How Much Food For Cat Does Your Cat Need?

A cat’s calorie requirements depend on many different factors. Using a food’s feeding recommendation is important, but a cat should also be weighed regularly to ensure their weight doesn’t increase or decrease too much.

A veterinarian can help determine an ideal body weight for your cat and recommend the proper amount of food to reach it. They can also help you determine the correct portion size for dry or wet food and treat consumption.

Calories

A calorie is a unit of energy that fuels all bodily processes. Cats need a certain amount of calories every day to maintain their current weight and health. This is called their Resting Energy Requirement (RER).

To determine your pet’s RER, start by weighing your cat. Once you know their weight, multiply it by the factor in Table 1 to calculate their basic calorie needs.

Then, divide your cat’s caloric requirements by the food’s calorie content to find out how much to feed them per meal. Keep in mind that high-calorie treats like deli meats should be limited, as they can add unnecessary calories to their daily intake and contribute to weight gain and other health issues. Your veterinarian will be able to provide more precise feeding recommendations.

Protein

Cats need at least one gram of protein per day for each pound of healthy body weight to create and maintain muscle mass. Kittens and pregnant or nursing cats need more protein because they are growing.

Since cats are obligate carnivores, the protein in their diet must be animal derived. In the United States, the National Research Council and the Association of American Feed Control Officials set minimum nutritional recommendations for commercial pet foods (7-10).

To determine how much protein a canned or dry food contains on an as-fed basis, subtract the moisture percentage from the crude protein percentage. Then divide the resulting number by 100. For example, a 5.5-ounce can of cat food that has a 10% protein content would contain 160 grams of protein on an as-fed basis.

Fat

In addition to protein, a good quality cat food should contain adequate fat for your cat’s energy needs. A fat content of 10% or higher is recommended, however many foods will have a lower fat level. A low-fat diet will be labeled as such, with the amount of fat contained in the food being listed in the guaranteed analysis.

When determining how much to feed your cat, it is important to keep in mind that your cat’s age, sex, activity levels and reproductive state will affect the total number of calories needed each day. Feeding your cat small meals throughout the day will satisfy their natural hunger and instincts while maintaining their ideal healthy weight. It is also a good idea to weigh your cat weekly to track any changes in weight.

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates supply energy to cells through the form of glucose. Like protein and fat, they are an essential part of the body’s metabolic processes.

Cats are obligate carnivores and derive most of their energy from meat-based sources. While a low-carbohydrate diet is optimal, domestic cats can thrive on a diet that includes moderate amounts of low-glycemic plant ingredients.

Carbs should only account for about 3% of a cat’s calories. Some cats may struggle to adjust to a lower-carbohydrate diet and act as if they are starving all the time. This is why it is best to feed them small, frequent meals throughout the day. Using a timed/automatic feeder that automatically reduces the amount fed helps with this. This also gives you more control to cut back on calories slowly over time.

Water

Unlike dry food, canned wet cat foods have a higher moisture content and contain fewer calories per volume. To determine how many cans a day your cat needs, refer to the recommended daily feeding amount on the back of the bag and then assess their body condition.

Wet foods can spoil if left out for too long, so offer fresh food several times a day. In the wild, cats eat 7-20 times per day and consume small amounts of food at each meal. This can help them avoid overeating. If you are feeding your pet wet or kibble, be sure to scoop their entire day’s allotment into one container each morning. This will keep their unused portion from going stale before they get to it and it will help you track their overall calorie intake.

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