When it comes to feeding your cat, naturally, you wonder which is better: wet vs dry cat food. The best one to answer is the cat, or rather, put the two in a separate bowls to determine which of them the cat prefers (or doesn’t have digestive problems with later on). So if the cat or kitten doesn’t have problems with dry food, go with that.
Whether you just adopted an adorable little kitten or you’re reassessing your cat’s diet, you might be wondering, “How much dry food should I feed my cat?”
It’s an excellent question. And despite what your furry friend tells you, there is a limit to how much dry food you should dish out in a day (as well as a minimum amount).
But although there’s a right answer for your cat, it won’t be the same answer for every cat; food and nutrition requirements vary from feline to feline. Your furball’s dietary needs will depend on their age, activity level, and overall health—and those needs will likely change throughout your kitty’s life.
So, what should you feed Fluffy? While your vet can give you more exact measurements, this guide should give you a rough idea of how much dry food to feed a cat.
Daily Feeding Recommendation: Dry Food
How much wet and dry food to feed a cat? Because there are so many different types of food (wet cat food vs dry cat food, raw vs processed), it’s impossible to provide accurate food requirements in terms of ounces or cups. One scoop of high-quality dry food is lightyears away from the same amount of mediocre mulch.
Instead, you’ll want to use calories as your guiding light. Like humans, cats have daily calorie requirements and ideal weight that help them maintain a healthful lifestyle.
If it’s been a while since high school science class, don’t worry—you don’t need to remember that one calorie (kcal) is the amount of energy needed to heat one kilogram of water by one degree Celsius.1 All you need to know is that calories give your cat the energy to run, leap, play…and knock down a glass of water or two.
Calories are often listed as kcal on the back of your food bag. For the purpose of this guide, “calories” and “kcal” mean the same thing. So, without further ado, let’s look at how many calories (or kcal) your cat may need each day.
Unless you have a cat that gave birth, you’ll probably adopt your kitten at 6–8 weeks old (or older). At this point, your precious kitty will likely have been weaned off its mother’s milk,2 and you can start setting out dry food.3
Because of their rapid growth and rambunctious nature, kittens need a surprising amount of calories to develop into healthy adult cats. How much, you ask? As per our kitten feeding guide, your fur baby’s calorie requirements by weight are as follows:
- 8 oz – 52 kcal/day
- 12 oz – 88 kcal/day
- 1 lb – 104 kcal/day
- 2 lbs – 162 kcal/day
- 3 lbs – 225 kcal/day
- 4 lbs – 272 kcal/day
- 5 lbs – 327 kcal/day
A Sample Kitten Feeding Schedule
While you won’t need to draw from science class here, you will need to do some math to ensure your kitten eats the right amount. That’s because kittens should be fed multiple small meals—at least three per day, to be precise.4
So, to develop a feeding routine, you’ll take your kitty’s daily calorie requirement and divide it by the number of daily meals.
For example, if you have a two-pound kitten (162 calories per day), your feeding schedule might look like this:
- 8 am – 54 kcal of dry food
- 2 pm– 54 kcal of dry food
- 8 pm– 54 kcal of dry food
Alternatively, you can let your kitten “free-feed.” Free-feeding involves leaving dry food out for your kitten to graze whenever they’re hungry. If you choose to free-feed, put a full daily serving of dry food in your cat’s bowl each day—no more, no less.
For Adult Cats
When kittens mature into cats, their dietary needs change. In most cases, adult cats will need fewer calories than their younger counterparts.
The average healthy adult cat has the following calorie requirements by weight:5
- 4.4 lbs – 160–170 kcal/day
- 5.5 lbs – 180–190 kcal/day
- 6.6 lbs – 200–210 kcal/day
- 7.7 lbs – 215–230 kcal/day
- 8.8 lbs– 225–250 kcal/day
- 9.9 lbs – 240–270 kcal/day
- 11 lbs – 250–290 kcal/day
- 12.1 lbs – 260–310 kcal/day
- 13.2 lbs – 265–330 kcal/day
- 14.3 lbs – 275–350 kcal/day
- 15.4 lbs – 280–370 kcal/day
If you have a senior cat, they might require a combination of dry food and canned cat food. If your cat is more active, they may need additional calories to maintain their body weight. If, on the other hand, your cat prefers to lounge around all day, you may need to lower their calorie count. Ultimately, your vet can help you determine the perfect amount of dry food that considers your cat’s weight, lifestyle, and health conditions (if applicable).
A Sample Adult Cat Feeding Schedule
Unlike kittens, adult cats should ideally eat just two meals a day, with 8–12 hours between feedings.3 For example, if you have a reasonably active nine-pound cat (250 calories per day), your feeding schedule might look like this:
- 8:30 am – 125 kcal
- 6:30 pm – 125 kcal
You can also free-feed your adult cat, but keep an eye on their eating habits. Unchecked free-feeding can lead to feline obesity, so if you see your cat scarfing down their meal in minutes, leave out only enough food to meet their daily calorie requirements.
For Senior Cats
As your furry friend ages, they may spend less time chasing the feather wand and more time snoozing on the cat tree. While you’d think this natural drop in activity would lead to lower calorie requirements, senior kitties over the age of 11 often need more daily calories.6
That’s because older cats can have a harder time digesting the proteins and fats that give them energy.7
With that said, there’s no need to up your older cat’s dry food intake right away. The best approach to feeding a senior cat is to follow the above guide and schedule for adult cats8—unless your vet suggests otherwise.
What to Look for in Dry Food
Of course, knowing how much dry food to feed cats is only half the battle. If your cat food is of poor quality, it doesn’t matter how many scoops you pour into your baby’s bowl—they won’t receive the energy or essential nutrients they need to thrive.
Not all dry cat food is created equal, and calories aren’t the only indicator of a nutritious meal. Some brands of kibble—especially low-cost options from the supermarket—are packed with fillers that provide enough calories but minimal nutrition.
So, to avoid giving your best friend the equivalent of fast food, make sure that your dry food has:
- Meat as the first ingredient – Sorry, vegetarians—your cat can’t share in your dietary preferences. Felines are known as “obligate carnivores,” which means they rely on nutrients found only in animal products.9 Because brands must list ingredients from highest to lowest quantity by weight,10 meat-first recipes ensure that your cat will consume the necessary animal protein. What’s more, meat-first dry food simply tastes better—just ask your cat.
- Moisture content – Despite the name, dry food shouldn’t be totally dry. Like all mammals, cats need water to thrive. However, if you’ve seen the way your kitty side-eyes their water bowl, you know that drinking isn’t a cat’s forté. By feeding your cat dry food with a higher moisture content, you help your feline consume the water they need.
- Essential vitamins and nutrients – Cats need more than protein and fat. Nutrients like calcium, phosphorus, taurine, vitamin E, and vitamin B12 are all vital to your kitty’s well-being. Look for these essentials on your dry food bag’s nutrition label or ingredient list.
- Probiotics – Probiotics are living microorganisms that promote gut health and digestion. You’ll usually be able to tell if a dry food has probiotics—brands tend to highlight this addition on their packaging—but you can also check the ingredient list. You’re looking for the word “fermented,” as these ingredients are high in probiotics.
What to Avoid in Dry Food
It’s wise to read the label of any pet product carefully, but that’s especially true of cat food. Here are a few ingredients to watch out for:
- Meat byproducts – When you see the word “byproduct” on an ingredient list, you may want to steer clear. There’s nothing inherently wrong with meat byproducts (which include kidneys, liver, bones, and blood), but the lack of transparency about exactly what’s in your pet’s food is not ideal.
- Grains – Ingredients like corn meal, barley, and oats aren’t necessarily bad for your feline friend, but they’re often put in lower-quality cat foods as less-nutritious fillers.
- Coloring agents– As long as it tastes good, your cat won’t care what their food looks like. Try to avoid dyes and coloring agents like Yellow 6, Red 40, or Blue 2—they serve no purpose aside from aesthetics and can even be dangerous.
Additionally, it’s worth avoiding food made outside the US. Some countries have more relaxed policies around pet food, but the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) does a terrific job of protecting cats and kitties everywhere.
Try PrettyPlease: The Ultra Premium Dry Food
Figuring out exactly how much dry food to feed your cat can be a challenge. With so many variables—and hundreds of kibble options—navigating the sea of information is sometimes overwhelming. But by consulting this guide and checking in with your vet, you can work to ensure your cat receives the perfect amount of food.
With a lengthy list of essential macro- and micro-nutrients, PrettyPlease is specifically formulated to suit your cat’s dietary needs at every stage of life. Best of all, the perfect amount of food comes straight to your front door each month, so you never have to stress about dry food again.
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- MedicalNewsToday. How many calories do you need? https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/263028
- PetMD. Feeding Kittens 101: What to Feed, How Much, and How Often. https://www.petmd.com/cat/nutrition/feeding-kittens-101-what-feed-how-much-and-how-often
- ASPCA. Cat Nutrition Tips. https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/cat-care/cat-nutrition-tips
- PetMD. Feeding Schedule for Kittens. https://www.petmd.com/cat/centers/kitten/nutrition/evr_ct_kitten_feeding_schedule
- The World Small Animal Veterinary Association. Calorie Needs for an Average Healthy Adult Cat in Ideal Body Condition. https://wsava.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/Calorie-Needs-for-Healthy-Adult-Cats-updated-July-2020.pdf
- BeChewy. Senior Cat Food: What—and How Much—to Feed Your Senior Cat. https://be.chewy.com/how-much-to-feed-your-senior-cat
- VCA Animal Hospitals. Feeding Mature, Senior, and Geriatric Cats. https://vcacanada.com/know-your-pet/feeding-mature-senior-and-geriatric-cats
- Cornell University, College of Veterinary Medicine. How Often Should You Feed Your Cat? https://www.vet.cornell.edu/departments-centers-and-institutes/cornell-feline-health-center/health-information/feline-health-topics/how-often-should-you-feed-your-cat
- Cornell University, College of Veterinary Medicine. Feeding Your Cat. https://www.vet.cornell.edu/departments-centers-and-institutes/cornell-feline-health-center/health-information/feline-health-topics/feeding-your-cat
- Association of American Feed Control Officials. The Business of Pet Food. https://petfood.aafco.org/labeling-labeling-requirements