Calorie counting is important to everyone including our furry friends. Calories account for the body weight, and when the daily limit is exceeded, it can lead to weight gain. You will agree that cats also have a recommended body weight that we as the owners should aim to help them reach so that they will stay fit and healthy. Whether your cat is fit, needs to lose weight, or needs to gain some, in order to create a good diet plan for them, you should know the answer to the question: how many calories should a cat eat?
It is difficult counting calories for yourself, and it’s even more so for your cat. We know it can be confusing reading the labels on each cat food container to try and figure out whether it contains healthy calories, empty calories, or maybe something else, but that is what we will break down for you. A cat’s daily need for calories depends on many things, such as their level of activity and the life stage they’re in. We will count those in when helping you determine the ideal daily calorie consumption for your cat.
In this article, we will start from the basics. We will evaluate why calorie counting is important, check some standards, show you the factors that can affect how much calories your cat may need daily, and help you count your cat’s current daily calorie ingestion so you can make appropriate adjustments.
Why Is Proper Planning of Calorie Intake for Cats Important?
Food calories are measured by kilogram calorie (Kcal). A calorie is simply the amount of energy a food or drink provides. It is essential to know the calorie requirements of your cat at every stage of his life to prevent some health issues that commonly occur in overweight and underweight felines
Food is measured in grams, and you need to know how many calories per gram of food and drink your cat consumes. Different classes of food have different levels of calorie concentration. Pure carbohydrate has four calories per gram, the same as pure protein. The highest concentration of calories is found in fats with nine calories in each gram.
When your pet consumes over the required amount of energy he needs for activities and rest, the excess becomes stored as fat in the body. Too much stored fat can cause your cat to be overweight.
If you have overfed your cat, he is likely to suffer from an array of problems. Apart from the obvious visible limitations of not being agile, active, and able to move with stealth, your cat is prone to suffer from the following:
Type 2 diabetes
Shorter life span
Lower quality of life
You owe it to your cat not to overfeed him. You don’t want him to be one of the estimated 55 million overweight cats in America.
An underweight cat is skinny and gaunt with bones showing through the skin. They face some serious health risks as a result of being underweight, which include the following:
Dull and matted coat
It is as bad as being overweight or maybe even worse because your cat could die from malnutrition.
Is There a Daily Standard?
The number of times to feed your adult cat should be twice a day, but then it all depends on the life stage your cat belongs to. Not just the number of times, you have to take into account how much you feed your cat per mealtime, what kind of food it is (dry kibble or wet food), and many other things.
Below are the factors that will affect the calorie count for your cat daily. This has to do with health needs, body weight, food quality, and others. Please consider these factors before deciding the right calorie needs of your feline.
This is a vital factor and serves as the foundation for the calorie calculations of your cat’s daily needs. Knowing your cat’s current weight will enable you to determine if you need to increase his calories intake or reduce it especially as it relates to other factors like his age and life stage.
The weight of a cat can reveal a lot about his health and well-being. If your feline is weighing right then, you may just need to tweak the calorie he consumes to maintain good health.
We can divide the cat’s age into three categories: kitten, adult cat, and senior cat. Kittens like all newborn need some quality nutrition to grow, with the main source being milk. Kittens should be fed with variety so that they can gain from the nutritional benefits of various sources.
Scientifically, a kitten will gain one pound per month. Therefore, a one month kitten should weigh one pound. A kitten remains a kitten in the first six months of their life and should be fed based on their weight. It is recommended that you feed 200 kilocalories (Kcal) of food for a five-pound kitten daily.
Cats are considered to be adults from one year and above. Adult cats are most of the time active, energetic and require enough calories to fuel their daily activities of hunting, climbing, scratching and playing.
Senior cats, on the other hand, are now elderly. Cats older than seven years fall into this category. They can continue the adult calorie food intake to maintain their current weight. If there are some health needs, you may need to increase the calories to keep them from losing body mass.
Just like humans, cats also have their own personalities. Some are rambunctious and gregarious, making them very energetic and frisky. Others are gentle, introverted, and melancholic—making them less active. They could spend hours sleeping and resting. Your feline’s activity level will affect the energy he’s burning, which translates into different daily calorie needs.
You also have to consider seasons of illness, injury, and old age which also impact the level of activity. In such times, you have to adjust the calorie intake to compensate.
Special Health Needs
Cats can get plagued with sicknesses that they are susceptible to. You may need to put them on special diets that will help manage those conditions. Each special diet has its own ingredient and calorie constituents.
Pregnant and lactating cats would also need special foods to meet the nutrient demands of both the mother and fetus. Geriatric diets may be necessary for elderly cats that have digestive and age issues.
The texture in this context is either dry or wet cat food. Dry cat food is considered to be denser than wet food, and that means it would weigh more. You need to be careful and not pour out the same portions of wet and dry food out of habit. Wet foods and pates are more meat based.
The cat food texture when dense will likely have more food packed in each gram and therefore contain more calories per gram while the less dense cat food may contain fewer calories per gram. Although, for a more accurate estimation, you may have to consider the calories in other ingredients of vegetables, oil, grains and any other fillers and binders used to make the cat food.
The varying brands in the market all have their own ingredients which when added up make for the calories your cat will consume in every bite. It will be a grave mistake to change your cat food brand and not read the label before serving your cat.
Make sure you read the direction of feeding and recommended daily consumption which is based on the ingredients and the cat food type. Some brands make cat foods targeted at a particular food class, for example, high protein cat food or carbohydrate dense cat food.
Calculating My Cat’s Daily Calorie Needs
Now that you know a cat’s daily needs for calorie intake differ from individual to individual depending on the aforementioned factors, you will wonder what the exact amount of calories you should feed your cat—based on his life stage, activity levels, and health condition—is. There are diverse methods of calculating calorie consumption for your cat which we have summarized below:
Use an Online Calculator
There are pet sites that feature an online calculator that just require you to enter the current weight of your cat—usually in kilograms or pounds—and then the age. All you need is to click the “calculate” button, and you will have the result.
Some sites would further give their recommendations based on the results. Your cat may need to undergo weight loss or bulk up.
Use a Mathematical Formula
If you don’t mind some mathematical permutations, then you will be excited to use this method to get the calorie count for your cat. Some formulas are more complex than others.
The important factors to calculate are the Resting Energy Requirement, which is the energy requirement your cat needs when resting. Secondly, you will need to calculate the Maintenance Energy Requirement which is the energy required to maintain your cat. You need to convert your cat’s weight from pounds to kilogram first using:
Ideal weight in pounds ÷ 2.2 = weight in kilograms
For example, if your cat’s ideal weight is 20, using the formula would result in 20 ÷ 2.2 = 9.1kg
Next is to calculate the Resting Energy Requirement RER
RER in kcal/day = 30 (ideal or target body weight in kilograms) + 70
RER = 30 x 9.1 kg + 70
RER = 343 Kcal per day for your cat
Now convert to calories
RER in kcal/day × 0.8 = calories to feed
In conclusion, 343 x 0.8 = 274.4 is the calories to feed a cat that weighs 20 pounds.
For its MER, you use an appropriate multiplier x RER.
The appropriate multiplier depends on if your cat is neutered, spayed, and whether he requires weight loss or weight gain. And so it varies.
Check the Chart
Choose one of the many available charts on the web and trace the weight of your cat to find the ideal calorie intake for him daily. There are simple charts, and others are more comprehensive—covering the calorie intake even for neutered and spayed cats.
Charts are easy to use. However, they do not allow you the liberty of entering variables and factors that may affect the calorie requirement. It is therefore rigid.
Follow the Food Label
An obvious method is to check the label on the cat food your cat eats and follow the direction of feeding the recommended amount daily. It does not take into consideration the special needs of your cat, age, or activity level because it is a general recommendation.
It, however, does consider the body weight of your cat—which you require to determine the amount per serving and the ideal number of mealtimes in a day. Directions are vital for the health of your cat; it will be wise to stick to the instructions on the label. If you tweak it, you may end up over-feeding your cat or starving him.
Ask Your Vet
You may be confused with all the listed consideration and just don’t want to go through all the mind work involved. You want to do it right, and you are not sure which method to pick to calculate your feline’s daily calorie. In that case, simply ask your vet. She/he will do all the homework and tell you straight out the calorie your cat needs to consume.
Although you may need to visit the vet often to allow him or her to give the right recommendation at the different stages of your cat’s life, getting professional advice is always wise. Ensure that it is a vet that is familiar with your cat’s health records and history.
Your cat’s life literarily depends on the calories he ingests daily. You love your cat, and so you want to do right by him. You want to give him just enough calories so he can stay active, energetic, and slim.
Without the factors of age, current weight, activity level, preferred food brand, and texture, it will be difficult to ascertain the right calorie intake for your cat daily. No one can do it for you. You are the one who is familiar with your cat’s health history. Therefore, the responsibility falls on your shoulders.
No more guessing games. Use the tools available at your disposal and pick a method to calculate the calorie that works for you and your cat. It is no small feat to feed your cat correctly. If you show your love and care by taking your time to get it right, your cat will reward you by being healthy, fit, and able to spend the rest of their long life with you.
What life stage is your cat in? Do you want to slim him down or bulk him up? Tell us how you plan to feed your cat from now on in the comments section below.