Any recommendations on serving sizes I can make can only be a starting point for you. (This page will discuss feeding adult cats. How to feed kittens is discussed elsewhere.) Determining your cat’s ideal daily portion size is not as easy as a chart which tells you: if your cat weighs this much, feed her that amount. Cats are individuals. Some are big, but thin. Others are small, but fat. They are young and old, male and female, active or sedate, and more. Some have fast metabolism and others don’t.
Any chance of providing you with a simple chart is made more difficult by the fact, that a homemade diet will turn out differently with the meat you use and with how precisely you follow instructions. Some customers use lean poultry, other use fatty beef. A fatty beef diet will be more filling and calorie dense than the same volume of a lean turkey diet. Some customers add more water, giving the food more volume but not more calories, while others omit water and wonder why their cats gain weight on so little food.
Caregivers are often distressed about their cat’s behavior of finishing their plate of food in less than a minute, asking for more, pestering them at the fridge, or taking food stuff off counters or out of the trash, prompting them to think that their cat is starving or lacking something! Some cats don’t do this, but most will not miss an opportunity to eat. It is natural for an animal to be opportunistic, and this is part of their survive strategy. Much of this is conditioning and how your cat was raised and how your cat has trained you!
Food requirement should be based entirely on body condition, and not on behavior. If your cat suddenly looses weight without changes in the diet, consult with your Veterinarian about possible illness. It is especially difficult to monitor food intake and its effects with cats who are allowed outdoors. Outdoors, cats can regurgitate food without you knowing, and all you notice is a loss in body weight. The eating of mice and other prey will add calories, but also predispose cats to intestinal parasites. Outdoor, cats will often travel long distances, which takes extra calories. Outdoor, cats may scavenge food from neighbors, which can contribute to weight gain.
The domestic cat is not a lion. When it comes to learning about the eating behavior of the domestic cat, the big cats are a poor example! Unlike the big cats, our domestic cat and its wild relatives hunt prey much smaller than themselves. This means, she needs to hunt many times during the day, consuming – in my estimation based on caloric requirement – on average five mice every day. This number has been set higher by others to 8-10, but the cat would run out of time to accomplish this, because we know that she spends about 15 hours at rest. We also know that the cat is most active during the dusk and dawn hours. Hunting 4-5 mice in a 4-5 hour period in the morning and at night is not realistic, whereas 5 mice in total during 9 hours of activity during the day is more feasible. If we use the natural model, then feeding a cat 5 meals per day, each weighing 26-30g, would be ideal. Indeed, cats thrive on such a meal plan. Unfortunately, it is not convenient for most humans.
My suggestion is to feed a 65 g (1/4 cup) portion 2 – 3 times every day to the average healthy adult cat with a lean body weight of 4.5kg (10lbs.)
Unless you have a very large cat or a young and active cat, 99% of cats will fall into this portion range. Some older, more sedate cats may gain weight on that amount of food and benefit from having the food watered down.
- Cats prefer to eat food from a flat dish , like a saucer.
- Cats will digest food better, and get more out of it, when given small portions 3-5 times a day. Cats will also pester you less for food, if you divide their daily portion into more frequent meals.
- Most cats will not digest a portions size exceeding 1/3 cup well, and will likely suffer from a degree of indigestion. Many cats will actually regurgitate food if you feed a portion larger than ¼ cup. Ability to eat a large meal in one sitting decreases with age. Occurrence of regurgitation is more frequently observed in middle aged to older cats.
- Young cats often behave especially frantic to get their paws on food. They may climb up on you while you are preparing or serving their food, climb right into the fridge when it is being opened, and come running at any sound of activity in the kitchen. Young cats, but not exclusively so, may steal food left out on counter tops, sometimes even take off with a loaf of bread.
- Cats are individuals. Some will maintain a level of excitement about food throughout their live. Others are largely uninterested in eating, and need coaxing to eat even as kittens. Most cats do well eating three meals every day, but some are not interested in eating more often than twice every day; sometimes they only show enthusiasm for one meal per day. Other cats will eat anything, any time, for no reason. Cats’ personality and emotional state is very much expressed by how they eat!
- Cats’ appetite and attitude towards food does not only hinge on a certain personality type, but also on early kittenhood conditioning. Competition from other kittens, type of food fed, and frequency of food fed will all affect what kind of relationship cats will have with food later in life.
- Cats’ behavior towards food and eating is also influenced by how well they have trained you. Do you respond to their begging by feeding them something when you have a meal yourself, work in the kitchen, or open the fridge? A rewarded behavior will be repeated. Although your intention may not have been to reward your cats for that behavior, you did nonetheless yield to their pressure.
If you find a begging cat intolerable, start conditioning your cat early and consistently by feeding him or her at a quite, designated place – preferably not in your kitchen or dining room, so your cat does not form a strong food association with these areas. If you feed your adult cat three times daily (like morning, evening, and just before bed) as much as he or she needs to maintain body weight, and refrain from giving food out of the fridge or from the table, your cat should settle into a routine that is comfortable and predictable for both of you. Feed treats away from areas where you prepare and eat your own food, and keep groceries and the trash out of your cat’s reach. If your cat is allowed into the kitchen and on counter tops, this means you must keep food stored away and inaccessible. If your cat is successful in snatching food off the counters, he or she will continue to check these areas out for food. After all, they are not stupid and will not resist instinct simply to be a good kitty for you.
Small cats, like our domestic cats, are adapted to prey predominantly on rodents as the main staple of their natural diet. A single mouse weighs no more then 30 gram, providing approximately 60 kcal. In order to meet their daily caloric requirement, cats must eat an average of 5 mice every day. This amount of food is not consumed all as one meal, but as separate meals throughout the day as the cats succeed in catching that prey. Field observations have concluded that most small cat species are adapted to and prefer to be active during dusk and dawn – the time when they will hunt most of their prey – resulting in an intake of several smaller “meals” during these hours. Naturally, cats will rest, groom, doze, or sleep during daytime hours.
Regurgitation of food can be almost entirely abolished by feeding meal sizes not exceeding 35 g, and to feed the daily requirement as 3-5 meals. Young, large, active cats who require more than 140 g of food every day should be given an extra meal rather then increasing the size of their meal.
The stomach of a cat is about the size of a walnut when empty. It can stretch, but trying to fit a 1/3 cup of food into it as one meal, is “over-stretching” it a bit. If given the choice to eat as much homemade food as they wish, most cats would gorge themselves and regurgitate the food shortly after. Gorging is NOT a natural behavior of small cats, although it is for the big cats. Many of our house cats are not sensible enough to stop eating when they had enough, if given the choice to eat as much as they wish.