How often should domestic cats be fed?

This is a difficult and perhaps pointless question to answer. I know that sounds negative but I think it’s a fair point to make. The basic problem is that we can’t use the feeding arrangements of the wildcat ancestor of the domestic cat to guide us because the food that they eat has a different profile in terms of ingredients than the food that a high percentage of domestic cats eat. But normally, if you want to understand domestic cat behavior you should refer back to the behavior of the North African wildcat for answers.

Canned mouse or vole would be ideal cat food
Canned mouse or vole would be ideal cat food. Picture: Wesley Aston. Words added by PoC.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats


The wild cat ancestor feeds throughout the day perhaps once per day or perhaps nine times per day depending upon the availability of prey animals and their size. And prey animals might be mice or rodents and they are 50% fat, 40% protein and 3% carbohydrates. Science Direct says that the wildcat eats 7-20 times over 24 hours!

So, with the same fat/protein/carb profile in domestic cat food you might argue that you should feed her multiple times during the day. But only wet cat food has something similar in terms of these percentages of basic ingredients and it is unfeasible to feed your cat wet cat food half a dozen or more times per day and night. This is because it goes off and it means putting the food down each time. That is not possible to do throughout the night.

And, therefore, you are reliant on dry cat food which is has an abnormal ingredient profile. It has an unnaturally high carbohydrate content. Often people allow their cats to free-graze on dry cat food especially during the night. And I think if you research the point on the Internet, you will find different answers.

The answer also depends upon whether your cat is overweight or not. There is an obesity epidemic among cats and therefore you would have to tailor their diet to reduce weight. That would probably include the frequency of feeding. There are many complicating factors in answering the question which makes it almost impossible to answer reliably.

Hills wet cat food sachets are too large?
Hills wet cat food sachets are too large? Uneaten, expensive Hills wet cat food!

But if I were challenged to answer the question, I would say that you should feed your fit, average weight, average activity-level, indoor/outdoor cat a small sachet of high-quality wet cat food perhaps three times every 15-18 hours in daytime. These are relatively small amounts. This would replicate about the average frequency of feeding for a wildcat eating mice, while retaining a similar ingredient profile. Often wet cat food is supplied in sachets which are possibly too large. Some is often left uneaten. Smaller amounts more given more frequently is better in my view.

Picture of a tabby cat using an interactive cat feeder
Picture of a tabby cat using an interactive cat feeder. Photo: MikeB

I think some dry cat food should be put down for night feeding using an interactive feeder because domestic cats are normally active during the night but it does depend on whether they are full-time indoor cats or outdoor cats. Full-time indoor cat will probably be fairly inactive at night because there is nothing to do in the way of hunting which is their prime night-time activity. Full-time indoor cats will follow their human’s rhythms and routines more than will indoor/outdoor cats.

The bottom line is that if you use the wildcat as a guideline (as you should) you don’t get really useful answers on this topic because the frequency of their feeding varies tremendously in line with prey availability. Although, it will be multiple times per day and that should guide us. But practicalities intervene. I have provided a fairly weak answer but I think you should be cautious in finding an article which provides a definitive, confident answer. I don’t think there is one.

Note: one study decided that it is best to feed cats once per day! That goes against the grain and I disagree with this recommendation. The advice varies widely.


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Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior

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