How much food should I feed my cat? A guide to purrfect cat meal sizing

Whether you’re a first-time cat parent or have plenty of experience, you must have asked yourself at least once, “How much should I feed my cat?” To live their best nine lives, our furry friends need to eat well because poor quality food and inadequate meal sizing can lead to all sorts of pawful problems.

Do you suspect your kitty’s diet isn’t up to par? Are you tired of fishy brands making fake promises? This article will touch on the:

  • Recommended cat food and proper meal sizing
  • Differences between wet, dry, and raw food
  • Symptoms of an improper diet
  • Problems unbalanced nutrition can cause
  • Main ingredients of a healthy feline diet
  • Signs that your feline is getting the nutrients they need

How much should my cat eat?

Your furry friend’s nutritional needs depend on their:

  • Breed—A Maine Coon or a Ragdoll will need more food throughout the day than a Munchkin or a Siamese
  • Size—You should adjust your cat’s meals depending on their size and weight
  • Age—Kittens eat significantly less than adult cats
  • Activity—Very active breeds, such as the Bengal, require more food throughout the day
  • Pregnancy/nursing period—Cats can carry an entire litter in their belly, and they can eat up to three times more than usual during that period
  • Current weight—Cat parents need to reduce the caloric intake of overweight cats and put a little more food out for felines that are on the skinnier side

Veterinarians and feline specialists recommend 24 to 35 calories a day per pound of body weight for the perfect model figure. With that recommendation in mind, an average adult eight-pound cat would need between 192 and 280 calories per day to stay healthy.

I think my cat is still hungry. What should I do?

If you’re confident that you’re portioning your feline’s meals properly, but they still seem hungry, it might be best to take them to the vet.

Cat feeding guide—wet and dry food serving recommendations

Are you having trouble deciding between wet and dry cat food? We summarised all the pros and cons to help you decide:

Type of food

Pros

Cons

Dry food

  • Has a higher caloric value per gram of food
  • Enables the use of toys and puzzles
  • Is cheaper than wet food
  • Can impact daily water intake. Cats who eat solely dry food can suffer from urinary and digestive problems because of its low moisture content (only 10%)
  • Can contain a substantially high amount of carbohydrates, depending on the brand. If your cat consistently ingests excessive amounts of carbs, they will gain weight and potentially get diabetes

Wet food

  • Helps your feline stay hydrated
  • Has a higher amount of protein and significantly fewer carbohydrates
  • Helps overweight cats lose weight because of the lesser caloric value
  • Enables kittens to transition from formula to solid food easier
  • Is expensive
  • Requires you to buy more servings to meet your feline’s daily caloric intake
  • Spoils if left in the bowl for too long

If you’re still having trouble deciding between the two, think about your cat’s health. Good cat food is a lifetime investment in the health of your best friend.

So close, yet so far… 

Source: Freepik

How much wet food should I feed my cat?

The table below shows the recommended daily intake of wet food based on your furry friend’s age and weight:

Age

Approximate daily intake based on weight

5 lbs

10lbs

15lbs

20lbs

Kitten (from five months)

200 kcal

400 kcal

600 kcal

800 kcal

Adult cat (lean)

170 kcal

280 kcal

360 kcal

440 kcal

Adult cat (overweight)

180 kcal

240 kcal

280 kcal

310 kcal

Nursing/pregnant cat

330 kcal

600 kcal

850 kcal

1090 kcal

Don’t rely strictly on these values—you will figure out by your cat’s behaviour and appearance whether they need more or less food. Make sure not to fall for the hunger cries and communicate with your household members to prevent double breakfasts, lunches, and dinners (your cat isn’t a hobbit, after all).

If I have one paw-full, no one will notice… 

Image (c) Untamed

How much dry food should I feed my cat?

Cats are small, delicate creatures (yes, this applies to Maine Coons, too), so proper food portioning is a big deal. Cats can eat until they’re stuffed, but that would make them rounder than a pufferfish, and that’s why it’s your responsibility to size their meals and keep them healthy.

Here are some pointers for recommended dry food servings based on your cat’s age and weight:

Age

Approximate daily intake based on weight

∼4 lbs

∼6.5 lbs

∼8.8lbs

∼11 lbs

∼13 lbs

Kitten (from five months)

315–420 kcal

450–600 kcal

630–840 kcal

765–1,020 kcal

N/A

Adult cat

N/A

210–240 kcal

240–280 kcal

330–440 kcal

430–580 kcal

Pregnant cat

N/A

N/A

N/A

495–660 kcal

645–870 kcal

What about raw food?

Your cat’s daily raw food intake should equal 4% or around 2g per pound of their healthy body weight. If your cat is on a raw diet (which you shouldn’t switch to before consulting a vet), you should feed them according to these guidelines:

Weight (lbs)

6.6

8.8

11

13.2

15.4

17.6

Daily amount of food (grams)

120

160

200

240

280

320

Kitten feeding guidelines

If you’re taking care of your cat’s babies or an orphan kitten, you should know how to feed them properly! No one can replace a mama cat, but you should try your best to make her babies feel full, happy, and loved when she's not around. Not sure how to take on such a responsibility? Here are some tips on how to bottle feed kittens:

  • Feed kittens:
    • Every two hours if they are less than two weeks old
    • Every three to four hours if they are three to four weeks old
  • Avoid waking up kittens from a deep sleep to eat—they will wake up when they’re hungry
  • Feed weak kittens, petite ones, and those that eat less than the rest of the litter more frequently to help them strengthen
  • Prepare formula by mixing one part formula with two parts water and warming it up to 38°C. If you wonder how much food your kitten should eat, they need two tablespoons of formula per 4 ounces of body weight

You should never:

  • Recline a kitten on its back while feeding
  • Feed kittens cow milk
  • Switch formulas

If a kitten refuses to suckle from a bottle, use a syringe. In case a kitten is nursing on their paws or their brothers and sisters profusely, it can be a sign that they're still hungry.

Kittens can only eat formula until they are three to four weeks old, after which you can slowly introduce wet foods (jelly and gravy) to ease the transition from formula to solid food.

How much food does a cat need (no, really)?

Many people argue that one meal per day is sufficient for cats, but it’s best to distribute their daily caloric intake in several smaller servings. Our furry friends have small stomachs, and consuming all their daily needs in one sitting might cause them to:

  • Gain weight
  • Regurgitate
  • Digest the food much slower than they should and experience:
    • Bloating
    • Stomach discomfort

That being said, cat parents must make sure not to overfeed their fur babies. Feeding your cat slightly more than you should with each serving doesn’t seem like too much of an issue but can cause problems such as weight gain and overeating later on.

Is it lunchtime again, hooman?

Source: ViDIstudio

Symptoms of an inadequate feline diet

Is your cat begging for extras after meals? Sometimes, it’s hard to recognise whether your feline friend is hungry or overstuffing their sensitive tummy. In some cases, increased appetite can be a sign of more severe underlying conditions. Some symptoms can reveal whether your cat is:

  1. Undereating
  2. Overeating
  3. Struggling health-wise

How to recognise when your cat is undereating

If you suspect your cat is hungry or underfed, look out for the following symptoms:

Physical symptoms

Behavioural symptoms

  • Visible:
    • Ribs on shorthaired breeds
    • Spine and hip bones
  • Little to no fat around the belly
  • Bony feel when petting your cat’s head
  • Decreased muscle tone
  • Lack of coordination and balance
  • Seizures
  • Prominent head tilting
  • Fatigue
  • Pawing and clawing mouth because of painful gums and teeth

Cats who are consistently undereating and losing weight might be suffering from one of the following medical issues:

  • Kidney disease
  • Cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Intestinal parasites
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Feline infectious peritonitis

Signs that your cat is overeating

If your feline is overeating, you will notice that they have:

  • Digestive problems such as:
  • Less muscle mass
  • A noticeably larger stomach
  • Excess weight
  • An empty water bowl all the time, indicating increased water intake

Overweight cats typically suffer from:

  • Diabetes
  • Cancer
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Hypertension
  • Heart disease
  • Urinary issues, such as bladder stones

Signs that your feline is struggling health-wise

An increase in appetite in cats can happen for various reasons, including behavioural issues such as overfeeding. Unfortunately, if your cat is overeating, that might be a sign of underlying medical conditions, such as:

  • Poor digestion/nutrient absorption
  • Nutrient deficiency
  • Diabetes
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Excess production of the hormone cortisol, which regulates many primary functions in a cat’s organism
  • Bowel inflammation
  • Tumours

What are other ways an unbalanced diet can manifest?

An unbalanced diet can also cause the following two problems in cats:

  1. Nutrient deficiency
  2. Food allergies

Symptoms of nutrient deficiency

Regardless of how much your furry friend eats, they still might suffer from nutrient deficiency—a lack of protein, vitamins, minerals, and other chemical compounds that are necessary for their well-being. 

Some of the most noticeable symptoms of nutrient deficiency are:

  • Sudden weight loss or gain
  • Dull or rough fur and increased shedding
  • Sudden increase or decrease in energy
  • Inconsistent appetite—your cat switches between eating frenzies and showing no interest in food
  • Skin disorders—rashes, dandruff, open wounds, etc.

Food allergies—how to recognise them

If your kitty is struggling with food allergies, you will notice:

  • Skin problems
  • Recurrent middle ear infections
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Frequent furballs

If you notice any of the symptoms above, take your cat to the vet as soon as possible. Some allergies, if left untreated, can be lethal. The vet will recommend foods you should avoid and a hypoallergenic diet to follow through.

Don’t hesitate on getting professional help

If you notice any abnormalities in your cat’s behaviour, don’t hesitate to ask for professional help. Depending on the condition of your cat and the symptoms you describe, the vet will perform some tests to determine what exactly they are struggling with. Basic tests include:

  • Blood tests
  • Urinalysis
  • Allergy tests (on skin or blood)
  • Stool tests

If any of the tests above come back with alarming results, your cat might have to take an MRI, X-ray, or ultrasound.

After determining if your cat has any underlying conditions, the vet will create a nutritional plan based on your cat’s needs and instruct you on how to follow it properly.

What are the main ingredients of a healthy feline diet?

To keep your kitty healthy and happy, you should strive to include the following nutrients in their diet:

Nutrient

Role in body

Protein and amino acids

  • Provide building blocks for most biological processes and compounds
  • Provide carbon chains that are necessary to make glucose for energy

Fats and fatty acids

  • Carry fat-soluble vitamins across the body
  • Provide twice as much energy as protein and carbohydrates

Vitamins and minerals

Enable the body and immune system to work properly

Carbohydrates

  • Produce building blocks for vitamins and nonessential amino acids
  • Generate heat for the cat during digestion

The right amount will depend on your feline’s preferences and health as well as your budget, but a general rule of thumb is a minimum of:

  • 25% of protein
  • 9% of fats
  • 2% of carbohydrates (but no more than 5%)

How to read food labels like a pro

Food labels can be confusing and often misleading. To ensure your cat gets enough of the nutrients they need, you must learn how to read the contents of cat food.

To better understand the contents of a particular food, you need to analyse it on a dry matter basis—without moisture. Let’s calculate the percentage of a nutrient in a package of cat food:

  1. Find the moisture percentage—around 10% for dry food and 75% for wet food
  2. Subtract that number from 100—the number you’re left with is the percentage of dry matter
  3. Find the percentage of the nutrient you want to look into
  4. Divide the nutrient percentage with the percentage of dry matter and multiply by 100

For example, if a dry food has 40% of protein and 10% of moisture, that means the content of protein in that food is:

40/90 (because 100 - 10% of the moisture is 90) = 0.44*100 = 44.4%

Tips on choosing the right food for your feline

The wording on cat food labels speaks volumes. Did you know that you can determine the amount of an ingredient in a product by only reading its name? Let’s see how it works:

Example name

Words

Amount of the mentioned ingredient

Lamb cat food

No extra words

95–100%

Lamb cat food dinner

  • Platter
  • Dinner
  • Nuggets
  • Entree
  • Recipe

25–95%

Weight control food—lamb flavour

Flavour

0–3%

If multiple ingredients are combined in one meal and feature any of the words above, consider the percentage split equally between the ingredients. For example, lamb and beef cat food dinner would mean the food has no more than around 45% of each meat.

If you have the time, you can prepare food for your furry friend yourself. Cat parents who have extra bucks to spend and want to spoil their beloved companions can opt for small premium brands. Keep in mind that most nutrient-rich food has little flavour, and your cat might reject it.

She wants to cook cat food… send help.

Source: ViDIstudio

Signs that your furry friend is getting the nutrients they need

Once your cat starts getting all the nutrients they need, you will notice the following signs:

Physical signs

Behavioural signs

Smell

  • Bright eyes
  • Soft and shiny coat
  • Healthy shape (no roundness or protruding belly)
  • Clean ears
  • Pink gums
  • Mouth without sores
  • Clean teeth
  • Relaxed posture
  • High energy
  • Frequent and consistent litter box habits
  • High pitched vocalising and purring
  • Playfulness
  • Odourless ears
  • Fresh breath

All nutrients your feline needs in purrfect-size meals

Meal prep can take a lot of time, and while no time is wasted when it comes to our feline companions, there are high-quality cat food options that save you the hassle. Untamed provides that and more! We offer:

  • Steamed human-grade ingredients—Untamed cat food features the best cuts and first-grade ingredients with no additives, artificial colouring, or other harmful contents
  • Exceptional nutritional value—Our labels let you know what to expect in each portion
  • Plenty of optionsChicken, lamb, shrimp, tuna, beef, or duck, we got you covered!
    • Food your cat will go wild for—Our meals are as tasty as they are nutritious!
    • Sustainable packaging—Untamed cat food comes in aluminium tins and cardboard boxes. We strive to make a positive impact on both your kitty and the environment
    • Hypoallergenic meals for sensitive kitties—Our meals feature single-source protein

      How to get your paws on Untamed cat food

      Get your paws on our trial box, which features 12 tins for your furry friend to munch on! Visit our Try Now page and:

      1. Provide details about your kitty, such as their:
        1. Name
        2. Age
        3. Weight
      2. Select:
        1. The number of tins your cat eats daily
        2. Your feline’s food preferences

      Check your email for a recommended plan you can change up whenever and however suits you! When you’re ready, sign up and confirm your order to receive your Untamed Trial Box!

      There is more? And you didn’t tell me?! 

      Image (c) Untamed

      Cats love our meals, and here’s why!

      The benefits of Untamed cat food are visible from day one. Since our meals are designed for cats’ sensitive tummies, your furry friend will find it easier to do the doo-doo, and you will have less work around the litter box.

      Around the two- and four-month landmark, you should look out for:

      • Increase in energy and playfulness
      • Soft and shiny coat
      • Significantly fewer hairballs

      With Untamed cat food, you ensure your kitty stays healthy and the perfect weight for life! So spoil your furry friend—try Untamed now!