What Are the Calorie Requirements for Cats?

by Betty Lewis, Demand Media
    Is it fat or is it fluff?

    Is it fat or is it fluff?

    If Fluffy felt less like fluff and more like a bowling ball when you last picked her up, you may be wondering about her calorie intake. It's one thing to count your own calories, but it can be challenging to oversee your cat's weight loss. Fortunately, it's pretty straightforward.

    Cat Calorie Requirements

    The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention estimates that a healthy, lightly active 10-pound adult cat, one to seven years old, will need between 180 and 200 calories per day. A cat that weighs less will need fewer calories and a cat that weighs more will need more calories. If your cat is a little more active, getting more than 30 minutes of aerobic activity during a day for example, she'll need more calories to keep up with her active lifestyle. If she's a couch potato, then she'll need less. To determine your cat's calorie needs, try the cat calorie calculator linked in the resources section of this article.

    Underweight, Overweight or Just Right

    According to the American Animal Hospital Association, if Fluffy's weight is where it ought to be she should be well proportioned, with her waist visible behind her ribs. You should be able to feel her ribs, but with a slight layer of fat, and she should have minimal abdominal fat. An underweight cat's ribs will be felt easily with little to no fat, her waist will be very visible behind her ribs and she'll have little to no abdominal fat. The more overweight a cat is, the more difficult it is to feel her ribs or discern her waist. Her abdomen also will be visibly rounded and have a moderately large to large abdominal fat pad. Obese cats also will have fat deposits on their face, back and/or limbs, and weigh at least 15 to 20 percent more than their ideal weight.

    Counting Calories

    Fluffy's caloric intake and requirements are going to depend on the food you feed her. The brand of food, its protein sources, flavor and other ingredients all will impact how many calories a serving of food contains. If you've determined that Fluffy needs 299 calories a day to maintain her current ideal weight of 12 pounds, you'll need to check the label of the cat food you're feeding her to calculate how much food is necessary to provide her those calories. As long as you know what her caloric needs are to gain, lose or maintain her ideal weight, you can follow your pet food label serving instructions to understand what the serving size should be.

    Lifestyle Changes

    If your cat is tubby, you also can do some simple things to help her weight loss along. One of the first things to do is to try to get her moving. Coax her with toys, such as cat dancers or fishing pole types of toys that will get her chasing a lure. Try using a laser pointer or flashlight to get her to play chase around the room. Cat trees will offer tempting climbing options to get her off the couch and on her feet. End the free-feeding frenzy, which allows her to eat what she wants, when she wants, and transition to portioned amounts two to three times a day. Keep in mind that dry cat food can have a higher calorie content if the protein is plant-based because it's higher in carbohydrates. Weight loss programs must be managed properly because if Fluffy loses too much weight too quickly, it can result in serious liver damage.

    When to See a Vet

    If despite your efforts Fluffy isn't seeing a shift in weight, you should consult your vet. There could be an underlying medical reason for weight gain or loss (such as hyperthyroidism). If she's lost her appetite or is losing weight without any assistance from you, it's always a good idea to have her checked out by her vet. Always consult an experienced veterinarian regarding the health and treatment of your pet.

    About the Author

    Betty Lewis is a writer and editor specializing in pet care, animals, careers and emergency management. She previously ran an animal shelter, where she also served as a kennel attendant and dog trainer. Lewis holds a bachelor's degree in journalism, an M.B.A. and a master's degree in professional studies.

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