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What your cat eats plays an important part in their health and wellbeing. Take a look at our free guide for top tips on feeding your cat, how much you should feed your cat and plenty of information about cats and their eating habits.

How to feed your cat

We’ve put together a helpful video with tips and advice on feeding your cat, how to keep their diet healthy and preventing overeating.

How much should my cat eat?

How much your cat eats (and how much you should feed them) will depend on their current circumstances, such as their age and weight. If you’re ever unsure about how much your cat should be eating, speak to your vet as they can give you the best advice based on your cat’s needs.

There will usually be a guide on your cat’s food as to how much you should be feeding them. Remember this is only a rough guide and will depend on your cat’s current weight. Your vet will be able to tell you exactly how much you should feed your cat.

What should I feed my cat?

Head to your nearest supermarket’s pet food aisle and you’ll find plenty of cat foods to choose from. But with so much on offer, how can you decide what is best for your cat?

Before you buy, remember to choose food specially formulated for cats. Dog food isn’t suitable and food intended for humans doesn’t necessarily include all the nutrients that your cat needs. The best food for your cat (unless they have special dietary needs) is a complete cat food from a reputable brand.

Homemade cat foods might be good for occasional treats, but it is very difficult to give your cat the right balance of proteins, vitamins and minerals they need to thrive – unless this has been recommended by your vet.

Depending on how old your cat is, they will need different food. As a general guide:

  • kittens have small stomachs and need lots of energy as they grow and develop, so it is vital they are fed specific kitten food which provides nutrients required for growing and is more energy dense. They need to be fed little and often. Remember to check their food and replace it four times a day
  • adult cats (between one and eight years old) don’t need quite as much energy as kittens, but they will need a different balance of nutrients to stay healthy. They need to be fed at least twice a day (but will usually prefer more), and some will regulate their food intake, so their daily ration can be left out, particularly if you give them dry food
  • senior cats (eight years +) may need more digestible protein than younger cats and require a different balance of nutrients to support their muscles and organs as they age

Always buy your cat an age-appropriate cat food to make sure they’re getting what they need.

Special diets for cats

If your cat has a health condition, such as kidney disease or diabetes, your vet might prescribe a prescription diet. They may also recommend a special diet if your cat is particularly overweight. Always follow your vet’s advice on this as specialist foods will contain the right balance of nutrients to make sure your cat stays as healthy as they can. Read more about different types of diet and cat food

Changing your cat’s food

Switching your cat’s usual food can cause problems, so it should be done slowly and carefully. Don’t put a new food down for your cat and expect them to eat it straight away!

You should first offer them a little of the new food alongside their usual food (in separate food bowls). If they eat this, you should gradually offer more of the new food, reducing the amount of the old food you put down. Never mix the two together as this can really put cats off.

Which human foods are safe for cats?

In general, we wouldn’t recommend feeding your cat food meant for humans unless your vet has advised it. It can be hard to know how many calories are in human food for your cat and can unbalance their diet. Also a lot of human foods can be harmful to cats. 

Find out more about cats and human foods

Can I give my cat treats?

Just like us, our cats love the occasional treat. If you opt to give your cat treats, make sure you limit the amount throughout the day so they don’t gain weight, and reduce their usual daily allowance of food.

Try putting treats in food puzzles and toys to keep your cat happy (and provide some extra playtime). Eventually they might even prefer their regular meals in a feeding toy. If they like fuss, more of your attention when they want it can be a great treat for your cat instead of food.

Remember, too many treats can cause your cat to gain weight which can lead to all kinds of health problems. Treats should not be a daily part of your cat’s diet.

Read more about obesity in cats

What to do if your cat isn’t eating

It can be a worry if your cat seems to be eating less than normal or not at all and there are lots of things that could cause this.

If your cat’s eating or drinking habits suddenly change, give your vet a call to rule out any medical causes. This way if your cat needs treatment you can get them help as soon as possible rather than letting a problem get worse.

If your vet rules out medical causes, there are a few things you can do to encourage your cat to eat, including:

  • make sure their bowl is cleaned with warm water and soap (regular washing up liquid should be fine – make sure to rinse thoroughly after) daily. Cats are very sensitive to smells so food that has been sitting out for a while might not be very pleasant for them
  • use a ceramic bowl instead of plastic
  • make sure your cat’s bowl is away from any doors and separate from their sleeping and toileting areas
  • offer different wet and dry foods at different times, and introduce new foods slowly
  • give wet food at room temperature, instead of straight from the fridge
  • offer small, regular amounts of food rather than a large portion – this is less overwhelming and ensures the food is always fresh
  • offer food with a strong odour. Warming it up can increase the scent, but be careful not to make it too hot
  • add a drop of tasty yeast extract spread, fish oil or kitten food to your cat’s meal. This can make food more appetising but shouldn’t be done regularly. Ask your vet for more advice
  • sit down with your cat, or hand feed them. This can induce their appetite. Try a small amount of chicken and fish as a treat if they’re struggling
  • if there are other cats in the home, feed them separately

Feeding pregnant cats and mums feeding kittens

If you’ve got a pregnant cat or a cat who is feeding her new kittens, you’ll need to provide additional nutrients and the same high-protein kitten food as weaned kittens.

Give your pregnant cat unlimited access to kitten food, as well as a supply of fresh drinking water. While you might notice that during pregnancy she may only eat a little more than usual, she might eat double or triple the usual amount of food when she is feeding kittens. Read our guide for more advice on pregnant cats.

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