Essential Feline Nutrition Guide

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A feline nutrition guide is a must for every pet owner. A man is what he eats as the adage goes. The same can be said for the feline community. Whether your cat is a weaning kitten, an adult or mature cat, it’s important to know the basics of feline nutrition.

The questions are endless: when do I start solid food, what kind of food is best, should I alter my act's diet depending on her age? This nutrition guide answers those questions and hopefully many more.


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Feline Nutrition Guide

1. Weaning and First Feedings

If possible, kittens need total nutrition from momma cat's milk during the first four weeks of life. Whether bottle feeding abandoned kittens or helping momma cat wean a litter, introduction of food generally begins around 4 weeks of age.

This of course, depends on each kitten and their size and ability to lap up their first foods. When starting the weaning process, ensure that you use only food specifically formulated for kittens. They need the extra vitamins and proteins not found in other cat foods.

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Mix the first solid food with water or preferably kitten formula. The mixture should contain more liquid than food. After the kitten get used to this mixture, offer food with less liquid. Gradually transition the kitten to solid food. Experts suggest this process should be completed by 8 weeks, but might take a bit longer.

2. Feeding An Adolescent Cat

A young cat's dietary needs are different than that of a kitten or older adult. These cats generally fall between about 6 months and 2 years old. Most cats continue growing until about 18 months, so they need extra nutrients to help them obtain their optimal growth and health.

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Your young cat's diet should consist of 30 percent protein, which can be found in special foods sold for young growing cats. Timed feedings are a better option as they limit food intake to what a cat needs. While some cats do well with free feeding, they tend to overeat and eat too often.

It is suggested that a young cat should be fed three times a day, leaning towards two by the end of two years old.

3. Feeding an Adult Cat

An adult cat is considered to be from 2 to 8 years old. A cat that is an adult has finished growing and their nutritional needs should address the needs for cell repair, health maintenance and energy. While there are standard feeding guidelines, a cat's needs depend to a large part on their energy needs.

The APA states that the typical adult cat needs to eat for ‘maintenance' energy. A cat this age should eat two times a day, unless pregnant, nursing,  ill or recovering from surgery.

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A non-active adult cat will require about 10 percent more food than the regular food guidelines. An active cat, on the other hand, could require up to 30 to 40 percent more calories per day.

Also ensure that your cat's food, whether dry or wet, contains an appropriate amount of Taurine, one of the most important nutrients for a cat. Taurine helps with heart function, reproduction and vision. It is also important to ensure the food is a meat based product as only meat contains certain nutrients necessary for a cat's health.

feline nutrition guide

4. Changing Diet for a Mature Cat

If your cat is over 8 years old, their diet needs are starting to change. Some experts consider a mature older cat as one over 7 years of age. This is the age to start changing your cat's diet to one made specifically for mature cats.

These foods contain proper nutrients for an aging cat. In addition, the proteins and fats are more digestible as older cats have a harder time digesting and absorbing these nutrients.  A mature cat also benefits from foods that contain a higher fiber content.

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Also, it is important to check your cat's teeth to ensure they still have enough teeth to chew hard food. if not, consider moistening their dry food or gradually changing their diet to soft food.

How Much to Feed My Cat and When

While there are general feeding guidelines, each cat is specific. Some breeds are smaller and eat less while others are known as the large felines, such as Maine Coons. A larger cat will probably require more food than a smaller cat.

Some feeding guides give food amount in ounces while others give guidelines in cups, calories or grams. Ensure that you transfer the amounts into understandable amounts. For most people cups is the most reliable quantity feeding guideline.

There are various online feeding schedules but one of the best can be found at This guide, plus others help to take the confusion out of feeding schedules and amounts.

What Not to Feed Your Cat

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Some experts state that a cat can receive treats depending on the breed and at's digestive system. It is suggested that no more than 10 percent of a feline's diet should come from snack foods.

There are some veterinarians who suggest no human foods at all, so check with your pet's vet before feeding her any human treats. If an occasional treat is approved, ensure that your cat does not receive the following foods:

  • Onion, garlic, chocolate, coffee or tea: All are toxic to cats.
  • Raw meat: Raw meat might contain parasites
  • Raw eggs: They run the risk of carrying Salmonella. In addition, egg consumption can decrease the cat's absorption of much needed vitamin B.
  • Raw fish: Besides leading to a possible vitamin B deficiency, raw fish can cause loss of appetite and seizures.
  • Milk: Cats lack an important enzyme needed to break down milk protein and can therefore cause diarrhea in cats.

Each cat is an individual with basic and specific nutrition needs. If in doubt about your cat's nutritional needs, contact your local veterinarian who can give more advice on how to keep your pet healthy with the right feline diet.

What nutrition do cats need?

It contains essential nutrients – amino acids, fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, etc. – that the body needs to function. Food is also fuel, providing the energy that cats need to grow, maintain their bodies, reproduce, stay warm, and be active.

What is the healthiest food to feed your cat?

Meat. Cats are meat eaters, plain and simple. They have to have protein from meat for a strong heart, good vision, and a healthy reproductive system. Cooked beef, chicken, turkey, and small amounts of lean deli meats are a great way to give them that.

What percentage of a cat's diet should be protein?

Well, it actually can be more complicated, such as if the cat eats a variety of foods, or hunts, or has other sources of foods, but at its most basic level, you can see that if your cat has a healthy body weight, her canned food should contain at least 10 percent protein and her dry food at least 40 percent protein.

How much carbohydrates do cats need?

However, most commonly conventional cat foods provide between 20% and 40% as carbohydrates. Carbohydrate ingredients, such as grains, potatoes, legumes, etc., composed primarily of starches, are important for pet food processing. A certain level of starch must be included for proper processing of dry product.

  • Updated September 8, 2023
Alexander Jones

Xander is a member in the 'Crazy Cat Dude' association since time immemorial, he has maintained his dedication as a passionate cat writer for numerous years especially during his retirement. Consistently, he actively engages in the rescue and rehoming of abandoned felines and kittens.