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How Many Times a Day Should I Feed My Cat?

It seems that some of us cat owners are feeding our cats more food or more often than we should. According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, 58 percent of U.S. cats are obese. The same study found that more than 90 percent of cat owners didn’t recognize that their cat was obese. Obesity is a risk factor in urinary tract and bladder disease in cats and can end their lives early. So how many times a day should we be feeding our cats?

How Old is Your Cat?

Firstly, the amount of food your cat needs depends upon his or her age. Kittens, naturally, need more food per pound of body weight, as they are still growing. Veterinarians say that kittens under six months of age should be fed three times per day. Pregnant and nursing cats, also, need to eat more food than regular adult cats.

Once a cat reaches age six months, however, until the end of her life, the feeding schedule should change. Cats from age six months and up only need to eat two times per day. Some veterinarians suggest that cats over age seven only need to eat once a day. The amount of food you’re feeding each time you feed your cat matters too.

How Much Food are You Feeding Your Cat?

The amount of food to feed your cat depends upon many factors, including your cat’s age and weight, as well as the type of food you’re feeding her, her activity level, and whether she’s pregnant or nursing.

The average cat (adult, healthy, about eight pounds) requires 30 calories per pound per day, or 240 calories each day. Dry cat food has 300 calories per cup, so it makes sense that you should feed your cat 2/5 of a cup of dry food twice per day. If you’re feeding canned food, each 6 oz. can contains about 250 calories, so approximately half a can twice per day is good.

When Should I Feed My Cat?

The determination of when to feed your cat is largely based upon your schedule and what you’re feeding her. The most common feeding schedule for cats is once in the morning and once at night.

Free Choice Feeding?

Some cat owners advocate “free choice feeding” their cats. This means they keep dry food available for their cat all day long. This is not recommended by veterinarians, however, as it encourages obesity in cats. If you must free choice feed your cat, make sure to measure out the proper amount of dry food (no more than 4/5 of a cup per day) so that you are sticking to recommended portion sizes. Once that’s gone, don’t supplement with treats or more food, no matter how much your cat cries for more.

Should I Feed My Cat Wet or Dry Food?

Both wet and dry cat food contain nutrients that cats need. If you choose dry food for your cat, make sure it has lots of animal proteins and is low in plant proteins. Wet canned food should contain mostly meat, with few fillers or by-products. Carbohydrates should account for no more than 10 percent of the cat food ingredients, whether it’s wet or dry food. If you only feed your cat dry food, make sure to keep plenty of water available at all times for her to drink. Dry food can lead to urinary tract blockages in cats who don’t drink enough water.

Most cat owners feed a mixture of wet and dry food. Wet food is 70 to 80 percent water and is usually more tempting to cats. Again, be sure to control your cat’s portions, as she is likely to want to eat more of the canned wet food it it’s available to her. You might also choose to mix a bit of wet food in with your cat’s dry food at mealtimes to make the dry food more appealing to your cat. If you do this, remember to keep track of how many calories you’re feeding her.

Health Problems of Obese Cats

Obesity in cats can cause a myriad of health problems and conditions, including:

  • Spine immobility
  • Gall bladder disorders
  • Heart failure
  • High blood pressure
  • Arthritis
  • Asthma
  • Liver disease
  • Diabetes
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Bladder or urinary tract disease

Preventing obesity in cats is easier than trying to put an obese cat on a diet, remember. Stick to portion control and limit treats and you should be able to keep your cat happy, healthy and satiated.

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