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How often should I feed my cat?

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Question: How often should I feed my cat?
Answer: There is no quick and easy answer to the frequency with which a given cat or kitten should be fed, as your own home environment will play a large part in how you handle feeding, as well as the type of food a cat eats. For example, a stay-at-home caregiver will be able to feed canned food to kittens or geriatric cats several times a day. On the other hand, a single, working owner or a two-income family will rely more on dry cat food, with early-morning and late-night supplements of canned food.

Frequency to Feed Kittens

Kittens need roughly twice the nutrients of adult cats, for both growth and energy. Obviously, their tummies cannot handle large quantities of food, so much like human babies they need frequent feedings at first, tapering off as they grow. It is important during this time to weigh the kittens regularly, to ensure they are gaining regularly, but not becoming overly fat. Their hunger will usually be a pretty good guideline for determining if they are getting enough nutrition. Note: These guidelines refer to feedings of canned food; dry food will be addressed later.

  • At 6 Weeks: Four or more small feedings, spaced regularly throughout the day.
  • 12 Weeks: Increase the amount of each meal, and gradually space them out to three meals a day.
  • Around 6 Months:You may gradually space out the meals to twice daily.

Adult Cats

Unless a kitten is showing excessive weight gain, he is considered an "adult" at the age of one year, and for the next nine years or so, may be fed adult "maintenance" food twice daily, with supplements of dry food when needed, as listed below.

Dry Food

Dry food is more for the convenience of the caregiver than for the nutritional needs of the cat. This subject is discussed more fully in the article on Canned Cat Food. However, in the past, cats have lived long and happy lives on an exclusive diet of dry foods, and for working caregivers, adult cats may be fed a meal of canned food morning and night, with dry food left out for "grazing."

Geriatric and Special Needs Cats

Older cats and cats with conditions requiring specific dietary needs may need to be fed more often. It is best with these cats to follow your veterinarian's directions for feeding, both to schedule and type of food.

For more information on cat food and nutrition, see the side bar under "Suggested Reading."

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