How Often Should You Feed a Cat? A Helpful Guide on How Many Times a Day to Feed Your Kitty

How often should you feed a cat? Kittens up to six months old need to be fed three or four times a day, while cats between the ages of six months and a year old should eat two or three times daily. Once they reach adulthood, cats generally do well with one or two meals a day, either both at once or spaced out evenly throughout the day.

Feeding your cat is an essential part of keeping them healthy and happy. Establishing an appropriate feeding schedule can be tricky, as cats have different nutritional needs based on age, activity level, and health condition.  

As a “cat mom” to seven cats, much of my time and energy goes into their feeding habits and regimens.  Having done my own extensive research on cat feeding routines, I have written this article on how often you should feed a cat.

In this article, I’ll discuss:

Age Related Guidelines
How Much to Feed a Cat
Ad lib Feeding
Routine Feeding
Combination Feeding
Puzzle Feeders
Feeding Multiple Cats
Night Time Feeding
Medications and Feeding
Automatic Feeders
Wet Versus Dry Food

Read on to discover more on how often you should feed a cat.

Age Related Guidelines

Depending on the age of your feline companion, the frequency of meals will vary. Kittens, for instance, require several small meals throughout the day and should be fed three to four times a day until they reach six months of age. At this point, you can reduce the frequency to two or three times a day. 

Adult cats aged one year and over typically require two meals a day.

How Much to Feed a Cat

Cats have different nutritional needs according to their age, size and activity level.

Kittens need more food, as do underweight cats.  Playful, active cats have greater nutritional needs than cats that spend most of their time sleeping, and the same is true for outdoor cats, who need more food as they get more exercise.

Older cats may need less food, depending on their activity levels. They are prone to gaining weight due to slower metabolic rates. 

It’s critical to get the quantity just right; too much and your feline friend could become overweight, too little and they can start to drop condition quite quickly.The best way to determine how much food your cat needs is to ask your vet.  

You can follow the advice on the cat food labels, but the issue here is it doesn’t account for cat activity levels. For example, cat food manufacturers Purina recommend feeding 1 x 3oz (85g) can of ProPlan cat food per 2.5-3 lbs (1-1.4 kg) of body weight. So a 9 lb (4 kg) cat would need 3 x 3oz (85g) cans per day. 

If you are feeding kibble, the Purina feeding guide for their Pro Plan Adult Essentials Formula recommends ¼ – ½ cup (28-57g) for cats weighing 5-9 lbs (2-4kg), and ½ – ¾ cup (57-85) for cats weighing 10-14lbs (4.5-6.3kg).

Once you have decided on your feed regimen, try it for a couple of weeks and see how they do. Take note of things such as:

Leftover food in the dish
Waking you in the night for food
Weight loss/gain
Maintaining weight and activity levels

You may need to adjust the feeding amounts accordingly to meet your cat’s nutritional needs.

Ad lib Feeding

Ad lib or free choice feeding, where food is left out all the time, may suit some cats who are able to regulate their own intake and aren’t prone to overeating.  Dry kibble is suited to this purpose as wet food will spoil quickly if left out, particularly in the warmer months of the year  You should use a feeder with ice packs if you’re feeding wet food ad lib. 

Ad lib feeding allows your cat to graze, and eat small regular meals throughout the day according to their own schedule.

The disadvantage of ad lib feeding is that the cat won’t have a routine of coming for food at certain times.  It is also difficult to monitor changes in eating behaviour, particularly in a multi-cat household. 

However it may be a solution if you have multiple cats coming in and out at different times of the day, or if you are out during the day.

Routine Feeding

Having a routine of feeding your cat at the same times every day has many benefits.  Cats are creatures of habit, and a regular feeding schedule gives them the security of a routine.  If your cat has access to the outdoors, hunger is a great motivator to ensure they come home each evening.

The disadvantage of routine feeding is that your cat may become hungry between meals and beg for food. They may also have to gorge more than they naturally would like to at meal times.

Combination Feeding

Combination feeding is a routine whereby the cat is fed twice daily with canned food, and dry kibble left out for the cat to graze on in between meals. It gives you the benefits (and disadvantages) of both routine feeding and ad lib feeding

The total food given should not exceed the cat’s daily requirements, but for multiple cats it can be difficult to ensure one isn’t eating more than their fair share.

Puzzle Feeders

Puzzle feeders are toys which hold food which the cat has to work for before it’s released.  According to an article in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery, they help simulate a cat’s natural feeding pattern of foraging and hunting for food.  In the wild, cats can spend up to 12 hours a day hunting for food.  Domestic feeding of modern cat food which is highly palatable and quick to eat, leaves cats with a lot of time on their hands.  This can lead to boredom and overeating.   

Using puzzle feeders means the cats expend more time and energy “working” for their food.  Puzzle feeders increase activity and provide mental and physical stimulation. They vary in complexity and are suitable for both wet and dry food. Puzzle feeders can be bought commercially or made at home using items such as plastic bottles or egg boxes.  


Feeding Multiple Cats

If you have multiple cats in one household then it’s important that each cat has their own designated area where they can eat without interruption from other animals or members of the family. If one cat is bigger than another then feed them separately and if one is elderly or ill, consider providing them with more meals throughout the day as opposed to large portions at once.

Be sure to monitor your cat’s weight regularly because an increase could mean that they’re eating too much of their companions’ food, while a decrease may indicate that they’re not getting their share. You may need to supervise feeding times to ensure everyone gets the correct amount of food.

Night Time Feeding

If your cat is waking you up in the middle of the night, there are steps you can take to ensure you get a peaceful night’s sleep.

The first thing to consider is whether the cat needs more food during the day. If your cat isn’t getting enough calories throughout their regular meals, they may need an extra snack at night. It’s important that cats are eating enough during the daylight hours to make sure they won’t wake up hungry in the night time.

Cats are naturally nocturnal hunters, so it could just be instinct that keeps them wide awake when everyone else is asleep. To help combat this issue, try providing plenty of toys and activities for your cat during the day so they’ll be tired out by bedtime.

If all else fails, you can always experiment with feeding smaller portions multiple times a day or providing snacks before bedtime as part of a consistent routine.  Check out the tips for combination feeding and puzzle feeders above too.

Medication and Feeding

Medications can play a role in how much and when your cat needs to be fed, so it’s important to understand the impact they may have. If your cat is on medication for any reason, consult with your veterinarian about the best feeding routine.

Many medications have directions that include giving them with food or at specific times of day, so having a consistent schedule is essential. Additionally, certain medications can affect appetite or cause digestive issues. For example, antibiotics can reduce appetite or cause nausea, while steroids can lead to increased hunger.

Knowing this information ahead of time will help you plan out meal times accordingly and make sure your cat is getting all the nutrition they need even during treatment. It’s also important to keep an eye on their weight during this time as fluctuations are common due to the side effects of certain medications.

Your vet can advise what type of food will provide adequate nutrition and calories for your cat based on their current health condition. With careful planning and monitoring, you’ll be able to ensure that your kitty stays healthy and happy despite any medical issues they may be facing.

If your cat has special dietary needs related to health issues like diabetes or kidney disease, talk to your vet about the best feeding schedule for them since these conditions require a specific diet plan tailored for their individual needs.

Automatic Feeders

Having an automatic feeder can make it easier to ensure your pet’s nutritional needs are met, even when life gets busy or you’re away. Many models come with programmable timers, allowing you to set the exact times of day that food is dispensed to your cat.

This ensures that they have regular meals throughout the day and prevents them from over-eating or going hungry. Automatic feeders also come in handy if you have multiple cats who need to be fed at different times.

Consider investing in an automatic feeder if you know you’ll often be away from home during mealtimes — this way, your cat will still get the nutrition it needs without worrying about missed meals! It’s important to remember, though, that automatic feeders shouldn’t replace human interaction altogether; cats still need love and attention from their owners!

Make sure to always provide them with plenty of affection, playtime, and supervised outdoor time so they stay happy and healthy no matter what kind of feeding routine they’re on.

Wet Verses Dry Food

When it comes to nutrition, wet and dry food offer different benefits, so it’s important to give your feline friend a balanced diet.

Wet food has more moisture than dry kibble and provides cats with plenty of hydration. It is closer to how a cat’s ancestors would have got their nutrition and water requirements in the wild.  

On the other hand, dry food offers convenience and is beneficial for your cat’s teeth. It also  contains a higher percentage of protein than wet food which is beneficial for cats who are active or need to gain weight.

No matter which type of food you choose for your feline friend, consistency is key when it comes to meal times and portion sizes in order for them to receive proper nutrition throughout their lifetime. Make sure that you always measure out the amount of food that is suitable for them so that they don’t overeat or become undernourished!


Caring for cats can be tricky, but knowing how often you should feed a cat and how much to feed them is key.

Whatever your feeding routine, you should monitor your cat’s weight to ensure they are not being over or under fed.  Always ensure your cat has access to multiple supplies of fresh water.

For more information, see our pages on Automatic Cat Feeders and Treats and Dispensers.

Sue Light BA (Hons), DipHE

Sue Light BA (Hons), DipHE

Sue is the founder of Web Cat Central and has a Diploma in Feline Behaviour and Psychology. She is an experienced writer who loves spending time at home with her menagerie of seven cats, four dogs and three horses.

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