Since pet obesity is on the rise and approximately 60% of cats are overweight, knowing how much canned food to feed a cat is critical for his overall health. Owners often just follow the label instructions on the can; however, this can lead to feeding too much or too little.
Vet Recommendation for Canned Cat Food
Barton C. Huber, DVM, from Animal Medical Center of Corona, says he recommends feeding about one-half to two-thirds of the manufacturer's recommended feeding amounts on the label. However, he's careful to note, there's no one formula for deciding how much to feed. "Just like with people, [cats have] different biological makeups, metabolic rates, nutritional needs, and caloric demands." Remember the nutritional information on a typical can, or bag, of cat food, is based on the "average" cat.
Dr. Huber advises, "Don't feed the cat just because it is hungry! Offer only what they need. Then, monitor the cat's weight and body score. The average cat owner typically has fat, overfed cats."
Guidelines for Feeding Your Cat
If you still feel unsure of how to start, look at your cat's weight compared to the "average" weight of an adult cat which is about 8 pounds for a male and 6 pounds for a female.
- If your cat is within 1-2 pounds of these weights and appears to be a healthy body weight, start by feeding two-thirds of the amount listed on the can. So if the can states you should feed one full can per meal, scoop out approximately two-thirds of a can into your cat's bowl.
- If your cat is more than 1-2 pounds off from the average weight but is still a healthy weight based on body size and type, follow the same directions. Otherwise, if your cat is clearly underweight or overweight, start with a whole can for an underweight cat, and half a can for an overweight cat.
- When measuring out the food, you can also use a simple food weight scale if you want to be more exact.
- Do this for about one to two weeks and observe your cat's weight. Is he gaining or losing weight or staying on track?
- If he's gaining, reduce the amount you feed by about a tablespoon and continue monitoring.
- If he's losing, reduce the amount you are removing from the can (the one-third) by about a tablespoon.
- Continue weighing and monitoring and reducing/adding by a tablespoon until you've found the amount that keeps your cat at a steady, healthy weight.
Factors Affecting Food Amounts
Cat owners should be aware that the instructions on a can of cat food are general guidelines. There are other factors to consider when deciding how much to feed your feline.
Cat Size and Body Type
Cats come in many shapes and sizes, from a six-pound Siamese to an 18-pound Maine Coon. Even comparing two cats of the same weight is not accurate as one may be slender and athletic while the other is stocky and muscled. Each cat will need a different amount of nutrition to fit their healthy weight and build.
Cat's Activity Level
Some cats are full of energy and will play throughout the day as well as roam if they are indoor/outdoor cats. On the other hand, there are many cats who consider snoozing on the couch for 20 hours a good day. Each may weigh the same but will have different caloric needs based on their activity levels.
Age of Cat
Younger kittens require higher amounts of food because their bodies are growing at a rapid rate. Likewise, a senior cat will need less food as he will probably be less active and is more at risk of gaining weight.
Quality of the Cat Food
Do you feed your cat a brand you can purchase cheaply at a local grocery or warehouse store? Or do you buy expensive premium brands? A can of cat food from each can have the same weight in ounces but completely different nutrient profiles, which leads to a need for specific feeding amounts.
Cat Health Concerns
An obese cat or one that is too thin will need to be fed accordingly to alleviate their body's physical weight problems. Cats suffering from medical conditions such as feline diabetes or hyperthyroidism may need to eat less whereas other conditions like kidney disease might require more cat food because of the higher water content.
Overall Meal Composition
How much you feed your cat during the day should affect the amount of canned food you give. If your cat only eats at meal time, he will need more food than a cat that gets treats throughout the day. Feeding your cat a mix of dry kibble and canned food also affects the amount you should give.
You should also consider how much to give your cat if he is "free fed" or if you take the food bowl up after their mealtime is over. "Free feeding" your cat makes it harder to determine how much he is regularly eating each day. It is also known to lead to the cat eating too much.
How Much Canned Food to Feed a Cat
Always use the nutritional recommendations from the manufacturer as a general guideline and monitor your cat's weight. If you're still worried you're not feeding enough, Dr. Huber advises, "if your cat is a healthy weight, don't follow the food label but go with your veterinarian's advice for your individual cat. Remember, the food manufacturers are selling the food, so they want you to buy more!"