Feed your cat too little and he won't maintain good health. Feed him too much and he'll put on weight. Are you struggling to find the right way to feed your cat? Many pet parents are but feeding your cat right needn't be complicated. Let's go through a few key concepts in creating a feeding plan that works for you and your cat.
1. Feed an age-appropriate cat food
The caloric and nutritional requirements of a growing kitten and a senior cat are very different. Growing kittens will require more nutrients per pound of body weight to support their growth than do adult cats. The best way to feed a cat is to give age-appropriate meals, with the right balance of nutrients. Regardless of the type of cat food – dry, wet, raw, or cooked – choose cat food according to your cat’s age.
Kitten formulas are often enriched to support their growth. Take for example this Wellness Complete Health Grain Free Kitten Deboned Chicken & Chicken Meal Dry Cat Food which contains added DHA from salmon oil to support brain and eye development. There are plenty of dry cat food choices available and the best dry cat food for kittens is carefully formulated and enriched with the necessary nutrients to support the kittens’ growth.
Senior cats do best with lower caloric, higher protein meals. Older cats are less physically active. As such, there’s a tendency for them to put on weight. Just like elderly humans, older cats may suffer from poor digestion too. For these elderly cats, wet cat food is often the better choice as it’s lower in energy density (calories) and easier to digest than dry cat food. Wet can food contains 70% water, and water does not provide calories. The Ciao Tsurun Cup Tuna with Scallop Flavour Pudding Wet Cat Food is one of the best wet cat food options for older cats who have a weaker digestive system and difficulties in consuming their daily meals. It comes with jelly, for easier digestion and nutrient absorption.
2. Frequency of feeding depends on the cat’s age
When it comes to the feeding frequency, kittens require more food to support their growth and therefore should be fed more often throughout the day. Growing kittens up to six months old will require three to four meals a day. After six months, most cats will do well when fed once or twice daily.
You might be wondering if free feeding is an acceptable method. Free feeding is when you fill a cat bowl and leave it out for your pet, allowing him to eat as much as he chooses when he chooses to. This method works best with dry foods since they do not spoil as quickly as wet foods.
It's fine for young kittens to free feed as they often require more food to support their growth. However, for senior cats, free feeding can lead to overeating and obesity.
Here are the advantages and disadvantages of free feeding.
Advantages: Your cat can eat multiple small meals per day on their own schedule and you don’t have to worry about a fixed feeding schedule.
Disadvantages: Free feeding can lead to overeating and obesity, especially if the amount of food is not limited. To prevent your cat from overeating, measure the amount of food for the day. When the food is gone, don't fill it back up until the next day.
Busy cat parents can consider using a cat food dispenser or an automatic cat feeder like this PETKIT FRESH ELEMENT SOLO 3.0L Smart Pet Feeder. It works with multiple types of food - dry, air-dried, freeze-dried and is also compatible with the smartphone PETKIT app. With the PETKIT app, you can schedule feeding times and monitor the device/food status remotely, all on your smartphone.
3. Be a weight watcher
One of the common questions we get from new cat parents is “How much should I feed my cat?”. There’s no hard-and-fast rule but the feeding guide provided by the cat food manufacturer is a good start.
Follow the feeding guide provided and monitor your cat’s progress, especially his weight. A chubby cat will require less food. A 10% reduction would usually do the trick. If your cat is on the other end of the spectrum and seems to be getting too lean, increase the amount of food. Again, start with a 10% increment.
Every cat is an individual. You could be feeding the same cat food to two different cats of the same life stage and still get very different results from them. Adjust the amount of food according to the cat’s progress. If your cat is not responding positively to the change – he continues to put on or lose weight – please consult your vet soonest possible as there may be other underlying health issues.
4. Feed according to your cat’s health
A cat suffering from a certain health condition may require specialised cat food (also known as a prescription diet) to help manage his health condition. Work closely with your vet on the diet that will benefit your cat most with his health condition. The type of cat food, frequency of meals, and amount of food offered must be based on the cat’s health status.
5. Feed a nutritionally complete and balanced meal
It is important to realize that homemade cat food does not always mean “healthy” if the meal is not nutritionally balanced. Many pet parents are resorting to preparing their own pet food but failed to balance the meal with the correct amount of amino acids, vitamins, and minerals. There are plenty of pet food recipes available online but not all are nutritionally balanced. It is important to follow a recipe from a reputable source.
Plenty of cat parents wish to feed their cats fresh cooked or raw food. Thus, the rise in homemade pet foods. Pet parents wishing to homemade their cat food should take time to find a nutritionally balanced recipe. Otherwise, the safer choice is to feed a commercially prepared fresh diet that has been carefully formulated to be nutritionally complete and balanced.
Fresh diets can be cooked or raw and are sold frozen. Here is the list of frozen cat food on our website. Thaw the food before feeding. Do take note that frozen food must be stored “frozen” to prevent spoilage. Thaw only what is needed for the day’s feeding.
A good alternative to frozen cat food is freeze-dried cat food. Freeze-dried cat food, like this Primal Freeze-Dried Nuggets Chicken and Salmon Formula Cat Food offer the convenience and benefits of a well-balanced, safe and wholesome raw-food diet. The freeze-drying process has removed most of the moisture content of the raw food, making the food shelf-stable. The raw food can now be stored at room temperature and all you need to do is to scoop and serve.
6. Store cat food correctly to retain freshness and prevent spoilage
To prevent unnecessary exposure to air and humidity, which can rapidly degrade food and increase risk of bacterial contamination, pet food should be sealed in a food-grade container.
For dry cat food, it is best to keep the food in the original bag. Place the whole bag in a food-grade plastic container like this Stefanplast Premium Air Tight Food Container For Dogs & Cats. For wet cat food, once the can is opened, any unfinished food must be transferred to a lidded container and kept in the fridge for not more than 7 days.
Technically, dry cat food can be left in your cat’s bowl indefinitely, but we do not recommend doing so. We recommend that your cat’s food bowl be washed and filled fresh each day. Fresh or wet cat food should not be left in your cat’s bowl for more than 4 hours. Your pet’s bowl should be emptied of unfinished fresh or wet cat food within 4 hours, and thoroughly cleaned before the next feeding.
Finally, monitor your cat's health for signs of nutritional deficiencies or other dietary issues like food allergies. Watch his weight, coat, and activity level. Constant low energy, changes in weight, dandruff, or greasy coat may be signs of food allergies or nutritional deficiencies. In these situations, a change in diet is often necessary. Do consult with your veterinarian if you suspect other underlying health conditions. Your vet will be able to rule out any health issues and assist with the required dietary adjustments.
Katherine is a Pet Nutrition Specialist and GDP’s Pet Wellness Advisor. She is committed to helping pet owners make informed dietary and lifestyle choices in nurturing healthy pets. Katherine is also a practicing Nutritional Therapist (human nutrition) and has been helping hundreds of clients to heal naturally with nutrients.