By Jennifer Copley (Last Updated 18 December 2011)
How Much to Feed a Kitten
Wellness Core, a premium high-protein cat food, recommends the following daily portions for kittens of various ages:
- 1–2 months: 1/4–1/3 cup dry food only or ¼ cup dry + 1 3-ounce can wet food
- 2–6 months: 1/3–3/4 cup dry food only or ½ cup dry + 1 3-ounce can wet food
- 6–12 months: 3/4–1 cup dry food only or ¾ cup dry + 1 3-ounce can wet food
For IAMS Proactive Health Kitten Formula, a canned wet food, feeding guidelines are 1/4–3/4 can each day for every pound of body weight until kittens reach 7 months, after which they should receive 1/4–1/2 can per pound of body weight. Kittens are usually around 2 pounds or a little less at about 8 weeks of age, so they would start at anywhere from 1/2–1 1/2 cans of IAMS food per day.
Because kittens are active and growing rapidly, many cat experts recommend making food available to them at all times and letting them eat as much as they want.
How Much to Feed an Adult Cat
When reading the following sample feeding guidelines for adult cats, keep in mind that cats that are large but not fat will need a little more, and obese cats require a more restricted diet to bring them down to a healthy weight. Also, the ideal amount of food for an adult cat varies based on whether the cat is active or inactive, and whether it has been spayed or neutered (according to veterinarian Susan Little, altered adult cats usually require approximately 1/4–1/3 less food than unfixed cats).
For Wellness Core, the recommended daily amounts for adult cats are based on body weight:
- 4–7 pounds: 1/4–1/2 cup dry food only or 1/4 cup dry + 1 3-ounce can of wet food
- 7–10 pounds: 1/2–2/3 cup dry food only or 1/2 cup dry + 1 3-ounce can of wet food
- 10–15 pounds: 2/3–3/4 cup dry food only or 3/4 cup dry + 1 3-ounce can of wet food
For Castor & Pollux’s ORGANIX Feline Adult and Kitten Formula, a dry food made with free-range chicken, the guidelines for daily feeding of adult cats are also by weight:
- 6–8 pounds: 1/3–1/2 cup
- 8–10 pounds: 1/2–3/4 cup
- 10–12 pounds: 2/3–3/4 cup
- 12–15 pounds: 3/4–1 cup
Blue Buffalo Wilderness canned cat food directions suggest feeding 2 3-ounce cans per day for every 6–8 pounds of body weight.
How Much to Feed a Pregnant or Nursing Cat
Cats in the late stages of pregnancy and those that are nursing kittens require more calories.
Switching the mother cat to kitten food during late pregnancy and while nursing is recommended, as foods formulated for kittens are higher in calories and protein.
According to Dr. Dawn Rubin of PetPlace.com, in the last 4–6 weeks of pregnancy, a cat’s caloric needs will increase by approximately 50%–100%. That means if she was eating 1 cup of food per day, she’ll need around 1 1/2–2 cups.
During the last few weeks of her pregnancy, a queen should be allowed to eat as much food as she wants as long as she is not becoming obese. Don’t be alarmed if she eats little or stops eating altogether a day or two before giving birth – this is normal.
According to Dr. Ron Hines, nursing mothers need up to 3 times as much food as active adult cats that are not pregnant or nursing. Ideally, nursing moms should have food available at all times.
How Much to Feed a Senior Cat
Senior cats often have special nutritional needs. They are more prone to being either obese or underweight than young adults, and some have medical issues. Consulting a veterinarian about diet is recommended in order to customize portions to a senior cat’s special needs.
Cat Feeding Guidelines Are Estimates Only
Like people, some cats have faster metabolisms than others. A cat that requests more food than the standard portions and doesn’t become overweight should be fed higher portions, whereas a cat that gains excessive weight on standard portions may require a lighter diet.
Keep in mind also that some cat foods are more nutritious than others. High-carbohydrate diets cause health problems in cats, whereas high-protein diets promote optimal health. Premium cat foods tend to be higher in protein. Cheap bargain brands, by contrast, are often loaded with high-carbohydrate fillers, which means that cats need to eat more to feel satisfied, and may become obese as a result.
For answers to common questions about feeding cats and kittens, visit the Cat Food page.
For a full list of cat articles, see the main Cats page.
- Hines, Ron. (2009). “What Should I Feed My Cat.” 2ndChance.info/catfood.htm.
- Little, Susan. (2004). “Early Age Altering of Kittens.” The Winn Feline Foundation, WinnFelineHealth.org.
- Ruben, Dawn. (2010). “Feeding the Pregnant Cat.” PetPlace.com.