Feeding Your Adult Cat: What You Need to Know
Get expert tips for keeping your cat healthy, happy, and well fed.
Canned vs. dry cat food: Which one is better? continued...
“There are a lot of people who believe that cats only need to eat canned
food and will be unhealthy if they eat dry food,” says Larsen, noting
that most cats can do fine on either.
The bottom line? “More research is needed to determine whether wet food is
better,” Bough says.
But the high moisture content in wet food can be beneficial to cats with
urinary tract problems, diabetes, or kidney disease. It can help
compensate for cats’ low thirst drive, which may be partly due to their
evolution as desert animals. More study is needed to confirm whether feeding
wet food can help prevent some of these problems from developing in the first
Higher protein levels more often found in wet food may be of benefit to
strict carnivores like cats, who depend on consuming animals to meet their
nutritional needs and require up to three times the protein of omnivores.
“But you can have a high-protein diet that’s still deficient in essential
amino acids,” says Larsen, citing taurine as an example. “And the same is true
for fats and essential fatty acids. So you need to make sure the subparts are
When and how much food should I feed my adult cat?
Mimicking a trend of many of their owners, one in five cats in
industrialized countries today is obese.
Many factors seem to contribute to this widespread problem, including
inactivity, overfeeding rich foods, and neutering (castrated cats are up to
four times more likely to be obese).
But you can take steps to help manage weight problems, including playing
with your cat and controlling food intake around the time of neutering.
As for feeding times and amounts, here are a few things to keep in mind.
“There are equations you can use to predict the energy needs of a cat,”
Larsen says. But many things -- including climate, activity, and the cat's
metabolism -- affect that.
You can simply evaluate your own cat by looking at his or her silhouette and
touching the belly from the top and sides, she says. If you can’t feel ribs,
you may need to adjust how much you’re feeding your cat. If you want more
guidance, you can find body condition scoring systems online.
Bough agrees that it’s difficult to evaluate the exact amount of food a cat
needs. “You can start by weighing your cat and looking at the product
packaging,” she says, “But watch your cat and work with your vet to determine
how much your cat should weigh.”
There are several types of feeding methods owners commonly use, which may
vary depending on the needs of their adult cats and their schedules:
- Portion-control feeding involves measuring the food and offering it
as a meal. It can be used for weight control and for animals that tend to
overeat if allowed to feed at will.
- Free-choice feeding means food - typically dry food, which is less
likely to spoil - is available around the clock. Nursing cats are commonly fed
free choice. But you can see why this method can turn into a problem for a cat
that doesn’t know when to stop.
- Timed feeding involves making food available for a certain amount of
time, then picking it up after, say, 30 minutes.