Have you been struggling to find the line between underfeeding and overfeeding your cat? Too little and kitty will pester you incessantly for snacks; too much, and they’ll begin putting on excess weight.
An extra pound or two may not seem like a big deal, but a 2018 study revealed that overweight cats have an increased risk for illnesses like diabetes mellitus, respiratory disease, and more. What’s more, they found that approximately 45% of cats are overweight.
Helping your cat maintain an ideal body weight is a simple way to protect against other health complications.
So, how much should you feed your cat?
The portions shown on pet food labels are just a starting point. Several factors play a role in how much your cat needs to eat, including:
· Age: Young, active cats typically require more food than older cats.
· Time of year: Cats burn more calories during the colder months, so they need to eat more to compensate. They’ll require fewer calories to maintain their body weight in the summer.
· Activity level: Active cats who spend time outdoors or playing with toys require more calories than cats that prefer to nap on the couch all day.
· Size: Small breeds don’t need to eat as larger breeds do.
· Their breed: Some breeds are known for being active and having higher metabolisms, while others are prone to weight gain.
· Reproductive status: Neutered adult cats require fewer calories than intact adult cats.
· Health: Cats fighting disease, illness, or physical ailment may require more calories than usual to support their body in healing or fighting infection.
Experts from The Ohio State University developed a formula to calculate the approximate caloric needs of cats based on these factors. But, they warn that a pet’s actual needs can deviate significantly from the calculated values.
You don’t necessarily need to resort to a formula when calculating your cat’s portions. Instead, use the cat food label as a starting point and tweak it slightly based on the factors outlined above.
How much to feed a kitten
Because they’re growing quickly, kittens need to eat large portions relative to their body weight. The labels on food formulated for kittens take this into account, but you may need to increase the portions if your kitten is a large breed or reduce them if your kitten is a small breed.
Kittens have tiny bellies compared to the portions they need, so plan to feed your kitten several times throughout the day.
How to tell if your cat is eating the right amount of food
The best way to gauge whether your cat is eating the correct portions is by evaluating their body.
Here are the signs your cat is a healthy weight:
· You can feel the ribs just behind the shoulder blades.
· There’s some definition around your cat’s waist (if your cat is fluffy, feel for a slight indentation even if you can’t see one)
· The abdomen should feel somewhat “tucked” between your cat’s breastbone and pelvis. Droopy skin between the rear legs is normal, but it shouldn’t be this way along the entire abdomen.
Determining how much to feed your cat isn’t necessarily as straightforward as following the label on your pet food, but you don’t need to make it too complex. Be mindful of your cat’s lifestyle and keep an eye on how they look. If your cat appears to be gaining weight, simply scale back their portions slightly.