individual nutritional needs, check out this online calculator: https://petnutritionalliance.org/cat.php

IMPORTANT Pro Tip

Start with the basic calculation as the calorie needs for your cat (i.e., don’t worry about the Lifestyle Factor at first). Weigh kitty weekly and adjust the amount of cat food fed up or down to keep kitty at ideal condition score.

In other words, feed your 10 pound cat roughly 230 calories per day. After a week, check his weight again. If he’s losing weight, but shouldn’t be, bump it up to 250/day and weigh again in 1 week.

Whatever amount of calories per day that keeps your cat at his ideal weight is how much you should be feeding.

How Much Wet or Dry Food to Feed a Cat?

Now you know your cat’s body weight, how many Calories it needs each day, and the Calorie content of your cat’s food, so lets do this!

A good starting place is to find out how many Calories your cat should eat from the feeding guide below (or use the formula if you prefer).

For example, the table below shows a 10lb cat needs 216 Calories per day. Then you simply divide this number by the Calories in the food as shown on the package.

Example 1

Blackie is a 10lb cat, he needs 216 Calories per day and his Bravo! Feline Café Chicken Fricassee canned food contains 28 Calories per ounce. Dividing 216 calories by 28 equals 7.7. So, Blackie needs to eat 7.7 ounces of his favourite Chicken Fricassee every 24 hours.

Example 2

Sheba is a 3.6 kg cat, she needs 183 Calories per day and her Dr. Elsies Cleanprotein Chicken biscuit contains 4 Calories per gram. Dividing 183 calories by 4 equals 45. So, Sheba should eat 45 grams of this food in one day.

You can also use this table to work out how much to feed your cat without doing the math yourself. The table calculations may vary slightly to your cat’s actual needs, depending on what food you choose to feed – which is why I recommend monitoring your cat’s weight so adjustments to the amount fed can be made.

Learn More: Can My Cat Eat Dog Food?

Cat Feeding Guide / Chart

This is an estimate for a Daily Feeding Guide for an Adult cat eating a standard Maintenance diet with a lifestyle factor of 1.0.

The ounces have been rounded, but you can assume a slight increase for each pound your cat weighs.

Cat’s Weight (lbs) Cat’s Weight (KG) Daily Calories Dry Food (oz) Dry Food (g) Wet Food (oz) Wet Food (g)
1 0.45 38 0 11 1 38
2 0.9 65 1 18 2 65
3 1.35 88 1 25 3 88
4 1.8 109 1 31 4 109
5 2.25 129 1 37 5 129
6 2.7 147 1 42 5 147
7 3.15 166 2 47 6 166
8 3.6 183 2 52 7 183
9 4.05 200 2 57 7 200
10 4.5 216 2 62 8 216
11 4.95 232 2 66 8 232
12 5.4 248 2 71 9 248
13 5.85 263 3 75 9 263
14 6.3 278 3 80 10 278
15 6.75 293 3 84 10 293
16 7.2 308 3 99 11 308
17 7.65 322 3 92 11 322
18 8.1 336 3 96 12 336
19 8.55 350 4 100 13 350
20 9 364 4 104 13 364
21 9.45 377 4 108 13 377
22 9.9 391 4 112 14 391
23 10.35 404 4 115 14 404
24 10.8 417 4 119 15 417
25 11.25 430 4 123 15 430

*Based on a Dry Kibble of 100Cal/oz (3.5 Cal/g) and Canned food of 28Cal/oz (1 Cal/g).

If you would like to personalise the results for your cat, you can include the Calorie content of the food in this online calculator: https://petnutritionalliance.org/cat.php

IMPORTANT Pro Tip

Write down your cat’s feeding plan and keep it where you prepare your pet’s meals.

Measuring Out The food

The best way to measure out the food for your cat is to use a digital kitchen scale. Weighing food per oz or gram is much more accurate than a per cup measurement.

If your cat eats a combination of wet and dry food, a good place to start is measuring out half of the dry food allowance and half of the wet food allowance for the day.

Free Feeding Cats vs Measured Meals

Many cats like snacking throughout the day! It is still important to make sure they do not eat more than their daily allowance if we want them to stay the same weight. Even an extra biscuit or two every day can make a huge difference over the lifespan of your precious pet.

Make sure kitty is not sneaking food from other pets (or the kids, or Grandma!). I do recommend microchip activated feeders for multi-cat households.

Two feeding options to try:

Measure once a day

Weigh out your cat’s total amount of food for the day. Dry food can then be left out all day for kitty to come and go from the plate at will. Once the day’s food has gone, there is no more until tomorrow! This method is ideal for cats who do not tend to overeat.

Measure each meal

Measure out food for each meal, with at least three meals a day being ideal. You can always retain some of the measured dry kibble in a container to be used as treats or snacks.

When Should I Feed My Cat?

Cats have adapted to eat small meals (mice!), interspersed with sleeping and bursts of activity. Providing multiple smaller meals in a day mirrors this natural feeding pattern and can in turn increase activity level and reduce the risk of obesity [4].

This can be achieved by leaving the calculated amount of dry food out for your cat to free feed at will. Alternatively, for cats prone to eating too much, work out at least three meal times in a day that work with your schedule and measure each meal as described above.

Cat Treats and Extras

We all know how talkative cats are…but “Meow” does not always equal “I am hungry”…it can be a greeting or a demand for attention and affection.

Resist the temptation to feed at every meow, instead substitute something else pleasurable such as a groom, or a game with a favourite toy. Treat balls are another way to help kitty work off some energy while making a meal last longer.

Treats do contain calories too! Don’t forget to take any cat treats into account when measuring out your pet’s meals.

IMPORTANT Pro Tip

Have one person be responsible for feeding pets and monitoring their weight.

Monitoring Your Cat’s Weight

These calculations are guidelines only.

It is important to weigh kitty every 1 to 2 weeks to check if they are gaining weight, losing weight, or staying the same. This will help us adjust the amount we are feeding.

IMPORTANT Pro Tip

If your cat is losing weight and getting too thin, increase the amount you feed by 10%. If your cat is gaining weight and getting too fat, reduce the amount you feed by 10%.

Special Needs

Several factors may mean the amount you should feed your cat might change;

  • Body Condition Score
  • Activity
  • Life stage
  • Breed

What is Body Condition Score?

Body Condition Score (BCS) is a way of assessing whether your cat is at an optimal weight. Sadly, many cats are overweight (up to 60% of cats!), leading to diseases such as diabetes and arthritis. [5] [6]

A cat in ideal body condition should have a visible waist, and you should be able to feel its ribs.

If you can see your cat’s ribs and its backbone feels knobbly, kitty is too thin, and the amount you feed should increase.

If you cannot feel your cat’s ribs, and it has a rounded shape from above and from the side, kitty is overweight, and the amount you feed needs to be reduced.

Refer to the chart below to assess your cats BCS. If you need help with scoring your cat, or if you are concerned your cat’s body condition score is too low or too high, discuss this with your veterinarian at kitty’s next health check.

IMPORTANT Pro Tip

If your cats Body Condition Score is less than 3, increase the amount fed by 10%. If your cats Body Condition Score is more than 3, decrease the amount fed by 10%. Review this every few weeks.

Body Condition Score Chart

body condition score

Source: https://icatcare.org/sites/default/files/kcfinder/images/body%26muscle-condition-scores.png

Breed Specific Feeding Requirements

You may be wondering if large cat breeds like the Maine Coon, might have a bigger calorie requirement than smaller cats. Or maybe your super active Abyssinian might have greater energy requirements than a lazy moggy?

The good news is, you can still use the same calculations we have used, as they are based on body weight. It is still important to monitor weight and body condition score and adjust for the individual cat’s needs.

Age, Life Stages, and Lifestyle Factor Calculations

Remember how active kittens are, especially at bed time when they are racing up the curtains. Kittens have greater calorie needs than an adult cat…they are busy and growing!

Momma cats feeding kittens, and breeding cats, have greater energy needs than adult neutered cats.

If your cat falls into these categories, then we use the lifestyle factor to allow for this.

Multiply the Calorie calculation by 2.5 for kittens and queens who are feeding kittens.

Super active adults may need their Calorie needs multiplied by a lifestyle factor of 1.5-2.

The bottom line is simple…start with the best calculation you can for your cat, and then MONITOR their weight and adjust accordingly.

Congratulations!

Well done on making your way through this article – there was a lot of technical information in here. Now you should know the answer to the age old question of “How much should I feed my cat?”.

The good news is this: the dedication you have shown reading through this and working out a feeding guide for your cat tells me you are doing everything possible to keep your fur family happy and healthy!

Remember, if your cat continues to gain or lose weight when it shouldn’t be, a veterinary check is recommended.

References

[1] Average Calorie content calculated from listings on www.chewy.com

[2] https://www.aaha.org/public_documents/professional/guidelines/weight_management_guidelines.pdf

[3] http://veterinaryteam.dvm360.com/calculate-perfect-portions-pets?pageID=2

[4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24492545

[5] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8087161

[6] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5775588/

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Dr. Alison Pickering BVSc MVSc (Dist)
 

Dr Alison is a Kiwi veterinarian with over 20 years experience working with companion animals. She has a special interest in working with cats, and is an advocate of the Cat Friendly Clinic initiative; making vet visits less stressful and providing excellence in the care of our feline patients. She has taught at the Massey University Vet School (NZ), and has also volunteered for several Pacific Island Animal charities, providing veterinary care and supplies to animals in need. Website

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 2 comments
Michelle - November 13, 2018

I have a 5 year old MAine Coon cat. He weighs 16 pounds. He also is pretty long. He seems to have a huge appetite! I have 3 cats total and feed them all a can of wet food in the morning. They do have dry food sitting out throughout the day as well. At 5 pm, I split 1 can of wet cat food amongst the 3. It’s the small cans so what they do get at night isn’t much. The Maine coon goobles his food fast and than wants to eat the other cats food.

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Angela Riddle - January 15, 2019

Wow! This is a particularly informative, easy to follow article, even for the uninitiated. As a multiple cat owner, I will be taking full advantage and printing out the entire content for future reference. I’m sure I will be wanting to refer back from time to time. Thank you from the feline and feline owner’s point of view,
Angela Riddle.

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