How Much Wet and Dry Food Should I Feed My Kitten, Adult, or Senior Cat?
Whether in behavior, appearance, or diet, our cats are as unique as we, their owners, are. However, while behavior and appearance are largely ingrained, a cat’s diet often depends entirely on the whims of its pet parent. Outdoor cats have the potential for more variety, but indoor cats get what we feed them and nothing more or less. As such, what you feed your indoor cat is critical to your furry friend’s health.
In our article here we covered the best wet and dry foods for your feline. So in this one, we’ll focus on how much and how often.
How much you should feed your kitty will depend on its age and overall health as well as its breed.
How Much And How Often To Feed Kittens
It makes sense that kittens need more food per pound of body weight because they’re growing and need that vital nourishment to fuel their developing bodies. All that pouncing and exploring requires energy!
According to Francis Kallfelz, DVM, Ph.D., board certified by the American College of Veterinary Nutrition and James Law professor of nutrition at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, kittens up to about six months of age need a minimum of three meals a day. Their tummies are small, so they can only eat so much at one time. Plus, just like little kids who like to snack, so do kittens.
It’s important for kittens to have both dry and wet food, because very small kittens have a matching set of teeth and can’t get their tiny canines around kibble just yet. If that’s all they’re fed, they may become malnourished because they can’t eat the quantity of food they need and/or give up eating because food isn’t an easy, pleasant experience. And avoiding food for as little as twelve hours can severely harm a kitten, even causing death.
Kitty vitamins help ensure babies grow up healthy and fully develop their potential.
Automatic feeders are ideal for cats whose age or breed requires frequent meals of small portions.
Very Young Kittens (Newborns Up To Approx. 4 Weeks)
Young kittens do best with their mother’s milk. It provides all the nutrients they need to get a great start in life. But if you find yourself with a kitty that hasn’t been weaned yet or whose mother can’t feed it, you’ll need a commercial milk replacement for kitty.
According to Banfield Pet hospital, typical guidelines for commercial milk replacements suggest 30 ml per .5 lbs of body weight in a 24-hour period.
As an example, a one-week-old kitten weighing ½ pound will need 30 mls of formula per day. Divide that by eight feedings and you get about 4 mls per feeding.
As you can see, feeding newborns is far more complicated than feeding slightly older kittens. So it is extremely important, as soon as you acquire a newborn kitten who may not have a mom or whose mom may not be able to produce enough milk for it, that you immediately seek out a vet’s advice. This will ensure your tiny kitty gets everything it needs at this most crucial stage of its young life.
Guidelines vary on when to start kittens on solid food, but generally the suggested age is somewhere between four and six weeks.
Kittens (From Approx. 4 Weeks To 6 Months)
All commercial kitten foods have feeding guidelines printed on the labels. Not all pet parents choose to follow these. Your kitty may be more active than most, so it may need more calories in a day. Or your kitty could have special health needs. It’s important to feed based both on your knowledge of your pet and your vet’s recommendations.
Typical dry food guidelines (typically based on a kitten’s estimated weight at a certain age):
- 1/4 to 1/3 cup per feeding up to about 8 wks.
- 1/3 cup to 3/4 cup per feeding up to 6 months and beyond, depending on weight
Typical wet food guidelines (kittens can start to eat wet food much earlier than dry):
- 2/3 of a 3-oz can per pound of body weight per day up to six months
Kittens (From 6 Months To Adulthood)
Though kittens are not adults at six months, they can largely be fed an adult diet, albeit supplemented with appropriate with kitty vitamins and any kitten foods your vet continues to recommend.
According to Cornell University’s Dr. Francis Kallfelz, most cats ages six months and up can be fed twice a day. At this point, guidelines are almost always given by weight on cat food labels. A typical six-month-old kitten might weigh around 5 – 7 lbs, just as a rough estimate. Again, this will depend on breed, activity level, etc.
Typical dry food guidelines:
- 5 lbs – 9 lbs – feed 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup daily, divided into at least two meals
Typical wet food guidelines:
- 5 lbs – 9 lbs Feed 1 can per 3 to 3-1/2 lbs. body weight daily. This should be divided into several meals a day.
How Much And How Often To Feed Adult Cats
Cats are considered adults at roughly the 8-12 month mark. For this section, we’ll be going from about age 1 to age 7. Feeding guidelines are measured by weight, as per breed, health, etc.
The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention provides a handy chart for average adult cat weights, including several of the larger breeds, which will need more calories:
- Domestic Cat: 8-10 lbs.
- Persian: 7-12 lbs.
- Siamese: 5-10 lbs.
- Maine Coon: 10-25 lbs.
Typical dry food guidelines:
- 5 lbs – 9 lbs – feed 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup daily (some pet owners divide into several meals. Others prefer once a day. Still others free feed.)
- 10 – 14 lbs – feed 3/4 cup to 1 cup daily
- Larger cats will have larger caloric needs and you’ll need to consult with your vet
Typical wet food guidelines:
- 3/4 to 1 oz per pound of body weight daily, divided into several meals
How Much And How Often To Feed Senior Cats
Senior cats (think about 8 years or older, depending on the breed) will follow an adult cat diet, but age and the illnesses that often come with it, along with metabolism changes, may cause your cat’s appetite to decline. As your cat ages, make sure you’re taking it for regular checkups and are asking the vet questions about nutrition to ensure your senior kitty continues to thrive in its golden years.
Feeding Guidelines for Larger Cats
Larger cats naturally need more food and the best thing to do is to consult with your vet. Unique breeds often have specific nutritional requirements and need additional supplements. However, a few rules of thumbs for three of the biggest breeds, which have special nutritional needs, are helpful.
Maine Coon kittens reach maturity at a different, later stage than other breeds, so some veterinarians suggest keep Maine Coon kitties on kitten food for a longer time, with suggestions ranging from transitioning to adult food from 4-5 months to 9 months.
Ragdolls grow extremely fast, not necessarily consistently. They may gain weight in spurts, even up to 2 lbs a month, level off, and then gain weight again a while later. Because of this, following usual feeding guidelines for cats is not recommended. At some stages your Ragdoll will need a lot of calories and at other stages if you aren’t flexible with feeding, your kitty could become malnourished.
Another point to consider when it comes to Ragdolls is that, genetically, they have a fat pad on their tummies. You might mistake that natural tummy for a cat that is well fed when in reality your kitty needs more calories. Always consult a vet.
Free feeding – providing unlimited access to dry food – and/or using a self-feeder is recommended, as is feeding a little more wet food than they can quite consume so you always know they’re full when they’ve finished.
British Shorthairs have longer jaws, which can make consuming regular-sized kibble difficult. Royal Canin makes Amethyst 12, a dry food that is larger and has a unique shape, making it easier for British Shorthairs to consume.
How Cat Health Affects Feeding
Some cats, which are suffering from diseases, will need special care when it comes to feeding. Diabetic cats, for instance, will need fewer carbohydrates in their diet, which may then need to be balanced with insulin. Cats with pancreatitis, thyroid disease, or dental problems, are other examples of medical conditions that will affect what you feed your feline and in what quantity.
In the end, ensuring your beloved furball is healthy from the very beginning of its life all the way into its golden years, is largely contingent on great nutrition. Choose high quality food, provide clean, fresh water every single day, and spend time getting to know your kitty. Find a vet whom you trust, who can follow your feline throughout its life. Ask questions and do your research.
One great resource is our Guide To The Best Cat Food of 2018. These reviews of the top wet and dry cat foods will help you on your way to keeping your kitties in peak health for many happy, active, affectionate years!