How Much Wet Food Does A Cat Need

You feed your cat dry food so she doesn’t get sick, but does she really need it? Some owners think this is just to make money for the pet food companies. Others believe cats are supposed to eat only wet food. But how much wet food do cats really need? To find the answer to this question, we’ll have to look at how your cat’s digestive system works and how much she eats.

Feeding Recommendations From Your Local Veterinarian

Canned food only is my first choice. For an adult cat, start with ½ of a 5.5 oz. can (Friskies/9 Lives-size can) twice daily and no additional food. This is the starting point and likely will need to be adjusted downward.

For little cats, a half of a 3 oz. can (Fancy Feast-size can) twice daily may work better. This amount is also cat-specific and often needs adjusting up or down. Feeding canned food seems to create the best balance between calories and feeling full, and the meal seems to tide the cat over better than a dry food meal.

Recommendations For Owners Who Stick with Dry Food

Dry food can be fed but must be done by careful measure, specific meals and no snacking. Today’s dry foods have much better ingredients allowing for a higher number of usable calories per cup, so even less is needed compared to the Little Friskies of 30 years ago.

Feeding multiple feedings a day is useful but can be a source of contention as the cat tries to get to be fed in between feedings. No open bowls of food should be available. Dry food is offered for a set amount of time, and any leftover food is removed until the next feeding. Sometimes, taking the bowls up, so there is no reminder of the lack of food is helpful to limit begging.

Pre-measure Your Cat’s Food to Keep From Overfeeding

The best method is to measure out a day’s (24 hours) ration in the morning and then feed out of that container to provide feedings during that day. When that container is empty, no more food until the next day. This allows multiple people to be involved with feeding while avoiding being tricked into providing extra food because the cat swears that someone forgot to feed them and they are about to die of starvation.

Using a kitchen scale to measure dry food by weight is much more accurate and repeatable than using a volume measure, so the amount is much more consistent from day to day and person to person. Measuring by weight can also allow much smaller adjustments in daily food amounts than can be accurately done by volume (a 10 percent change in a quarter cup is almost impossible to do accurately by volume measure). A good food scale can be bought for around 50 dollars at Target or Bed, Bath, and Beyond.

How Much Wet Food Should I Feed My Cat?

For starters, have your cat evaluated by a veterinarian. He or she will weigh your cat, identify your cat’s ideal weight, and determine the number of calories your cat should take in every day to reach that goal.

A pet calorie calculator can also get you into the ballpark. If your cat is severely overweight, your veterinarian may recommend a prescription cat food for weight loss; otherwise an over-the-counter weight control cat food should suffice.

Next, look at the label of your cat’s wet food. At best, the feeding instructions will be somewhat vague, and they certainly don’t apply to every cat in every situation. It helps do some math. A wet cat food’s caloric content should be listed somewhere on the label.

For example, American Journey minced chicken and tuna recipe provides 73 calories per 3-ounce can. If you can’t find this information, look it up on the manufacturer’s website or give them a call.

Let’s say your veterinarian has determined that your cat should take in 240 calories per day. In this example, you simply need to divide 240 by 73 to determine how many 3-ounce cans of the American Journey chicken and tuna recipe you should offer your cat daily.

240 / 73 = 3.3

Therefore, your cat needs to eat roughly 3 1/3 cans of this food per day.

Cat Food Portions Matter

Cats who have a hard time keeping slim should be fed several measured meals of cat food throughout the day rather than having 24/7 access to food.

How often should you feed your cat? You and your veterinarian can discuss the right frequency based on your situation. But, in general, cats do best when they eat multiple smaller meals throughout the day—two at a minimum, but more might be better.

The math that you just performed can help inform your decision. In the example that we’ve used, the cat should be eating 3 1/3 cans per day. Wouldn’t it make sense to feed three meals of one can each with the extra third of a can added to the last meal of the day? Whatever you decide, simply divide the number of cans you need to feed in a day by the number of meals you want to provide, and you’ll have the right portion for each meal.  

If you’re watching your cat’s weight, you’ll also need to subtract the calories provided by any treats you give as well as any dry food you offer. If it helps, keep a log of your cat’s daily caloric intake goals and then track the food and cat treats you give throughout the day to help keep your cat’s weight on track. 

Small-Portion Wet Cat Food Trays

Foods that are already divided into meal-sized portions, like Sheba Perfect Portions grain-free multipack and Nutro Perfect Portions grain-free multipack can reduce the chances that you will inadvertently feed too much at any one time.

And if your pet’s food comes in cans and you have leftovers, the Petmate Kitty Kap can cover fits four sizes of cans. It will keep wet cat food fresh in the fridge until your cat’s next scheduled meal.


If your cat is happy with the amount of wet food it receives, then great! You can just keep doing what you’re doing. If, however, its weight has become an issue or your cat just simply prefers more wet food in its diet, then look into some of the methods mentioned above to see if they might work for you. After all, a happier cat is a healthier cat – and that’s definitely something worth striving for.

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