How much can a cat eat?

We’ve got a cat who loves people food. She’ll beg for pretty much anything, and she’ll eat as much from an unguarded plate or glass of milk as she can before we notice and stop her. Which got me wondering: what if we didn’t stop her?

How much can a housecat eat? I suppose maybe a better question is how much would a housecat eat, if not interfered with?

A stick of butter? Half of it? A tablespoon?

A cup of milk?

How many scoops of ice cream?

If she got a whole roasted chicken, how much would be skeleton after her first dinner sortee?

I don’t know about sticks of butter or scoops of ice cream, but about a year ago I found a relatively young kitten in an old condemned house. It was freezing outside, she appeared to be starving, and I felt sorry for her, so I went to the grocery store and bought her a whole pound of shaved smoked deli turkey. She TORE it out of my hand when I returned, and began scarfing.

Later on that night my conscience wouldn’t rest, so I went back to the house to get her. The entire package was gone. Now I dunno about you, but me after I eat a whole pound of turkey I don’t feel all that well. But a tiny kitten???

She sure got FAT in the subsequent weeks, as I let her eat as much kitty kibble as she wanted. I never before had a cat that needed to be rationed, but this one certainly did. She’s now at a more healthy weight but I can only imagine what she’d be like if she had unlimited access to food.

It’s possible other cats came along and helped themselves to the the deli turkey.

I’ve had cats who would gorge themselves and growl at me when I reached for their food bowl. Naturally, I thought this was hiliarious until the gorged cat started throwing up. At that point, strict control was imposed.

Animals are just like people in some respects. Some will eat to satiation and stop, while others of the same species will gorge until they can’t cram another bite in thier bellies.

The popular conception is cats eat only what they need, while dogs will gorge themselves. This isn’t really true; our cat will eat and eat and eat and then throw up, and then want more. (Well, she stops sooner now, but it’s been a while).

OTOH, I dunno where a kitten puts a pound of turkey. :wink:

So how much should a cat eat? I’ve got 2 cats that don’t like wet food and I’ve always just left a large container of dry food that I fill as it gets low, but one cat is Rubenesque and the other is Kate Moss-esque. How much should they eat in a day?


A cat can stuff down a hell of a lot of food, especially something they don’t want another animal to get. This is bad enough with kibble, which will make them puke and/or get fat. The real problems come when you let one gorge on human food, though. Then they get nasty, potentially fata stuff like pancreatitis, especially with rich fatty foods like butter and ice cream and ham. (Kitties shoudn’t have more than a taste or two of dairy products anyway, as they tend to be lactose-intolerant. Regular cat shit is foul enough; nobody wants or needs cat diarrhea.)

I think the difference between how much a cat eats depends upon their upbringing. Every last person I know with a cat that will gorge itself, either adopted the pet from a shelter or found it abandoned (or living wild).

It would make sense a cat like that would learn to eat as much as possible as it doesn’t know when it’s next meal will be.

I had a cat and from the time it was a kitten we let it eat when it was hungry. It never overate. I believe this is because it learned food would be available so why bother.

Other people I have talked to, have noticed this too.

In fact the only time my cat did anything close to begging was if it smelled raw meat. (my mum would give it a little bit of hamburger now and then.)

CrazyCatLady lists a lot of reasons why I’m not just experimenting on my cat: “Here, sweetie, this stick of butter is for you! Eat as much as you can! Then poop outside for a few days, please!”

But “a hell of a lot” isn’t very specific. So the question stands: Given a reasonably hungry cat who wants to gorge, how much can it cram down its gullet before pulling a Mr. Creosote (or going away to sleep it off)?

In my experience with a 27 lbs (at his prime) cat was that it wasn’t so much that he stuffed himself, but would constantly eat if allowed. He loved turkey though and would do anything for some.

My cat was never interested in butter (only very small amounts of milk). I would guess that my cat would eat, max, 3/4 cup of food in one sitting (cat chow) without getting sick. That’s pretty good for a cat.

I could have authored this exact post, to the letter. I give them wet food in the AM - “Choice Cuts” or something, which is chunks of meat in gravy. Both cats inevitably lick the gravy from the dish and from the pieces of meat, but leave the solid meat unless they have NO dry food. As long as fat Trudy doesn’t really pork up, we let her eat freely.


*How much meat
Could a kittycat eat
If a kittcat could eat meat?

As much meat
As a kittycat would eat
If a kittycat could eat meat.*

Thank you. Thank you. I’ll be here all week

[sub]Try the veal; it’s delicious.[/sub]

Well, my father likes to joke that one of the family cats needs a pile of meat the size of its head to be satisfied when it gets people food. Actually, that seems to be fairly accurate - on the rare occasions that cat hasn’t gone back to begging immediately after finishing inhaling the food, that’s roughly the size of the portion he was given, and it didn’t appear to make him sick. FWIW, that cat is a bit chubby, but not really overweight (he tends to weigh around 13-14 lbs and is a Bengal so he’s a pretty big cat).

One of my cats once lucked into a whole roasted turkey breast once, when I accidentally left it out overnight. She only took a reasonable nibble, though, and left the rest. She’s always been fine to just eat all the dry food she wants and not gain wait. I don’t think the story would’ve been the same with my other cat. I think she would have eaten a chunk about the size of her head.

Cats need to eat according to their metabolism - like humans, this is an individual thing, as well as depending on environment and excersise, which explains why two cats in the same household may eat the same amount but not gain equal amounts of weight from it.

Free choice feeding in cats is not recommended.

People food is not recommended for cats.

phraser (BVSc in a week… roll on graduation day)

Oh, and check out the American College of Veterinary Nutritionists -

Another thing I just remembered is that, in the past, it was a survival advantage for animals like cats and dogs to gorge when food was available. For this reason, some have evolved to ignore their satiety centre (the part of the brain which tells them when they’re full), and they will gorge until they physically can’t fit any more in, and regurgiate. How much that is depends on the physical size and physiological status of the animal.
Dogs and cats that have evolved this way need their owners to restrict and monitor their diets, otherwise they are at risk of diabetes, pancreatitis, osteoarthritis, bladder disease and possibly other conditions.