03 Nov How much food is too much?
Following on from last month’s grazer or guzzler post…
(check out last month’s blog here). There are many factors that affect how much food your cat should get. The feeding guidelines on pet food products are just that, guidelines. Sometimes they need more, sometimes they need less.
So – what factors do you need to take into account?
- Indoor or outdoor cat?
- Activity levels
- Their age
- Are they neutered?
- What’s the carb content in food?
- Their ideal weight
What weight should my pet be?
Not everyone has scales at home, or vet training. So many people won’t know what their pets weight is since their last vet visit – or what their pet’s ideal weight should be. This is where the Body Condition Score chart comes in.
Use this to identify what weight category your cat comes under. If they fall in to category 4 or 5, then they are over what their ideal weight should be. If they are 1 or 2, then they are underweight and need more food. Neutered cats (females in particular) often have a slight sag in their abdominal area, it isn’t always fat.
Of course, some breeds are thinner, some have thicker fur (or none at all!). Therefore, understanding the breed traits of your purebred cat is important too. The ribs might not always be easily visible either, so it’s better to feel for the ribs to identify their weight category.
Cats and Carbs
The better the quality of pet food, and the lower the carbohydrate content, the less you have to feed them. Cats require very little carbs in their diet, which is an issue when most pet foods range between 20-60% carbs. The chicken dry food we provide, for example, is 9% carbs – the lowest we have found so far. The higher the carbs, the more likely cats are to develop weight problems. They need to eat more to feel fuller, and get the nutrition they require.
To work out the carbohydrate content in your cat’s food, deduct the percentage of protein, fat, ash, fibres, etc that are listed under the Analytical Constituents from 100. This will give you a rough idea of what the carb percentage is in their food.
The factors I mentioned earlier all play a part in adjusting how much your cat should get fed from the feeding guideline of their food.
Our resident kitties Regis and Millie are good examples. Millie is 3.3kg, and Regis is 5.1kg in weight. Both are outdoor cats, both young (Millie is 3 and Regis is 1.5 years old), are high energy cats and are both neutered. They burn off a lot of calories throughout the day. Which means they need more than their recommended daily feeding guides.
Being outdoor cats, the weather also affects them. If it gets too hot, too cold, or too much rain for their liking, they will spend most of their time sleeping/lazing around. Doing very little means they need less food as normal.
Kittens also need more food than an adult cat, as they need the extra protein and vitamins for growth. Elderly cats generally don’t need as much food due to lower activity levels.
Taking these factors into account, and changing their feeding quantities based on this and their current body score, should help maintain a healthy weight.
Remember to also take into account how many treats you give your cat – they are high in calories, so make sure to cut down your cats main meals slightly to compensate.
Let’s talk poop!
An excellent indicator of overfeeding, underfeeding, or correctly feeding, your cat is their poo.
Too little food, their poos can turn hard and look like small pellets. They can be straining when going to the litter tray.
Too much food, and they can be smelly, very soft and squishy. The extreme end of this is diarrhea.
A cat’s ideal poo, should be slightly soft but firm enough to hold it’s shape when you pick it up with the litter scoop, and it shouldn’t be too smelly.
Fitness club for cats
If your cat is on the ‘extra cuddly’ side, then losing the weight is possible, as long as you stick to it! Make sure to work with your vet to ensure your cat doesn’t lose weight too quickly, as this can cause hepatic lipidosis, which is a potentially fatal liver disease. Your vet will help you decide what a good rate of weight loss for your cat should be.
Weight loss is a long process, and it can take a few months to over a year, depending on how overweight your cat is. Regular weigh-ins will keep track of your cat’s weight.
I wouldn’t recommend putting them on to a ‘weight control’ food – these are generally poor quality ingredients, full of grain/cereals (which food companies use as cheap filler) and are also high in carbs. Keep them on their current food or switch to a higher quality food if you can.
You need to know how much food you’re feeding them each day, this will make it more accurate when cutting down their food.
1) First things first – cut out almost all treats! One to two treats a day max, if even that.
2) Slowly cut down the amount of food you’re feeding them. Say you feed 40g dry food a day: cut it down to 37g a day for one-two weeks, then cut it down to 34g a day for another one-two weeks, until your cat reaches their ideal weight. This ensures a healthy rate of weight loss each week.
3) Increase their exercise. Play with them an extra 5-10 minutes a day, keeping an eye on them to ensure that they don’t start panting. If they do, then stop playtime. This will help tone up those muscles!
4) Make them work for their food! Slow feeders and puzzle toys are easy to find at online stores. This slows down their feeding time, helping them fill up faster – and if you get a treat ball, makes them move around for their food.
And that’s it for this month!
If you’d like to chat about anything we’ve discussed in this month’s blog, feel free to get in touch! Remember, we’re not vets and this is just our opinion based on anectodal evidence and research cited. Always contact your vet before starting a weight loss programme for your pet.