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Vet Vanessa Howie advises on cat diets, including how much food a kitten needs to eat, why an older cat may go off their food and how to encourage your cat to eat dry food.

Are you concerned about your cat’s weight? Do you have a question about your cat’s diet? You’re in the right place! Yesterday Cats Protection vet Vanessa Howie hosted a live Q&A with our Facebook supporters, taking questions about cats and their weight, food and diet.

We've picked out just a few of the questions she answered:

How much should I feed my kitten?

My polydactyl kitten (pictured below) is eight months old. We feed him dry food but he has put on a bit of weight on his belly. How much food should we be giving him? I feel like we hardly give him any but he's still a bit chubby!

The food that you're using will have feeding guidance on the packet and may even come with a measuring cup. I'd recommend that you go by these instructions as how much you feed depends on which food you are using. Ensure that you continue with a kitten food until he is 12 months old before changing over to an adult food.

white and grey polydactyl kitten

Polydactyl kitten. Photo by Meg Sheppard via Facebook


Why won't my cat eat dry food?

I have adopted a one-year-old female cat; she is a bit fussy and won't eat any dried food at all – any suggestions please? My last girl was on dried food only but I'd quite like her to have a mixture. Thank you!

Unfortunately some cats may just prefer wet food to dry food. You could try adding small amounts of dry food to her wet food and mixing it in thoroughly. If she starts eating this then slowly increase the amount of dry food over time. Alternatively try wetting the dry food to make it soft. If she starts eating it this way you can slowly reduce how much water you add until she accepts it dry. Good luck!


Should I vary my cat's diet?

My cats are on a mostly wet food diet but do have a bowl of dry food that they go to in between meals and water. Sometimes I get the little grass pots for them to munch on too, and I give them cat milk and treats once in a while! Is this a good set up? I try to vary their diet but I'm not sure if that's the best thing to do?

The combination of foods you are feeding sounds ok. Ensure that you follow the packaging guidance on how much to feed and adjust the wet and dry quantities accordingly. This may be difficult to calculate if different brands of food are used and you may have to adjust amounts fed based on weight loss or gain. Cats don't necessarily need variation in their diet though, it's more of a human thing.

ginger cat eating dry biscuits

Photo by irrational_cat via flickr / Creative Commons


How do I stop my cat with kidney disease from eating another cat's food?

I have a cat, Jacob, that I feed a special renal diet due to his chronic kidney disease. My other two cats are young and healthy and on a normal diet. One of them, Mia, will only snack on biscuits through the day and she doesn't like wet food. This being the case it's easy enough to feed wet food separately but 'normal' biscuits have to be left around all day for Mia – but then Jacob snacks on them too. How much harm will this cause him?

The renal diet that you are feeding Jacob will have lower protein and phosphorous levels to help his kidneys. The occasional snack on 'normal' biscuits is likely to have little effect, but more regular eating may be detrimental. Microchip feeders may be something to consider – they will only allow access to the food bowl if it recognises the microchip (ie you could set it up so it’ll only open for one of your cats).

Follow this link for a discount code for Sureflap's SureFeed Microchip Feeder.


My cat is 18 years old and of late he will not eat his food.

Do you have any information on the please?

There are many reasons why an older cat may go off their food. I would recommend that you get him checked over by your vet to rule these out. Common causes may include tooth and mouth problems or other illnesses. Older cats sense of smell and taste may also diminish, so providing smelly foods may encourage him to eat. You might find it useful to read our guide on elderly cats which contains more information.


Do you have any advice on restricting feeding in a multi-cat household?

I currently free feed but two of my cats are very overweight. I'm struggling to figure out how to get them onto a feeding schedule.

It can be really difficult to try and reduce the weight of overweight cats in a multi-cat household, particularly if your cats are grazers. Microchip feeders can be useful (see my answer above). Alternatively you could have a microchip cat flap in an internal door into a room where only the ideal weight cats can go, limiting the overweight cats’ access to the food. Feeding balls and puzzle feeders may also be a way to feed the overweight cats, providing them with a little exercise and increasing the time it takes to feed. Have a read of our blog posts about feeding enrichment puzzles and boredom busters (and see video below). Also check out our Feeding and obesity leaflet.



What is the proper weight for a senior cat?

The average ideal weight for a cat in the UK is currently 4kg. Using body condition scoring alongside weight is important as this assesses how much excess fat your cat is carrying. Senior cats may tend to lose weight as they get older. Here's a useful link from the Pet Food Manufacturers Association (PFMA) to find out the ideal body condition score for your cat.


Please note that we are unable to give specific advice on your cat's health or any change in behaviour observed. For medical problems consult your vet who will have access to your cat’s medical history and will be able to examine them. You’ll find more information about cat care and behaviour here.

Would you like to ask one of our feline experts a question about your cat? Don’t miss the next live Facebook Q&A sessions: Neutering Manager Jane Clements will be answering questions on 15 June; behaviour specialist Nicky Trevorrow will be offering advice on 2 July; and vet Vanessa Howie will be back on 16 July. Every live Q&A is held on our national Facebook page from 2-3pm.

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