How many calories should a cat eat? Proper feline weight management starts with this
Besides choosing high-quality cat food that will satisfy their felines’ nutritional needs, cat parents also should be mindful of how they portion each meal. Determining how much food cats need daily and what makes a healthy feline diet can be a challenge, especially if your cat is overweight or underweight. Wondering, “how many calories should a cat eat?” Untamed explores the factors impacting your cat’s nutritional needs and explains how to calculate the recommended daily food intake for any feline!
How much food does my cat need?
The recommended daily food intake of a cat mainly depends on their life stage. To help you balance your furry friend’s diet, let’s take a closer look at how much they should eat during:
What is the recommended calorie intake for kittens?
Kittens grow rapidly, especially during the first ten weeks, and they need a lot of food during that period. As they slowly approach adulthood and stop growing, their caloric needs will decrease to a value considered appropriate for weight maintenance.
Check the following table to find out how much your kitten should eat:
Recommended daily caloric intake
How to tell whether your kitten is eating enough
Are you unsure whether your kitten’s nutritional needs are being met? Here’s how to tell whether your kitten’s getting enough food:
How many calories do adult cats need per day?
Cats should eat around 40–45 calories per kilogram of their (healthy) body weight. For an average adult cat (3–4 kilos), that’s 120–180 calories per day. The numbers might differ slightly depending on your cat’s:
- Activity levels
- Ability to mate
Do male and female cats need different amounts of food?
When you compare a male and female cat of the same age and breed, male cats tend to be larger, so they eat slightly more than female cats. Female felines eat significantly more than males during pregnancy or the nursing period when their nutritional requirements increase by 50% (or more).
How does your cat’s size impact their nutritional needs?
If you’ve ever seen litters of kittens, you know that there’s usually one kitten that’s smaller and one that’s larger than the others. Sometimes, genetics can impact a cat’s size, so you might have a smaller Maine Coon, or a larger Singapura, and you’ll have to adjust their meals accordingly.
You can apply the typical 40–45 calorie per kilogram of their body weight method to determine their approximate daily food intake.
Do indoor and outdoor cats have different calorie needs?
Active cats spending a lot of time outdoors need more energy, so they have a greater appetite than indoor felines. This causes them to ask their cat parents for more food or hunt prey during their adventures.
Is mum serving lunch?
Do spayed and neutered cats need the same amount of food as mating felines?
Veterinarians claim that neutered and spayed cats often gain a lot of weight after the procedure. Their bodies need fewer calories, but cat parents fail to make appropriate adjustments to their meals and feeding schedule.
If you decide that your feline should get neutered or spayed, reduce their calorie intake by a quarter and monitor their weight in the following months.
How much should senior cats eat?
While senior cats eat around 20–30% less than adult cats, geriatric cats (15+ years old) require slightly more food to maintain muscle tone.
Why are calories in cat food important?
Giving your cat an optimal amount of food helps them achieve and maintain a healthy weight and prevents health problems caused by malnutrition.
You should ensure your furry friend’s meals don’t contain empty calories—satiating food without nutritional value. Grains and vegetable derivatives contribute to the number of empty calories in cat food. Fortunately, they can easily be avoided by opting for high-quality meat-based and grain-free food. Grains are also a common allergen. If your feline companion is allergic to grain, you must avoid it at all costs and consult your vet about a hypoallergenic diet. Single source products are also a viable option for cats with food allergies and intolerances.
I thought we agreed on not using this piece of cursed apparatus?
Signs that your cat is eating too much or not enough
Check the following table to find out how to recognise symptoms of obesity and malnourishment in cats:
How much can you feed an obese cat?
Feline obesity is dangerous and requires an immediate change in their diet before it leads to diabetes, clogged arteries, and other health problems.
If you want your kitty to lose weight, you need to reduce their daily food intake. Estimating the right amount is challenging—you don’t want to risk underfeeding your cat, but you need to cut the calories.
You can keep the caloric deficit within healthy boundaries by feeding your cat:
- Like they were a kilogram lighter (around 40–45 calories less)
- 80% of their regular caloric intake (for an average 4-kilo cat who eats 160–180 kcal daily, the recommended caloric intake for weight loss according to this method would equal 128–144 kcal)
You can speed up your cat’s progress by playing with them a little more than usual or buying special feeding puzzles for them to eat slower and exercise along the way.
But, there’s no need for a diet! This is my fur!!!
How to feed an underfed cat, so they gain weight
Underfed cats need a caloric surplus to get back to their healthy weight. This is often easier said than done but not impossible if you:
- Offer your cat smaller meals more often throughout the day to avoid shock and food rejection
- Increase their caloric intake by 20% (for an average 4-kilo cat, that’s around 192–216 kcal per day) until they begin to approach their healthy weight
- Slowly reduce the caloric surplus as your cat gains weight
You can also give your cat more treats. Don’t go overboard because you want your kitty to reach a healthy weight and build muscle tone, and some treats are only healthy up to a certain amount.
What does a healthy cat look like?
Features of fit and healthy felines are as follows:
- Noticeable waistline
- Little belly flap
- Silky coat
- Healthy pink gums
- Shiny eyes
- Lots of energy
- Consistent potty habits
- Firm stool
- Regular urination
What should you feed a cat to maintain their healthy weight?
Counting calories is not enough to keep your kitty healthy. Their diet should include the essential nutrients, which are:
- Vitamins and minerals
How much water should cat food contain?
The optimal amount of moisture in cat food is 70%, and wet food typically meets that criterion. If your feline is more fond of semi-moist or dry food, switch at least one of their daily meals to wet food. You can also mix jelly and gravy products with cat biscuits to make gruel.
Protein—the basis of a healthy feline diet
Protein is the main energy source for your furry friend. This nutrient consists of chains of amino acids crucial for healthy growth in kittens and muscle tone maintenance in adult and senior cats.
Unfortunately, not every protein source is appropriate for cats. Being obligate carnivores, felines can only break down and absorb animal protein, which means they can’t be vegan. Meat is also the only source of one of the essential amino acids cats can’t produce in their bodies—taurine. This amino acid is vital for proper vision, digestion, and heart function in cats.
Protein should make up 50% or more of your cat’s daily food intake. Check the following table to learn more about foods with high protein contents:
Approximate amount of protein per 100 grams of food
Lean deli meats (such as ham) are also rich in protein but should be reserved only for treats or as taste enhancers for meals. If given in large amounts, fatty and high-calorie cold cuts could lead to sudden weight gain and other health complications.
Why is fat essential for cats?
Felines require up to 20% of their daily food intake to be fat as it is a part of cell membranes and helps transport nutrients through them. Lean meats contain the right amount of fat for cats. Felines love the taste of fatty food but shouldn’t have it in every meal because it could lead to various health issues, such as obesity, diabetes, hepatic lipidosis, and others. That’s why you should avoid feeding your furry companion fatty meat, such as pork.
Mum wasn’t joking when she said we’re all going on a diet, huh?
Which vitamins and minerals do cats need?
Vitamins and minerals participate in all metabolic processes and ensure the proper functioning of all organs. Take a look at the following table to learn more about the vitamins and minerals that are essential to cats:
Chicken liver is a great source of vitamins and minerals, but it comes with a caveat—if not fed in moderation, it can cause vitamin A toxicity, so keep the portions moderate.
Cat food shopping—what’s on the menu?
- Dry food
- Semi-moist food
- Wet food
The texture and taste of dry food is a treat for cats, and its price is a budget saver for cat parents. The only issue with dry food is that it lacks the necessary moisture, so it must be combined with water, soup, broth, or wet food.
Semi-moist food typically contains a lot of empty calories and chemicals (colours, flavours, and preservatives), so if you’re considering it as an option, double-check the ingredient list.
Of all three options, wet food comes closest to a wild cat’s prey by its taste, texture, nutritional value, and moisture content.
Shouldn’t cats eat raw food like their relatives in the wild?
The trend of giving cats B.A.R.F. food is on the rise, confusing cat parents and potentially harming felines. This diet is supposed to imitate the natural diet of your furry friend’s ancestors and typically consists of:
Raw food bears the risk of bacterial infections (such as E. coli and Salmonella) and internal injuries, so you should avoid offering it to your cat. Raw chicken treats are not the only uncooked food that’s off the table—other meat and eggs pose a great health risk as well.
Is homemade food good for cats?
Cats can eat homemade food and snacks as long as you consult your vet about tailor-made recipes and proper preparation and storage procedures. You should also get acquainted with food cats can’t eat, such as:
- Milk—Even a tiny amount of milk is bad for cats who are lactose intolerant or allergic to casein (milk protein) and can cause stomach upsets. While drinking milk is off the table, cats without allergy or intolerance symptoms can have small amounts of dairy products, such as cheese or yoghurt, as a snack occasionally
- Allium vegetables—Chives, garlic, onions, and other allium vegetables cause significant damage to red blood cells
- Nuts—The oils in nuts cause gastrointestinal problems in cats, while macadamia nuts are poisonous for felines
- Yeast—Fermentation of yeast residue in your cat’s tummy produces ethanol (which is toxic to felines) and carbon dioxide (which could cause your cat’s stomach to bloat and twist)
Cooking cat food takes time, and there’s always the added risk of the final product being nutritionally imbalanced. If you want healthy meals with homemade flair without spending hours in the kitchen, try Untamed!
Untamed—nutritional meals for all cats
Every cat deserves nutritional meals made from high-quality ingredients. Many cat parents swear by Untamed because we:
- Follow vet-formulated recipes
- Provide double the protein than the industry standard
- Use human-grade ingredients
- Source our meat and fish from cruelty-free and dolphin-safe suppliers
- Make sure our food production process and shipping don’t cause harm to the environment
Whether your feline is a Bengal, Persian, Siamese, Ragdoll, British Shorthair, or any other breed, they are bound to fall in love with our recipes. We’ve even won over the hearts of felines who aren’t fond of wet food. Don’t believe us? Order your trial pack and let your kitty decide!
How to order your first Untamed pack
If you want to see whether we’re a good fit for your feline companion, all you need to do is:
- Visit our Try Now page
- Complete our questionnaire
- Pick a meal plan and complete your order
Your trial cat food order will be with you in a day—no shipping charges included. If your furry friend approves, we will deliver you a fresh batch every month. You can modify your order to add variety to your kitty’s menu or delay, pause, or cancel it whenever you wish.
Why are they bringing that scale over here?
Image (c) Untamed
The positive effect of quality cat food
Check out the positive impact of Untamed in the following table—as reported by our happy clients who use our monthly cat food subscription service:
How to tell whether your cat is still hungry
Cats experience a decrease or increase in appetite for various reasons, from extra activity to pregnancy. If your kitty hasn’t had enough food, they will let you know by:
- Rubbing against your leg
- Leading you to the feeding area or food cabinet
- Vocalising their hunger
If you don’t pick up on the cues, your kitty might resort to hunting, exploring food cabinets, and stealing your food.
Does your cat seem to be constantly hungry? If you’re certain that you’re feeding them enough, take them to the vet. Cats tend to overeat when deprived of essential nutrients or because of undiagnosed medical conditions, such as:
Snacks for hungry cats—what can pass?
Did your cat get the munchies and is giving you death stares because you don’t want to share your food? It’s good to know which human foods cats can have as snacks in moderation. The following table lists fruits, veggies, and grains cats can handle in tiny amounts:
If you’re letting your cat have a taste of your food, make sure fruits and veggies are without seeds, pits, stems, or leaves. Veggies should be steamed or cooked, while grains must be boiled.