What's the Best Way to Feed a Cat?

Feeding a cat

Reviewed by Dr. Katie Reed

Cats are carnivores, and they are born hunters. Despite moving inside and sharing our homes with us, cats’ need for protein and their hunting instinct haven’t changed.

The amount of food and frequency of meals you feed your cat depend on his/her age, health, and preferences. By establishing a regular feeding routine, including the right amount of the right food, you can help keep your cat in good health.

Here are four components of an ideal feeding routine for your cat.

Consider Age and Health Requirements

To support their growth, kittens require more food per pound of body weight than adult cats. Kittens may need three meals a day up to 6 months of age. From the age of 6 months to 1 year and beyond, young and adult cats do well being fed once or twice a day. Senior cats (age 7+) can maintain this same routine.

A variety of health issues can influence your feeding strategy, including:

  • Diabetes -- Feeding times may need to revolve around insulin administration
  • Urinary Tract Problems -- Treatment for your cat’s urinary condition will frequently involve nutritional modification
  • Obesity -- Helping your cat lose weight may mean switching to a cat food formulated for healthy weight loss

Consult with your veterinarian on the best feeding strategy for your cat’s age and health concerns.

Control Daily Intake

Obesity is a serious health concern for our pets. The number of overweight cats has spiked 169% from 2006 to 2016. Therefore, an important part of feeding your cat is controlling their daily food intake.

Free feeding -- having food available at all times -- may work for cats who can exercise self-control. But if it doesn’t work, free feeding can lead to weight gain and obesity.

Alternatively, meal feeding provides your cat with food at specific meal times. You can better monitor your cat’s food intake and more easily tell if your cat has a poor appetite (which could indicate other health problems).

Avoid Human Foods

Cats are not like small dogs and they are not like people. Cats have specific nutritional requirements and a unique metabolism. Feeding your cat a high-quality cat food ensures that your cat will get the vitamins and minerals he/she needs.

Also, it may surprise you to learn that cats are often lactose intolerant! Milk does not make a good treat for cats. Aside from dairy, foods such as chocolate and onions can be toxic to cats. It’s easier to avoid giving your cat human foods altogether.

Always Provide Clean, Fresh Water

Water is a critical nutrient in your cat’s diet, helping to regulate body temperature, digest food, and more. If your cat is prone to urinary tract blockages, water is especially important.

Cats can be finicky drinkers, so you may need to encourage your cat to drink. Try a water fountain-style bowl to make drinking water more enticing.

Learn more about feeding your cat from our friends at Royal Canin:

Have questions about developing the best feeding routine for your cat? Call Badger Veterinary Hospital today and schedule an appointment to discuss your cat’s diet.

Image Source: Pixabay