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Feeding Time, Portion Size, and Snacks

How much food will your cat need? It depends on some factors you might not expect.

For example, is your cat an indoor or outdoor animal? Has your cat been spayed or neutered? Both affect your cat's dietary requirements. Your best bet is to seek advice from your vet, who will determine your cat's ideal weight and daily calorie count, says Marla McGeorge, DVM, a veterinarian at the Cat Doctor in Portland, Ore.

"Be proactive about asking your vet about your cat's weight and food," McGeorge says.

Once you know how much food your cat needs, stick to it. It may seem like too little to you, but it will keep your cat at a healthy weight.

"For cats, it's hard to get the weight off once they get overweight," McGeorge says.

Next, schedule your cat's meals. Cats like to eat small meals throughout the day, McGeorge says, so plan to leave food out so your cat can come and graze when they feel the need to nibble. You can put out half in the morning before leaving for work and the other half when you return.

Though you may like to give your cat treats, keep them to a minimum.

"Don't let snacks dilute their nutrition," Murray says. "Just like with people, you don't want them on a diet of salty things."