Pet Care

Feeding Your Adult Cat

Orange cat with head in his food bowl

Adult cats should eat enough of a high-quality, nutritious food to meet their energy needs and to maintain and repair body tissues. The amount you feed your adult cat should be based on his or her size and energy output. Activity levels vary dramatically between pets and will play an important role in determining caloric intake, which leads us to our first tip…

  1. Crazy Cats, Lazy Cats
    Cats vary widely in their activity levels. A cat with a "normal" activity level should receive what we call "maintenance" energy. A pampered cat who mostly lies around the house may require ten percent below maintenance, while an active kitty who plays all day may require maintenance plus 20 to 40 percent.
     
  2. In Addition to Playing in the Sink…
    Unless advised otherwise by your vet, your cat should always have free access to fresh, clean water. Water bowls should be cleaned every day.
     
  3. Cats Are Carnivores
    All cats require taurine, an amino acid that is important for normal heart function, vision and reproduction. Although most mammals can make taurine from other amino acids in the body, cats cannot. Since taurine is found only in animal-based protein, all cats need meat-based diets to meet their nutritional requirements.
     
  4. Cool for Cats
    As with people, extreme hot or cold weather can increase a kitty’s energy needs. Both keeping warm and keeping cool use up extra energy, so you may wish to consult with your pet’s vet about what to do when the mercury soars and/or dips.
     
  5. Get Well Sooner
    A cat recovering from surgery or suffering from a disease may have increased nutritional requirements to repair, heal and fight infection. Talk to your vet about adjusting your cat’s diet during periods of illness and recovery.
     
  6. It’s Hard Work, Looking This Good!
    While on the show circuit, a cat’s energy requirement may increase by 20 percent or more! Make sure your pretty kitty is getting the correct amount of food energy, because deficiencies may be quickly reflected in coat quality. When on a break from the show circuit, go back to feeding your cat her regular maintenance diet.
     
  7. Two Square Meals a Day
    Pet owners should consult with their veterinarians to determine the best feeding schedule and types of foods for their pets. However, as a general rule of thumb, we recommend that all cats be fed twice daily using the portion control feeding method (see #8). To do this, start by dividing the amount suggested on the label of your pet’s food into two meals, spaced eight to twelve hours apart. You may need to adjust portions as you learn your cat’s ideal daily “maintenance” amount.
     
  8. But then again, Variety IS the Spice of Life …
    Some people have schedules that can’t accommodate normal two-meal-a-day feeding regimens. Not to worry--cats may be fed successfully in a number of ways to meet both the owner's and the animal's needs and circumstances. The different types of feeding methods are as follows:

    - Portion-control feeding entails measuring your pet's food and offering it as a meal, thereby controlling the amount of food that can be consumed. This method is used for weight control programs and for animals who might overeat if fed free-choice. Food can be provided in one or more meals daily.

    - Free-choice feeding is also known as "ad lib" feeding or "free feeding." Food is available at all times, as much as the pet wants, whenever the pet wants. Most nursing pets are fed via free choice. This method is most appropriate when feeding dry food, which will not spoil if left out. However, some cats will overeat when fed free-choice, which can result in obesity.

    - The timed feeding method involves making a portion of food available for the pet to eat for a specified period of time. For example, you would place food in your cat’s bowl and allow your pet to nosh for 30 minutes. After that time, whatever food the cat has not eaten is removed.

  9. Milk Does a Body…Bad?
    Turns out that you can’t believe everything you see on television! Milk should not be fed to cats as a treat or a substitute for water. Cats do not possess significant amounts of lactase, the enzyme that breaks down lactose in milk. Feeding milk and milk-based products to cats can actually cause them to vomit or have diarrhea.
     
  10. Take Five (or Less)!
    We all love to give our pets treats. However, treats should be given in moderation and should represent five percent or less of a cat’s daily food intake. The rest should come from a nutritionally complete cat food.