Updated: March 8, 2021 by Kristen Chapple
Cats are nimble and gracious creatures. It’s natural for them to be fit in order to hunt and perform their stunts and acrobatics. Of course, house cats don’t need to hunt. We provide for them all they can ever need, or at least we like to think so. We love our cats but it seems we often love them too much when it comes to food. Statistics show that more than 50% of cats in the US are obese or overweight. “How much to feed a cat?” might sound like a trivial question but it isn’t. Chubby cats like Garfield may be cute and adorable, but obesity is detrimental to their health. Here are some facts.
Obese cats are at a higher risk of developing diabetes. They are very likely to get arthritis in old age. Chubby cats have skin issues twice as often. Even the grooming becomes more difficult. Obesity reduces a cat’s life expectancy. It is not so cute anymore, is it? There’s good news, though. Your cat’s weight depends almost entirely on you. Every cat is different, though. Some of them will stop eating when full, while others are voracious eaters. Whatever the case, you should avoid overindulging your cat when it comes to food. There are many better ways to show your love and care instead of sharing salami or lasagna.
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Things to Consider to Keep Your Cat Fit and Lean
Cat nutritional needs vary throughout their life. There are several genetic and environmental aspects that influence the weight of your Kitty and whether she’s prone to obesity or not. Here are some of the key elements to figure out the best formula for your cat’s diet:
This is the most obvious thing. If your cat is too fat or too skinny you should first decrease/increase the quantity of food. But, you can’t keep this formula for too long. As soon as your cat reaches the purr-fect shape you should reconsider and figure out an adequate quantity of food.
Cats have different requirements depending on their age. Kitten needs more food per pound of body weight. In order to support the growth, you should feed them several times a day. You can gradually reduce the number of meals until they are 12 months old. From then on you can keep a steady regimen of feeding. As for older cats, if they are healthy and active you don’t need to change anything. However, older cats are usually not as playful and active. You can encourage them to play more, or lower the portions to prevent obesity.
This is sort of obvious as well. A playful and vigorous cat will burn more calories than a ‘couch potato’ cat. So, she needs to eat a bit more.
Activity levels can vary a lot. Outdoor cats are much more active than indoor ones. By the way, you need to provide an activity for your indoor cat to keep her happy and satisfied. In any case, activity levels change the amount of food your cat needs.
Pregnancy and Nursing
Pregnant cats need more food. You should gradually increase food intake so that at the end of the pregnancy momma cat eats between 25 and 50% more then she eats regularly. Nursing is even more challenging and she needs even more calories. However, it depends on the number of kittens, so you have to assess it approximately. As a general rule of thumb, you should increase protein, fat, calcium, and phosphorus amounts in your cat’s diet. High digestibility is another requirement for pregnant cats. Most manufacturers have special formulas for pregnant/nursing kitties, so you don’t have to do the math. This is a challenging period for you and your cat, but it’s an amazing experience as well.
Nutritional Information of Your Cat’s Food
Read the labels! I hear this sentence quite often. When it comes to cat feeding, it can make a world of difference. Cats are obligate carnivores, so they need animal-source protein to stay healthy. A balanced diet for cats requires high protein, moderate fat, and low carb food intake. We often blame carbs for our weight problems. I am not sure about humans, but carbs should never exceed 10% calorie intake. Most dry cat food doesn’t meet these requirements, so read the labels and make necessary changes.
Dry food, as the name suggests is also very low in moisture ( up to 20%), while wet food has at least 65% moisture content. So, make sure to provide enough fresh water for your Fluffy.
There are two basic methods of feeding: free feeding and scheduled feeding. Free feeding means that food is available all the time and your furry friend eats on her own schedule. While free feeding imitates a cat’s natural diet and habit of eating many times a day, it comes with a couple of challenges. First, you can only use dry food for free feeding. Second, it’s difficult to keep track of the quantity. Third, and the most important, your cat might tend to overeat and gain weight.
Scheduled feeding allows you to closely monitor the amount of food. This is probably a better method as you can easily control your Fluffy’s eating habits, and you can choose both dry and canned food.
You can also combine these two methods. It usually means feeding your cat one or two small wet meals, while leaving some dry food freely available.
Keeping Track of Daily Food Intake
Keeping track of the amount of food is pretty easy if you feed your cat on schedule. Other methods can be challenging, but you have to make an effort if your cat has a tendency to gain or lose weight.
A healthy diet is a pillar of good health and a happy life. Being too skinny or too fat can be detrimental to your cat’s health. Luckily, it’s in your hands. If your Fluffy is a picky eater or a gluttonous eating machine, you should make an extra effort to come up with a balanced diet and prevent underweight or obesity. Generally, cats shouldn’t eat spices, but one is a necessary addition to all their meals – it’s love. Love your feline companion, play with her and keep her fit and happy.