The Complete Feeding Guide from Kittens to Seniors

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This article was reviewed by JoAnna Pendergrass, DVM.

French author Francois de la Rochefoucauld said that “to eat is a necessity, but to eat intelligently is an art.”

Feeding a cat looks simple enough at first glance. You buy a bag of food with a picture of a cat on it, dump it in a bowl, and wait for your cat to eat when he’s hungry. It’s an approach that can work, but it doesn’t always bring out the best in your kitten or cat.

Feeding your cat well—really well—involves a little more thought.

In this cat feeding guide, you’ll learn how to nourish your cat from kittenhood through his senior years. You’ll find out how much to feed your cat at different life stages, how many meals he’ll need per day, and which types of food are best.

We’ve broken down your cat’s dietary needs by age group, giving you a roadmap for good nutrition at every stage of life.

Your Cat’s Dietary Needs Evolve Over Time.

As your cat moves through kittenhood, early adulthood, and beyond, his nutritional needs will change. Meeting those requirements at every phase of life sets the stage for good health.

Your first stop when choosing the right food for your cat? The nutritional adequacy statement.

Usually located on the back of the bag or can, this statement indicates whether or not the food is nutritionally complete and balanced for its intended life stage. The label will read, for example, “…formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO cat food nutrient profiles for all life stages”.

Foods that aren’t nutritionally complete and balanced will usually be labeled “for supplemental feeding only”. These foods don’t contain the appropriate balance of macronutrients (protein, fat, and carbohydrates) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) and shouldn’t be your cat’s sole source of nutrition.

While you’re looking at the label, check out the feeding instructions as well. For the average house cat, the appropriate feeding instructions are usually already placed on the packaging of the cat food.

The nutritional guidelines on the package will point you in the right direction, though you may need to make some modifications to fit your cat’s exact needs.

Here’s A Guide On How To Feed Your Cat During The Different Phases Of His Life

Newborn Kitten,  Age: 0-4 weeks

0-4 weeks old kitten

During this stage, most kittens rely on their mother’s milk as their only source of nutrition. If their mother is present, you won’t need to feed kittens at all—they’ll know how to feed themselves! That said, if you’ve rescued an orphaned kitten, you’ll need to bottle feed him. Kittens require a kitten milk replacer, which replicates the nutrition found in mother cat’s milk. Do not feed a kitten cow’s milk—it doesn’t have the right nutritional balance to nourish a newborn kitten.

How Much Should You Feed Your Newborn Kitten?

If your kitten’s mother is available to nurse, he will nurse freely. If you’re bottle-feeding, follow the instructions on your package of kitten milk replacer. In most cases, you’ll feed about 2 tablespoons of liquid kitten formula per 4 ounces of body weight.

How Often Should You Feed Your Newborn Kitten?

Newborn kittens feed frequently, latching on to nurse once every 1-2 hours. Mimic this feeding schedule when bottle feeding, gradually reducing the feeding frequency to 4-6 feedings per day by the time your kitten reaches three weeks of age.

Also Read: Best Wet Food for Kittens

4-8 Weeks Old Kitten

4-8 weeks old kitten

Kittens usually begin the weaning process around their 4th week. During this time, they’ll start gradually shifting from milk or formula onto a solid food diet, which delivers the protein, fatty acids, and nutrients that fuel their early development.

At 4 to 4.5 weeks of age, bottle feeders may start slowly transitioning their kitten to a diet of watered-down kitten food. Start by replacing some of his usual meals with a loose slurry of wet kitten food and kitten formula in a bottle, then gradually starting feeding your kitten from a bowl.

Kitten Lady has an excellent video on transitioning your kitten from kitten formula to solid food. 

How Much Should You Feed Your 4-8-week-old Kitten?

At this stage, your kitten is growing rapidly and needs about 3 times as many calories per pound as an adult. Your kitten may need 60 calories per pound of bodyweight.

How Often Should You Feed Your 4-8-week-old Kitten?

While your newborn kitten ate every 1 to 4 hours, kittens over 4 weeks may go 6 to 8 hours between meals. Frequent meals are still essential to accommodate your kitten’s small stomach and high energy demands.

8-16 Weeks Old Kitten

8-16 weeks old kitten

At this exciting stage of development, your kitten’s personality is developing and his predatory nature is becoming ever more apparent. By 8-10 weeks of age, he’s fully weaned and should be eating a meat-based kitten food that delivers plenty of protein, animal-derived fatty acids for brain and eye development, and the right levels of vitamins and minerals.

How Much Should You Feed Your 8-16-week-old Kitten?

During this phase, your kitten is developing rapidly and requires plenty of calories to support that growth. Growing kittens may need 250-280 calories per day, with larger breeds like Maine Coons and Ragdolls requiring as many as 360 calories daily.

How Often Should You Feed Your 8-16-Week-Old Kitten?

Five meals per day are ideal, but kittens over 8 weeks may also free feed on dry food. Be careful with free-feeding. While your kitten should be gaining weight at this stage, too much dry food can lead to excess weight gain.

Also Read: Best Kitten Food – Top 5 Best Kitten Foods On the Market Today

4-6 Months Old Kitten

4-6 month old kitten

During this stage, your kitten will start to settle into his dietary routine. That’s why it’s vital to make sure you’re establishing good habits for adulthood. Feeding a varied diet can keep your kitten from becoming finicky and keep him mentally stimulated. Note, also, that kittens who eat a dry diet at this stage will likely get hooked on the crunch and may not want to eat wet food later in life.

Wet or canned food is usually rich in species-appropriate animal-based protein, is lower in carbohydrates, and has a higher moisture content (70-80%) than that of dry food (6-10%).

How Much Should You Feed Your 4-6-Month-Old Kitten?

At this stage, kittens still need about twice as many calories per pound than adult cats. Refer to the feeding guidelines on your kitten’s food to determine how much to give him per pound of bodyweight.

Kittens in this age group need around 30 calories per pound of body weight per day. For example, an 8-pound kitten should consume about 240 calories per day.

How Often Should You Feed Your 4-6-Month-Old Kitten?

While a 4-week-old kitten will need about 5 small meals per day, you can reduce his daily feedings to 2-3 daily meals by the time he’s 6 months old. You can also give your kitten treats throughout the day, but calories from treats shouldn’t exceed 5-10% of total daily caloric intake.

6 Months-Adult Cats

6+ months old cat

While older kittens still need plenty of calories to fuel their growth, their metabolism will start to gradually slow down and their nutritional needs will start to look more like those of an adult.

Around the time of your kitten’s first birthday, he can start the transition from kitten food to an adult diet. Note, however, that larger-breed cats may continue to grow until they’re 3-4 years old and may continue to eat a growth-oriented diet.

How Much Should You Feed Your Adult Cat?

As your kitten’s metabolism starts to slow down and he reaches adulthood, you might notice him start to put on excess weight. Obesity is a common issue among adult cats and, when not corrected early on, may lead to complications later in life. Regular exercise and a well-controlled diet will help to prevent obesity and keep your cat in good shape.

Whether you feed your cat homemade cat food or the best commercial cat foods, it’s critical to feed him the right amount per day. But there’s no single amount of food that every cat should eat each day.

Calorie needs vary from cat to cat, with many factors coming into play. When deciding how much to feed your cat, you’ll have to consider his breed, age, reproductive status, underlying health conditions, and more. In general, however, the recommended daily caloric intake is about 20 calories per pound of bodyweight.

Click here for a calculator that helps you identify how many calories your cat needs per day.

How Often Should You Feed Your Adult Cat?

After your cat reaches six months of age, you may feed him 2-3 meals per day.

Also Read: Best Cat Food Guide

Senior Years

senior cat

Compared to young and middle-aged adults, senior cats have unique nutritional needs. They often exhibit a reduced ability to metabolize protein and therefore tend to lose muscle mass.

They require more digestible protein to support lean muscle mass and stay healthy. Cats at this age may also develop arthritis and other inflammatory conditions, making omega-3 fatty acids a particularly beneficial addition to the senior’s diet.

Since they might have difficulty eating because of dental problems, wet or moist food is better for senior cats.

How Much Should You Feed Your Senior Cat?

Senior and elderly cats require more calories per pound of bodyweight. If your senior appears to be losing muscle mass, consider increasing his calorie intake to 30-40 calories per pound. The majority of those calories should come from animal-based protein, which helps to prevent sarcopenia (loss of muscle due to aging).

How Often Should You Feed Your Senior Cat?

Continue to feed your senior cat 2-3 meals per day.

Also Read: Best Cat Food for Senior Cats

Cat Feeding Chart

Age

Approximate Weight

Amount per Feeding

Schedule

0-1 week50-150 grams / 1.7 – 5.2 ounces2-6 ml kitten formulaEvery 1 to 2 hours
1-2 weeks150-250 grams / 5.2 – 8.8 ounces6-10 ml kitten formulaEvery 1 to 2 hours
2-3 weeks250-350- grams / 8.8 – 12.4 ounces10-14 ml kitten formulaEvery 2 to 3 hours
3-4 weeks350-450 grams / 12.4 – 15.9 ounces14-18 ml kitten formulaEvery 3 to 4 hours
4-5 weeks450-550 grams / 15.9 ounces – 1.1 poundsStarting the weaning process, offer 18-22 ml kitten formula; gradually switch to a mixture of kitten formula / wet kitten foodEvery 4 to 6 hours
5-8 weeks550-850 grams / 1.1 – 1.5 poundsWeaning: Offer an unlimited amount of wet kitten foodEvery 6 hours
8-9 weeks1.5 – 2.6 pounds250-360 calories per dayEvery 6 to 8 hours
9-10 weeks1.6 – 2.9 pounds250-360 calories per dayEvery 6 to 8 hours
10-11 weeks1.8 – 3.1 pounds250-360 calories per dayEvery 6 to 8 hours
11-12 weeks2 – 3.3 pounds250-360 calories per dayEvery 6 to 8 hours
12-13 weeks2.2 – 4 pounds250-360 calories per dayEvery 6 to 8 hours
13-14 weeks3 – 4.5 pounds250-360 calories per dayEvery 6 to 8 hours
14-15 weeks3.5 – 5 pounds250-360 calories per dayEvery 6 to 8 hours
15-16 weeks4 – 5.5 pounds250-360 calories per dayEvery 6 to 8 hours
4 months4 – 5.5 pounds30 calories per pound of body weightEvery 8 hours
5 months5.1 – 6 pounds30 calories per pound of body weightEvery 8 hours
6 months5.5 – 6.5 pounds30 calories per pound of body weightEvery 8 – 12 hours
7 months6 – 7 pounds20-30 calories per pound of body weightEvery 8 – 12 hours
8 months6.5 – 7.5 pounds20-30 calories per pound of body weightEvery 8 – 12 hours
9 months7 – 8 pounds20-30 calories per pound of body weightEvery 8 – 12 hours
10 months7.5 – 8.5 pounds20 calories per pound of body weightEvery 8 – 12 hours
11 months8 – 9 pounds20 calories per pound of body weightEvery 8 – 12 hours
12 months8 – 9.5 pounds20 calories per pound of body weightEvery 8 – 12 hours

Final Thoughts

Your Cat Needs Water, Too!

In addition to the correct food regimen, it’s also important that a cat has access to clean water. Proper hydration helps to prevent constipation and reduces the risk of urinary system diseases like urinary tract infection and blockage.

Access to fresh water is essential, regardless of if your feline friend eats dry or wet food.

Finally, Consider Consulting Your Veterinarian For More Advice.

Even with the knowledge shared in this article, you should consult with your veterinarian for your cat’s individual dietary needs. Your veterinarian will be able to recommend the ideal diet and feeding regimen for your cat based on your cat’s age, lifestyle, dietary preferences, and overall health status.

13 thoughts on “The Complete Feeding Guide from Kittens to Seniors

  1. AvatarJackie sawyer

    My two ginger cats are totally different even though they are both from the same litter, one of them I’m assuming he is the eldest has tried to become the dominant one, he still try’s actually, that’s not only with my cats but with me also. He can be very loving when he wants to be,but also quite aggressive, my arms legs hands and feet can testify to this, both cats are also very greedy,they steal food,not only from my other cats but from my plate and even my shopping bag. I have five cats now,and they all have one full sachet of wet food at least 3times each day. There is also a large dish of biscuits always there for them, I have two water fountains for them indoors, and a large bowl of water outside when they are in the catio. There is also the fact that my three strays all hate being in the catio,and keep on finding ways to escape. Am I being cruel expecting to be as happy being there as my two pedigree. All my cats have been neutered

    Reply
  2. AvatarLee

    I apologize for the length of this inquiry regarding the correct amount to feed my cats. I adopted two sibling kittens at 9 weeks – the shelter would not separate them and I see why because today, at 9 months old, they are still very close. They still use the same litter box. Even though I have two litter boxes, they don’t use the second. They also eat from a dual bowl at the same time and still can be found cuddling and licking each other, although not as frequently as when they were young. They have completely different personalities though – he’s bold and inquisitive and has always been a talker; she’s easily frightened of strangers but loves to play.

    The female now weighs 8.3 pounds and I think the male is close to 10 pounds (he won’t let me pick him up — he’s a pretty big cat). They were both neutered/spayed before I brought them home.

    Now, since they are fed together, I am not sure how much to give them. They share a can of Fancy Feast at about 6:30 am, another at 12:30 pm and another at about 6 pm. They seem to be hungry again before we go to sleep so I’ve been adding another can at about 10 pm, which I think is wrong. The female eats a little less than the male and she is also pickier. She’s also more active.

    The total daily caloric intake for the two iis about 400 calories, with him eating a bit more than half (maybe 220 and 180 respectively.) They eat very little kibble — about a tablespoon each per day. And they always have fresh water but don’t drink a lot.

    Please let me know if I should make some changes. Thank you.

    Reply
    1. Mallory CrustaMallory Crusta

      Hello Lee, thanks for the message! You’re clearly a very conscientious cat guardian, so please don’t apologize for the length of your inquiry! Since both of your cats are still kittens, I don’t see anything wrong with the four meals per day. That said, the additional kibble may be excessive, even though it’s only about a tablespoon. You might replace the kibble with an occasional treat. Otherwise, as long as your two kitties have a healthy body composition (hourglass shape when viewed from above, ribs palpable, a thin coating of fat on the abdomen), I see nothing wrong with their current diet. It sounds like you two kitties have a wonderful relationship and a very happy life. Keep up the good work!

      Reply
  3. AvatarTom

    My cat is around 10 years old. I give her around 50 mg of wet food in the morning and she has hard food in her dish all the time and eats it when she’s hungry. Am I giving her enough wet food?

    Reply
    1. Mallory CrustaMallory Crusta

      Hello Tom, ideally a cat should be consuming significantly more wet than dry food. In other words, cats should be eating a high-moisture diet primarily composed of wet food. That said, 50g (I’m assuming that you meant grams, not milligrams—forgive me if I’m being presumptuous!) of wet food is certainly better than nothing. I’d closely monitor your cat to ensure that she doesn’t have high blood sugar or any other issues associated with eating a dry diet.

      Reply
      1. AvatarMahpara Quamar

        Hello! I have adopted two kittens male and female respectively and they are 7 months old.They are Persian cat,actually this is going to be my first parenting so, i do not have so much ideas about their feeding time and amount also what kind of food should i give wet or dry? Please help me

        Reply
        1. Mallory CrustaMallory Crusta

          Hello Mahpara! If you can find a nutritionally-complete wet kitten food, I would opt for that rather than dry. The most important thing to consider is whether or not the food is labeled nutritionally complete and balanced for kittens. Once you’ve figured that out, the food’s packaging should tell you how much your kittens will need at each meal.

          Reply
  4. AvatarFeliks

    Hi Mallory- love your youtube channel- I’m having some trouble understanding the measurements- I have two 5month old boys that we are transitioning to all wet. The food I feed them is 172 a can. They each weigh five lbs. Are they supposed to get 150 calories a day or 150 calories every 8 hours? We feed them at least twice a day.

    Reply
    1. Mallory CrustaMallory Crusta

      Hello Feliks! Glad to see that you made it here from the YouTube channel. I can see how that chart would be confusing—it appears to be in need of revision. A 5-month-old kitten should be taking in about 60-65 calories per pound of body weight, so the number shown is a per-feeding calorie count. You’ll want to feed your kittens about 100 calories per meal, broken into about three meals per day. Best, Mallory

      Reply
  5. AvatarAmber Hill

    I am a new cat owner. My cat is 5 almost 6months old. He seems to be eating quite a bit and I want to make sure I’m not overfeeding him either. I’m currently transitioning him from adult dry food to a kitten food. He gets about 3 meals a day. About 1/3cup of the adult food (400 kcalories a cup) and a little kitten food at each meal (460kcalories a cup). He has a vet appointment next week. Not sure on his weight yet, thinking at least 8lbs. He is very high energy and runs around a lot at times.

    Reply
  6. AvatarLana Bateman

    I Have 2 Birmans, brother and sister that ar e6 years old. I give them each two 3oz cans of wet food each day with dry food left out at all times. Is that ok?

    Reply
    1. Mallory CrustaMallory Crusta

      Hello Lana, thank you for asking! As long as your kitties are maintaining a healthy weight, it sounds like that should be acceptable. Of course, that type of free-feeding can lead to obesity and other health issues over time, so you’ll want to keep a close eye on their body composition and make sure that they’re not overeating in between meals.

      Reply

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