A healthy adult cat weighing 10 pounds needs between 240 and 270 calories per day. Although every case is different, you may ask “how much food should I feed my cat exactly?”
However, these are only estimates, and you can tailor them to meet the specific needs of your cat, depending on their age, activity level, reproductive status, and overall health condition.
Overfeeding is a common problem, and studies have shown that nearly 60 percent of cats in the United States are overweight or obese. Cats suffering from these conditions are also prone to developing other weight-related diseases, such as Type 2 diabetes, kidney disease, heart problems, high blood pressure, and many forms of cancer.
In this article, we’re going to cover the factors that affect how much food to feed your cat as well as how often they should eat and which feeding method to use.
Factors that affect how much a cat should eat
The right amount of food for your cat will depend on several variables, such as their age, lifestyle, and health condition. Here’s what to take into account when determining how much your cat should eat.
The nutritional needs of kittens, adult cats, and senior cats are not the same, which is why there are cat food formulas created specifically for different life stages. Kittens have greater energy and nutritional demands than adult cats, while senior cat diets focus on maintaining optimal body weight and preventing or slowing down the development of chronic diseases.
Larger breeds, such as Norwegian Forest Cat, Ragdoll, and Maine Coon will require more food than other smaller-size members of the feline family. Of course, differences exist even within the same breed, so individual cats with a smaller body size will require less food.
It’s interesting to note that Birman and Persian cats, both of which are considered larger breeds, are less likely to be overweight, compared to other breeds.
A cat that’s routinely active throughout the day will require more food than a lap cat that doesn’t burn as many calories. Also, cats can have a naturally higher or lower metabolic rate, which influences the number of calories they need. For example, the best food for older cats who sleep more than play, is high in protien but low in carbs.
Pregnant and nursing cats have intense nutritional demands and they tend to gain a considerable amount of weight during pregnancy. Nursing cats should eat as much as four times more than their regular food intake to be able to meet their own nutritional needs and those of their kittens.
Also, neutered cats require less food to maintain optimal weight than intact ones, as neutering slows down the metabolic rate by around 20 percent. Additionally, neutering minimizes a cat’s desire to roam, decreasing the level of physical activity, which makes neutered cats prone to weight gain.
Overall health condition
Cats that need to lose weight require fewer calories than the amount they burn and vice versa, so the optimal food intake will depend on your cat’s general health condition. Also, certain health problems may cause cats to lose or gain weight, so regular vet checks are necessary to assess your cat’s health.
How many calories does a cat need?
A calorie is a measure of how much energy food contains, and it’s used to determine how much food a cat should eat to fuel their daily activities.
As we’ve mentioned earlier, an average-weighing cat (10 pounds) requires 240-270 calories per day, and tables like this can help you work out easily how many calories your cat needs.
The math behind these numbers is a standard formula used by veterinarians to calculate the caloric needs of a pet. It consists of two parts:
- Determining resting energy requirements (RER)
- Multiplying RER with the appropriate multiplier
To determine RER, you use the following formula: 70 x (body weight in kg) 0.75. After that, you multiply RER with the appropriate multiplier, which ranges from 0.6 to 2.5.
The entire formula looks like this:
70 x (body weight in kg) 0.75 X appropriate multiplier (0.6 – 2.5)
The appropriate multiplier refers to whether a cat is prone to weight gain (0.6), whether it’s neutered (1.2), or it’s a growing kitten (2.5).
If you follow this formula for an adult neutered cat weighing 10 pounds (4.5kg), you get a result of 259 calories (using a 1.2 appropriate multiplier).
However, you should remember that this number is only an estimate – your vet will have specific recommendations once they examine your pet.
What is a body condition score?
Body Condition Score (BCS) helps you assess if your cat has achieved their ideal weight. It’s measured via scale, where a BCS of 1 is very thin, 3 is ideal, and 5 is obese.
If a cat is obese, its ribs are hard to feel, as they are covered by a moderate-to-thick layer of fat. There is also the rounding of the abdomen and little-to-no waist present.
You can use a chart to assess your cat’s body condition, along with their overall muscle condition. You can put the result in the calorie calculator by Pet Nutrition Alliance to get a more personalized calculation that takes your cat’s individual nutritional needs into account.
How much wet or dry food should a cat eat?
Once you’ve established how many calories per day your cat needs, you need to determine how much food a cat should eat to be able to get those calories. Luckily, pet food manufacturers have to list the caloric content of their food on the label, which makes your job a lot easier. It will be written as kcal/kg and kcal/can, for wet food or kcal/cup, for dry food.
To calculate how much wet or dry food to feed your cat, simply divide the number of calories your cat needs per day by the caloric content of the food.
For example, a can of Tiki Koolina Luau wet cat food contains 136 calories per can. If your cat needs 259 calories per day, your calculation will look like this:
259 kcal/day ÷ 136 kcal/can = 1.9 cans of Tiki Koolina Luau wet cat food per day
If you want to know how much food to give your cat for each meal, divide the entire daily amount of the food by the number of meals you plan on serving.
How often should you feed your cat?
How often your cat should eat depends on its age, health, and preference. As we’ve already mentioned, kittens require more food and energy than adult cats, so they should be fed more often. Experts recommend serving kittens up to six months three meals per day. Once they become adults, one or two meals a day is appropriate in most cases.
Senior cats (age seven or above) should stick to the same feeding pattern as adults, provided they have no health issues that could affect their regular feeding schedule.
For example, the feeding schedule of a cat suffering from diabetes will likely depend on the timetable of administering insulin.
A cat that suffers from hyperthyroidism may want to eat all the time. Of course you shouldn’t let them – instead take them to the vet to have their hyperthyroidism condition treated, and then continue feeding them the best food for a cat with hyperthyroidism according to your vet’s advice.
Cats recovering from surgery may have increased nutritional needs, so you should talk to your vet about adjusting your cat’s diet during recovery.
Consider your own schedule when trying to come up with a feeding plan – some cat owners prefer to feed their pets in the morning, before everyone gets up, while others prefer evening time when things are quieter and less busy. Create a schedule that works for both you and your cat and stick to it.
Does a cat stop eating when full?
Some vets suggest that cats probably know when they’ve had enough to eat, so they are likely to stop when they’re full. But, there’s no universal answer to this question, since every cat is different. Some cats will only eat when they’re hungry, while others will eat whenever there’s food available.
If a cat isn’t willing to eat their regular food, one reason for it could be that they simply aren’t hungry. Some pet owners misinterpret this hesitation as a sign that a cat needs an enticement, so they add more tasty food to their bowl, hence giving them more food than they actually need.
Pets can quickly pick up on this and refuse to eat immediately, in hope that a reward will come soon enough.
Cats can choose not to eat for a number of reasons, so you need to be in tune with their habits to notice a change in their behavior. You needn’t be too concerned if your otherwise healthy cat skipped a meal or two, but if your sick or overweight cat refuses to eat, an immediate visit to the vet may be needed.
Free feeding vs measured meals
Free feeding means that the food is available at all times, as much as the cat wants and whenever they want it. This method is quite convenient when feeding your pet dry cat food as it won’t spoil when left out. Still, food needs to be fresh, so be sure to serve new food every day.
Free feeding works great for cats that can maintain their weight, but it’s an issue for felines that like to snack, as it can result in extra pounds. If you want to control how much your cat eats during the day, measured meals are a better option.
You can measure a daily amount of food and leave it out for your cat to nibble on throughout the day. Once they finish it, there are no refills!
Alternatively, you can measure out food for each meal, and serve your cat two or more portions.
A timed feeding method involves making a portion of food available for the cat to eat for a specified period of time. For example, you can leave out food for your cat to eat for 30 minutes. Afterward, the food that hasn’t been eaten is removed.
What treats can I feed my cat?
All cats love treats, but you need to remember that treats also have calories. You need to limit the amount you give to your cat throughout the day so that they don’t gain extra pounds.
A small amount of cooked chicken or fish is suitable, although treats that are specifically formulated for cats are a better choice than leftovers.
Food puzzles are a great way to limit the number of treats your cat gets, while also promoting their mental and physical health.
And instead of giving them treats, you can always give them a groom or play with them – a little bonding time will be just as pleasurable, without the risk of gaining too much weight.
So, how much food should I feed my cat?
An average, healthy adult cat, weighing 10 pounds will require 240-270 calories per day. The exact number of calories your cat needs will depend on their age, lifestyle, and health.
In most cases, it’s appropriate for adult and senior cats to eat once or twice a day, while kittens need three meals or more to meet their nutritional demands. If your cat isn’t prone to weight gain, you can opt for free feeding. Otherwise, measure out their meals to be able to monitor how much food they eat each day and limit the number of treats you give them.
Also, it’s important to create a feeding schedule that works for both you and your pet. If you’re still asking yourself, “how much food should I feed my cat,” ask your vet for further advice.