Have you ever had your cat relentlessly bother you until you feed them, only to take two bites of their food and walk away? Cat owners everywhere are nodding. It’s hard to know just what your cat wants when it comes to their food, what they need for their growth and health, and how to make sense of the nutrition labels on the back of a cat food can. Have you ever wondered how many pouches to feed a cat a day?
Cats should be fed 2 to 4 pouches each day. Cats need a specific combination of nutrients in their food to keep them healthy and match their activity levels. Each cat is unique in their needs. Your cat’s diet will depend on nutrients, calories, health, exercise levels, weight, age, and environment.
The cat food aisle is an overwhelming series of choices. In this post, we’ll look at the questions that might come up when you’re trying to narrow down the meal that will make your cat happy and healthy! You’ll learn how to calculate your cat’s food intake and other factors to help portion food consistently.
How Do I Find The Right Nutritious Food For My Cat
This part is, shall we say, a little complicated.
If you look at the back of a can of cat food, you’ll see the ingredients listed the same way they are on human food: by weight, most to least. However, the way this weight is distributed in cat food varies from wet to dry food because of the moisture or lack thereof.
To get to the bottom line, you need to look at the Guaranteed Analysis, which gives you the amounts of the following:
- crude protein
Without understanding those key components, your cat may not be getting enough of what they actually need in their food. Food is more than just about flavor!
In addition to those components, additional calculations are required to find the content of the food as it relates to nutritional recommendations.
So you have a couple of choices. If you like math, whip out your phone calculator and use the info found here to calculate the nutrients you’re looking at. If you’re not a math person, you can use the tool located here to do the calculations.
There’s a reason your outdoor kitty brings you “gifts” of dead mice and birds, and why they love to go “fishing.” Felines are carnivores, and they crave protein. They may be able to stomach tiny amounts of dairy as a treat, but their bodies are not built to process dairy and vegetable matter. The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) recommends a diet of at least 26% protein for cats, but most cat foods contain more.
As a general rule, if you have a larger cat, you’ll want to purchase cat food that is higher in crude protein.
Cats also derive much of their diet from fat. Fats from animal products create energy, which is essential for an active and healthy feline. Fatty acids also help the cat develop a healthy coat. The minimum recommendation for fat in a cat’s diet is 9%, but much like protein, cat foods tend to have a higher amount. This is not something to be concerned about, as the fat is likely coming from the animal proteins in the food.
Vitamins and minerals
Vitamins and minerals in a cat’s diet supplement healthy bodies and boost nutritional needs. Just like in humans, vitamins serve many preventative purposes and support functions such as vision (Vitamin A), bone health (Vitamin D), heart health (Vitamin E), blood health (Vitamin K, and B12), skin (Vitamin B2), and more. The good news is that nearly all cat foods come with a robust collection of vitamins necessary for your cat’s daily needs.
If your cat is experiencing a health problem, is pregnant or lactating, or is over or underweight, your vet may recommend supplements, which can be found at pet stores or online in treat form, enhanced to make them taste better.
Ingredients to stay away from
Making sure your cat food isn’t bad for your cat goes back to reading the label. In general, byproducts are not terrible, as they tend to provide supplemental protein. Neither are grains and carbohydrates in very small amounts. If these things appear further down in the ingredient list, you don’t have to be concerned. If they appear higher up, alongside proteins and fats, pick something else.
Do Calories Matter In Cat Food
Like humans, calories are an essential factor in maintaining a healthy weight and body for a cat. If you like math, here’s some more fun for you! Cat foods list the kilocalories, or kcals, on the can. This article gives details on how to calculate kcals to regular calories.
How Many Calories Should I Feed My Cat
On average, cats should eat between 20 – 35 calories per pound of weight. The number can be higher depending if they re an indoor cat or outdoor cats. Outdoor cats will need to eat more calories to account for their exercise levels.
So for example, if you own an 18 pound Maine Coon cat, you would need to feed them between 360 – 630 calories of food for their weight.
Below is a Cat Feeding Chart By Weight And Calories:
|Cat Weight||Daily Calories Required|
|5 lbs||50 calories|
|6 lbs||60 calories|
|7 lbs||70 calories|
|8 lbs||80 calories|
|10 lbs||100 calories|
|12 lbs||120 calories|
|15 lbs||150 calories|
|18 lbs||180 calories|
|20 lbs||200 calories|
This is not an exact science though, and every cat has different needs. Your veterinarian can help you answer this question for your cat. However, you can also use this helpful calculator to determine the right amount of calories for your feline depending on their size and determine how much to add or subtract if the cat needs to adjust its weight. This chart also helps you find calories in many typical cat foods.
What’s Better: Wet Food Or Dry Food
Many cats are not content to be fed only twice a day. Some get very worried if they don’t see food available at all times! (And if a cat is scared, its human will suffer until things are made right!) Many cat owners turn to dry food for “free feeding” since it doesn’t spoil throughout the day like wet food.
Dry food generally has a slightly lower nutritional value than wet food, and quality dry products will still have the recommended healthy amount of nutrients for your cat. The big difference between benefits, however, is the moisture content.
You may be wondering if cats can live on dry food only. Cats can live on dry food only, but it is not the most nutritional food available.
Since cats are desert animals, their bodies are meant to hold water from their diets. This means they do not naturally drink a lot of water from a bowl-like dog do. A cat that is drinking a lot of water may be dehydrated. This is where wet foods come into play as being a better overall choice for your cat. The moisture content helps them stay hydrated in a way that is natural for their species. Dehydration can lead to urinary problems, which are common in cats, especially as they age.
Overall, it’s good to feed your cat wet food when you can or take their dry food and slightly moisten it. However, leaving nutritious dry food out during the day can help your cat have snacks available, and maintain their peace of mind that the food won’t run out. If you only have access to dry food, your cat will be fine as long as you also make sure they also have plenty of fresh water to avoid dehydration.
Can I Feed My Cat Homemade Food
Homemade foods can be very nutritious for cats, but you must create a mixture with the right percentages of crude protein, fat, vitamins, minerals, and moisture. There are a couple of helpful online tools that help you build a diet for your cat if you’d prefer to make their food yourself.
It is important to note that homemade foods should still be cooked. Raw foods are not backed by veterinary professionals, as they can cause salmonella and other types of poisoning. When making homemade foods, be sure to source all of the ingredients from reputable stores.
The storage of raw foods is extremely important. Cat food should be refrigerated in its own separate compartment, not along with your other foods. If dealing with meats, it’s important to not store cooked meat with raw meat as this can cause cross-contamination. Even if you were to cook the food and then serve it to your cat, they would become extremely sick.
Always check any old food that has been stored for freshness. I like to do a smell test, and then an eye test to see if there is any discoloration. If you don’t feel comfortable making homemade food, stick to store-bought solutions.
How Much And How Often Should I Feed My Cat
If we’ve learned anything by now, figuring out your cat’s feeding needs is pretty complicated. This question adds more layers! When deciding what to feed your cat you must also consider the following:
- Feeding Schedule
Let’s dive into each one of these and see how they affect determining the amount of food you’ll feed your cat.
If you’ve ever had a kitten, you know that they run and play nonstop. Because of this, they typically need to eat at least three times a day. In a cat’s first year of life, it transitions from mother’s milk in the first four to eight weeks to eating canned or dry cat food. Kitten food is specially formulated to help little cats double or triple their body weight and provide plenty of protein and fat to keep them on the move! Be sure to look for kitten formulas in the cat food aisle.
Once a cat reaches one year old, provided the vet says they’re growing properly, they can switch to an adult formula or typical cat food. If your cat is at a healthy weight and does not suffer from any other issues, veterinarians typically recommend twice-daily feeding, with “free feeding” of dry food throughout the day.
By the time your cat is around 12 years old, they may need more adjustments to their diet due to lower activity levels and various health problems that can come to cats as they age. It’s important to discuss your cat’s nutrition with your veterinarian as they comfortably transition into feline senior citizens.
Cats can get overweight reasonably easily and quickly.
If they aren’t active enough, are bored, or don’t have much self-control, they can eat far too much. If a cat is underweight, it’s possible they don’t like their food or are put off by unclean eating areas or bowls. Either way, if your cat is not at an ideal weight, your first stop should be the vet so you can make sure nothing serious is wrong. You should check your cat’s body condition on a regular basis.
To check their bodies you’ll want to look at their underbelly and feel it for any lumps. See if you can see noticeable areas of fat hanging from your cat and also observe their walking patterns. An overweight cat will generally be lethargic.
Likewise, a skinny cat can also be low on energy, and that can be signs of needing to feed your cat even more food. Refer to the calculators earlier in this article. As a general rule, aim to feed your cat 10 times their body weight each day and you should be fine. If you’re not sure, consult your vet!
Cats are indeed picky. They want what they want, and they want it now! Because of this, you may find yourself conforming to your cat’s schedule when they want to eat and whether they feel they’ve been fed the right amount! A bat on the head or a persistent meow will give you all the information you need!
If you have a particular work or life schedule and your cat needs to adjust their feeding accordingly, it can be done. It just may take some time and patience. To get your cat on a schedule that works for both of you, you simply have to feed it on that schedule.
Is it okay to feed a cat 3 times per day? Yes, you can feed your cat 3 times per day or even more if you’d like. How much you feed your cat per feeding session is what really matters. Calculate their daily calorie intake, and then divide the food accordingly.
This sounds easy enough, but as we know, cats are nothing if not persistent. A bit of behavior training can come in handy here. Necessarily, reward good behavior and ignore bad behavior.
If your cat is meowing incessantly or otherwise acting up because they want to be fed, you have to try and ignore it, as long as you know there’s nothing else bothering them. After a few days of realizing their complaints aren’t working, most cats will adapt. It’s also good to give them praise, pets, and maybe even a treat when they do get fed, to help train their circadian rhythms.
What Do I Do If My Cat Needs A Special Diet
Often, cats need to be put on diets to support specific disorders, such as vision issues, diabetes, kidney failure, dental disease, and more. However, just as they are unique in their personalities, cats need specific recommendations for their health issues. While many commercially available cat foods are labeled as solutions for these issues, you should always talk to your vet about diet restrictions or precautions for cats with special needs. Your vet will be able to give you the best recommendations for foods and options for vitamin supplements and feeding regimens.
Why Does My Cat Like Their Food
Of course! After all that, your kitty decides the food does not meet their standards. Fortunately, you probably don’t have to go back to the beginning. There are some easy fixes you can try first.
Try a different flavor
Just like us, individual cats like certain flavors. So while your cat may not be a big fan of the whitefish, they may go nuts for chicken. With a new or very young cat, it’s best to buy a few types of food and do a taste test to see what they prefer.
Some cats will want variety, so don’t throw those other cans away just yet. A cat who dismisses a food one day may soon tire of the flavor they liked before, and that’s the time to see if they want more options on the menu.
Get the food in a different texture
Cats are extremely sensitive to their food textures. This is why you see so many variations available within a brand, such as a pâté, sliced, grilled, flaked, and many more. The texture of the food can make or break whether your cat will touch it, no matter how hungry they are.
Check if the smell sends them running
Cats can have up to 80 olfactory (smell) receptors. So even if they’re starving, they can be put off from their food right away if they don’t like the smell. If your cat has a quick and intense reaction to the food, the scent is to blame.
If none of these is the issue, you may want to try a new brand entirely. If your cat is still not responding to food, there may be an underlying health problem, and the cat should be taken to the veterinarian as soon as possible for help.
Should I Leave Food Out For My Cat At Night
A proper feeding schedule is important for cats. You may be on a tight schedule yourself though and wonder if you should feed your cat at specific times or not.
In general, you should not leave food out for your cat at night. Free feeding is popular for busy pet owners, but it’s not necessarily the best situation for a cat. Cats who can eat as they choose tend to overeat.
Cats can be quite confusing in their eating habits. Finding what they like, in the most nutritious form, given at the right times of day, for their healthiest body, can be a real marathon! The good news is, once cats find the routine they like, they tend to be pleased with it. And after all, for all the joy they bring us, finding them the perfect meal plan is the least we can do!