Image via iStock.com/Astrid860
By Jennifer Coates, DVM
Sharing your life with a cat is certainly rewarding. There’s nothing quite like cozying up with your four-legged fluffball after a long day’s work.
But being a pet parent carries with it a lot of responsibility, too, especially when it comes to determining how much food to feed a cat. Feeding cats is more complicated than simply ladling out a few kibbles here and there; you need to consider several factors, especially if you choose to give your cat wet food. Determining how much wet food to feed a cat can get complicated, but we’re here to help.
Why It’s Crucial to Calculate How Much Food to Feed a Cat
You might wonder why it’s important to determine the exact amount of wet cat food you should give your cat? As of 2017, an estimated 60 percent of cats in the US are classified as clinically overweight or obese. That’s about 56.5 million cats who are too heavy, and extra weight has a dramatic, negative effect on feline health.
Overweight cats are at an increased risk for congestive heart failure, skin disorders, infections, diabetes mellitus, complications associated with anesthesia and surgery, hepatic lipidosis (a potentially fatal liver disease), and some types of cancer.
Feeding cats wet food is never as simple as just opening up a can and letting them eat until they’re full. Indoor cats, in particular, tend to burn few calories throughout the day, and they become bored, which we all know can lead to excessive eating and weight gain. Pet parents need to take a strategic approach to measuring out cat food to prevent or deal with weight gain in cats.
How Much Wet Food Should I Feed My Cat?
For starters, have your cat evaluated by a veterinarian. He or she will weigh your cat, identify your cat’s ideal weight, and determine the number of calories your cat should take in every day to reach that goal.
A pet calorie calculator can also get you into the ballpark. If your cat is severely overweight, your veterinarian may recommend a prescription cat food for weight loss; otherwise an over-the-counter weight control cat food should suffice.
Next, look at the label of your cat’s wet food. At best, the feeding instructions will be somewhat vague, and they certainly don’t apply to every cat in every situation. It helps do some math. A wet cat food’s caloric content should be listed somewhere on the label.
For example, American Journey minced chicken and tuna recipe provides 73 calories per 3-ounce can. If you can’t find this information, look it up on the manufacturer’s website or give them a call.
Let’s say your veterinarian has determined that your cat should take in 240 calories per day. In this example, you simply need to divide 240 by 73 to determine how many 3-ounce cans of the American Journey chicken and tuna recipe you should offer your cat daily.
240 / 73 = 3.3
Therefore, your cat needs to eat roughly 3 1/3 cans of this food per day.
Cat Food Portions Matter
Cats who have a hard time keeping slim should be fed several measured meals of cat food throughout the day rather than having 24/7 access to food.
How often should you feed your cat? You and your veterinarian can discuss the right frequency based on your situation. But, in general, cats do best when they eat multiple smaller meals throughout the day—two at a minimum, but more might be better.
The math that you just performed can help inform your decision. In the example that we’ve used, the cat should be eating 3 1/3 cans per day. Wouldn’t it make sense to feed three meals of one can each with the extra third of a can added to the last meal of the day? Whatever you decide, simply divide the number of cans you need to feed in a day by the number of meals you want to provide, and you’ll have the right portion for each meal.
If you’re watching your cat’s weight, you’ll also need to subtract the calories provided by any treats you give as well as any dry food you offer. If it helps, keep a log of your cat’s daily caloric intake goals and then track the food and cat treats you give throughout the day to help keep your cat’s weight on track.
Small-Portion Wet Cat Food Trays
Foods that are already divided into meal-sized portions, like Sheba Perfect Portions grain-free multipack and Nutro Perfect Portions grain-free multipack can reduce the chances that you will inadvertently feed too much at any one time.
And if your pet’s food comes in cans and you have leftovers, the Petmate Kitty Kap can cover fits four sizes of cans. It will keep wet cat food fresh in the fridge until your cat’s next scheduled meal.