Your new bundle of fur seems to have quite an appetite, but is she eating the right amount? Once weaned from Mom, it’s up to you to see that she gets enough nutrition, but doesn’t overeat and become a fat cat.
Because their tummies are so small, kittens from about 6 to 12 weeks of age should be fed four times a day to make sure they get all the nutrition they need for growth. At about 12 weeks, you can start feeding her three times a day, then at about 6 months, twice a day is sufficient. Once your cat reaches about one year, you can continue feeding her twice a day, or you can switch to once a day if that’s more convenient for you. Free-feeding dry food is okay for kittens, but is not recommended for adult cats. If you choose canned food, refrigerate what you don’t use, and throw out leftovers she didn't eat.
Amount for Kittens
Kittens need more food per pound of body weight than adult cats because much of what they consume supports growth. Use the feeding guidelines on the label as starting point, but remember to monitor her weight and adjust accordingly. Consult your vet as to how much weight she should be gaining based on your baby’s breed and size. Typical dry food guidelines suggest ¼ to 1/3 cup at each feeding up to about eight weeks of age, then about 1/3 to ¾ cup at each feeding up to about six months of age. If you’re feeding her canned food, feed her as much as she will eat up to about four months of age, divided into three or four feedings per day. Consider the activity level of your kitten, as well. From four to six months, feed her about 2/3 of a 3-oz. can per pound of body weight per day, and from six months to a year, about half a 3-oz. can per pound per day.
Amount for Adult Cats
Catster reports that a healthy, active 8-lb. adult cat should consume about 30 calories per pound per day, or about 240 calories per day. On average, dry food contains about 300 calories per cup, and canned food has about 125 calories per 3 ounces. So, an 8-lb. cat needs about 4/5 cup dry food or just under 6 ounces of canned food per day. These are only averages, as cats can vary greatly in their nutritional needs. Consider her activity level, and consult your vet to help determine her healthy weight. Always consult an experienced veterinarian regarding the health and treatment of your pet.
Cats are carnivores, so make sure you choose a food that supplies enough protein. Cats need taurine to thrive, which is found primarily in muscle-based meats. Whether you feed her dry food, canned food or both is up to you, but if you choose dry food, make sure she gets enough fresh water since she won’t be getting if from her food. A high-quality commercial food of either type will supply the nutrients she needs. The Association of American Feed Control Officials recommend a minimum of 26 percent protein in dry food for adult cats, and many vets recommend 35 to 45 percent. Growing kittens need more protein that adults.
Leslie Darling has been a writer since 2003, writing regularly for "Mississippi Magazine" and "South Mississippi Living," specializing in food and wine, animals and pets, and all things Southern. She is a graduate of the University of New Orleans.