Cats must eat meat, it is an absolute biological necessity. Because eating a meat-only diet provides some vitamins and fatty acids in their pre-formed state, cats, and many other obligate carnivores have lost the ability to make these amino acids and vitamins in their own bodies the way herbivores or omnivores do. Therefore, they MUST eat meat.
How much to feed a cat isn’t overly complicated, but it is based on many variables, including the cat’s weight and age and sexual status. Whether you’re feeding wet or dry food, the cat’s activity level, and whether or not he/she is /neutered/spayed, pregnant or nursing.
The brand of food you’re feeding also makes a difference. A dense, high-quality dry cat food will contain more nutrients by weight than a low-quality food and will require smaller portions to deliver the same amount of nutrition to your cat. Just because it has a picture of a cat on a bag doesn’t mean it’s good food, and conversely just because a food is expensive doesn’t mean it’s good food.
Many cat owners allow their cats free access to dry food, supplemented by canned food once or twice a day. A dry-food-only diet is not necessarily a bad diet if you’re feeding high-quality food, but it does require that you encourage your cat to drink a lot more water to compensate for what she’s not getting in canned food. I personally recommend giving all cats wet food, even if only in a small amount, twice a day.
When to feed your cat
When you bring a new cat home, it’s important to continue to feed her the same amount of the same food on the same schedule that’s she’s been accustomed to, then gradually migrate to your own food and schedule. Cats are very sensitive to change, and a new cat will be dealing with a lot of new-environment stress, so keeping the food and schedule consistent will ease her transition and keep intestinal upset at bay.
When you’re ready to transition your cat over to your own food and schedule, you’ll need to determine what kind of food you’ll be feeding her (wet or dry, or a combo), and use the calorie counts in each, to determine how much of which kind of food to feed him/her.