Feeding Teenage Cats
September 27, 2013 9:19 PM   Subscribe

I have two six-month-old kittens. I am worried I'm not giving them enough food. Advice?

I adopted both cats (litter mates) at eight weeks old. I am now feeding them each one 6-oz can of Natural Balance Ultra canned cat food daily (divided into two feedings), and I leave out a bowl of dry food (brand changes depending on what's available at the local shops, but it's most often Taste of the Wild Rocky Mountain). They usually go through about a cup or two of dry food daily.

I also give them a "treat" of a three-ounce can of high-end cat food, usually Weruva or Tiki Cat or Fussie Cat or Avoderm, to split every evening.

When I put down any wet food, they devour it within five minutes, and they'll beg me every morning and evening for wet food. They usually leave kibble in their bowl, however. I'm currently working on the assumption that if they were actually underfed, they'd be eating more kibble.

I think they're guilting me into feeling that they're not getting enough wet food, and I'm unclear at this point whether that's just usual feline manipulation or an actual problem.

They're active, their coats are glossy, they're gaining weight pretty steadily. This is the first time I've been solely responsible for kittens, hence the doubt.

Should I be feeding the more?
posted by jaguar to Pets & Animals (14 answers total)
Best answer: Every cat I've ever had, with one weirder-than-normal exception, has begged for wet food even when there was wet food in their bowl on the off chance I'd give them some more. If they're eating the dry when they're actually hungry, they're almost certainly fine.
posted by restless_nomad at 9:21 PM on September 27, 2013 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: Oh, and I think they're about 10 lbs. each at this point, but I don't have a scale so that's a guess. They weighed in at 7 lbs. each the last time I took them to the vet, which was two months ago.
posted by jaguar at 9:22 PM on September 27, 2013

Sounds about right. You're doing fine. Don't respond to begging because they'll learn bad habits.
posted by greta simone at 9:54 PM on September 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

As a mother to four cats (plus two others in the past), you're doing the right thing. Cats are fussy, bossy and stuck-up: they want what THEY want, not what you give them, and they will let you know. If they are really hungry, they will eat the kibble, I promise - you've said they go through a cup or two a day, so that sounds fine.

The weight gain is also a great indicator - if they look good, they most likely are, and if there's weight loss it may not even be a food thing - one of my kittens had worms and it took several months to get her back on track, and even now she's still smaller than her sister.

We've just started our cats on a new dental diet (bigger kibbles to clean their teeth, as per the vet) and have been mixing it up with the old food. They LOVE the new stuff, so if there's only the older food (not as in sitting out, just the old style) in their bowl they will meow about a bit because they want the yummier stuff. They're just like that.

Sounds like things are great - enjoy your kitty company without worry!
posted by aletheianink at 10:09 PM on September 27, 2013

Best answer: I had this worry very recently! our cat eats a majority wet with basically free feeding on dry. as a kitten he'd eat up to 10 oz of wet a day. now that he's over a year he's eating a little under 6oz of wet and 1/2 a cup of dry (this is all grain free so the amounts be more on grain food).

as a kitten, he worked off every bit of food we gave him. he'd have a swinging belly after dinner, but he'd look scrawny after an hour of play. after he was about a year old he stopped growing up and started growing out. we asked our vet if he was pudgy and she very kindly told us yes, he's maybe a little pudgy. so, we scaled back.

now he will scarf his wet food in 30 seconds and beg for more while his dry food is next to him. if we ignore the begging, whining, and ankle swipes he'll either go take a nap or eat his dry food.

much like people, different cats have different dietary needs, so it's hard to say how much they should eat. I agree with you impulse though, if your kittens were really hungry they'd eat the dry food.
posted by nadawi at 10:50 PM on September 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: It might be helpful to know what the body of a cat in good condition (not underweight, not overweight) looks like, so check out these various charts. Hopefully you can confirm that your kitties are right where they ought to be; if not, then consult with a vet to see how best to add weight to them (or safely help them lose weight).

Enjoy and love your kitties!
posted by Halo in reverse at 2:50 AM on September 28, 2013

I'm probably a little blasé about the whole cat-feeding thing, but I promise you that if your cats are truly hungry (or even think they're hungry) they will let you know. I have 5 cats and if their bowls are empty, they freak out and either a.) wake me up by meowing an inch away from my face or b.) swarm my feet when I try to walk so I have to feed them or risk life/limb. I definitely agree with your instinct that if they were really hungry they'd eat the dry food. If in doubt, ask your vet!

Have fun with your kitties. I had two kittens that were the same age as well and they were so much fun. They're massive 1.5 year old brats now. :)
posted by sarahgrace at 3:26 AM on September 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

They're begging you for better nutrition. You should be feeding them wet food for all their meals. Dry kibble is bad for them and will lead to a lot of health problems down the road.
posted by Jacqueline at 7:09 AM on September 28, 2013

i agree that a primarily wet food grain free diet is better for cats in the long run, but even when my cat was eating all high quality wet food, he still begged and pretended like he was starving and generally harassed me because he wanted different food, or he wanted to see if i'd sprinkle dried shrimp over the top. cats are beggers, especially if us monkeys give into their begging.
posted by nadawi at 7:42 AM on September 28, 2013

I agree with Jacqueline and nadawi. I'm glad you're giving them a lot of wet food, but carbs (dry food) don't belong in cat bellies.

When we first switched them to their all-meat diet, we also read that any time a kitten is hungry, feed it. Good lord, no! We were warming the food in the microwave, so anytime I touched the microwave the kittens were "starving." In about a week they were rolling around on the floor, fat little butterballs still begging for food.
posted by Anwan at 11:00 AM on September 28, 2013

Response by poster: I do plan on phasing out the dry food once they're older and not subject to unpredictable growth spurts. I just want to make sure they're getting enough calories while they're growing.
posted by jaguar at 11:44 AM on September 28, 2013

Cats are part pig. My cat zach was my first cat, and I thus didn't know any better and would give him a full scoop of kibble when he asked for it. Then his first vet visit, the vet said he was overweight, and the vet told me to stick to what they recommended for servings on the package; I measured the amount of food in the scoop I'd been using, and it was a whole day's ration right there. Okay, so one scoop a day and that was it. But that's when I noticed that zach had been asking me for - and getting - a full scoop EIGHT TIMES A DAY up to that point.

I kept him to one scoop a day - maybe I'd add a handful later if he was an especial pain - but he still was a shameless beggar, and also lived to the age of 18 and the vets would always tell me he was really healthy. So as long as your cats are getting what the package and your vet recommend, and they're active, then you can safely chalk up their begging to gluttony as opposed to genuine hunger.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:31 PM on September 28, 2013

Best answer: You're feeding just about what I'm feeding my two who are a couple months older, and my vet approved of this amount of feeding, for what it's worth. I'd originally thought to back off the dry food around 6-8 months, but she suggested waiting until closer to 10.

Sounds like you're doing just fine. Cats reeeeeally like wet food but if they were truly hungry they'd be scarfing down more of the dry.
posted by Stacey at 5:13 PM on September 28, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone. I feel less guilty now. I can feel but not see their ribs and they have waists but they're not super-defined. The cats' tendency has been to pudge up right before a growth spurt, so I assume that's what's going on, but I'll keep an eye on it.
posted by jaguar at 5:22 PM on September 28, 2013

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