How often should I feed my cat each day?

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The answer to that question depends upon such factors as age, health issues and type of food, but here are some general guidelines:

• Age. During the first three or four weeks of a kitten’s life, they nurse and mother’s milk provides all the necessary nutrients. At about five weeks, the kittens might still be nursing, but you can start them with tiny bits of solid food, fed several times a day, starting with four or more small feedings until they are gradually spaced out to three meals a day and, finally, at six months to two meals.
• Senior cats may need to be fed more frequently.
• Health issues: These can affect a cat’s eating schedule. For instance, feline diabetes requires cats to eat when insulin is administered, which could be multiple times a day. Feline thyroid problems may require frequent feedings throughout the day. Each specific health problem should be evaluated by your cat’s veterinarian.
• Life stages: Pregnant and nursing cats expend a tremendous amount of energy and have massive nutritional needs. They often need more calories, so they’ll probably need to be fed more often. Also, toward the end of the pregnancy, the growing kittens will take up a lot of room in the mother cat’s belly, so she’ll need to eat smaller meals much more often.
• Overweight cats. Special diets for cats, informally referred to as Catkins diets, are high-protein, low-carbohydrate diets. They have certain requirements that determine specific feeding times.
• No free-feeding! Cats snack constantly; this is instinctual, because their ancestors had to feed on prey, like mice or birds, whenever they could get it. Some will feed a combination of canned food, and then leave dry food out for them to snack. Some cats, though, will snack constantly and become overweight if not monitored.

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