How often to feed a cat in practice
Cats are animals with specific nutritional needs and unique metabolisms. How to calculate energy needs and how often to feed a cat?
Contrary to popular opinion, a cat is not “like a small dog”, and the requirements of felid species are completely different from those of canids. A large number of cats, spending entire days in a static home environment, do not have the opportunity to freely satisfy their needs related to hunting, movement or control of their territory. Adding to this an incorrect feeding model, we have a direct path to overweight, obesity and health problems for our cat. Although it is worth noting that we, as conscious guardians, should provide the cat with appropriate conditions as much as possible and meet its behavioral needs at home.
A cat’s energy needs
First, we will focus on how to calculate a cat’s energy needs. Every cat should consume the appropriate number of calories every day. This will prevent both obesity and malnutrition. Each of us can calculate it ourselves – we use the DER (daily energy requirement) converter, which means daily energy demand. It can be obtained by multiplying another coefficient – RER (resting Energy requirement), i.e. resting energy demand by the conversion factor k (its value varies, depending on the needs of a given cat). How to do it step by step?
Resting Energy Requirement (RER)
This is the cat’s energy requirement for basic metabolic processes (heartbeat, breathing, digestion, etc.), measured in calories. There are 2 ways to calculate this ratio, but only one of them actually gives the most accurate result. It looks like this:
RER = 70 x cat’s body weight0,67
For example, if our cat weighs 4 kg, its resting energy requirement should be calculated as follows:
RER = 70 x 40,67 = 177,2 kcal
Daily Energy Requirement (DER)
Having calculated the RER, we need to calculate the total daily energy requirement of our cat, according to the formula:
THE = k x RER
The RER number is already known to us (we calculated it above), and the k factor must be determined using ready-made tables based on the age and activity of our cat and other factors.
Kittens (until maturity) k = 2.5 or at will
- neutered k = 1.2
- uncastrated k = 1.4
- obese, not very active k = 1.0
- on a slimming diet k = 0.8
- nutrition in intensive care k = 1.0
- convalescence k = 1.2 – 1.4
- older individuals k = 1.4 – 1.6
Oestrus and pregnancy
- ruja k = 1.6
- pregnancy k = 2.0 or at will
Depending on the number of kittens
- 1 kitten k = 2.0
- 2 kittens k = 2.5 – 3.0
- 3 – 4 kittens k = 3.0 – 4.0
- 5 – 6 kittens k = 5.0
Depending on the lactation period
- Up to week 2 k = RER + 30% RER for each kitten
- 2 – 3 weeks k = RER + 45% RER for each kitten
- 3 – 4 weeks k = RER + 55% RER for each kitten
- 4 – 5 weeks k = RER + 65% RER for each kitten
- 5 – 6 weeks k = RER + 90% RER for each kitten
For example, if our cat weighs 4 kg and its RER (calculated above) is 177.2 kcal and it is neutered, its daily energy requirement will be:
DER = 1,2 x 177,2 kcal = 212,64 kcal
When we ask ourselves – iWhat should a kitten eat? – we can see that his calorie requirement in relation to body weight is very high – the kw coefficient in this case is as much as 2.5.
The k factor for each individual will vary depending on the circumstances. We must pay special attention to it when we start to notice weight gain or loss in an adult cat with a stable lifestyle. This may indicate that the caloric content of the meals should be verified, but above all, it requires careful observation of your pet for any disturbing symptoms that may indicate a hidden disease.
How often to feed a cat?
It is worth answering this question by observing the feeding behavior of cats in the natural environment. Hunting cats can eat a dozen or even twenty small meals a day! In addition, each such consumption is preceded by physical effort related to hunting for prey. It’s easy to see that conditions at home usually look completely different. The cat gets up from the bed, satisfies its hunger with a full bowl, and then lazily spends most of the day again. Here, for my part, I always recommend implementing the so-called hunting course, i.e. a moment of fun before a meal. In this way, the cat treats play as hunting and the meal as prey, which is behaviorally beneficial. If I’m looking for ideas on how to play with my cat, I encourage you to read the article “How to make a cat toy?”.
Caregivers often try to give the cat the opportunity to eat smaller portions multiple times a day by giving it unlimited access to a full bowl – this is the so-called feeding optional. Unfortunately, only a small number of cats actually use this opportunity and dose their meals according to their body’s needs. Most people eat everything right after their caregivers leave the house, which causes excessive stomach overflow, disruption of natural digestive mechanisms and uncontrolled weight gain. Therefore, feeding an adult cat ad libitum is considered a nutritional mistake and may lead to health problems. The cat should be accustomed to feeding at specific times during the day.
How many times a day should you feed your cat?
At home, it is unlikely that we will be able to feed a cat several times a day – just like it eats in nature. However, this does not mean that we should give up completely and offer him a meal only twice a day. It is completely possible to give your cat food 4 – 5 times a day in small portions, e.g. immediately after waking up, before leaving the house, during your absence, e.g. using an automatic bowl, immediately after returning and in the evening before going to bed. The purchase of a special electric dispenser that will allow your cat to eat a portion of food at a specific time may be a big help.
How often to feed a kitten?
If an adult cat needs to be fed often, a baby cat needs to be fed even more often? Kittens should eat every 4 hours at most. This means that they will receive 6 or more portions of food per day, but it is worth paying particular attention to the even distribution of time – so that the last meal is served late at night and the first very early in the morning. If a little kitten wakes us up “for no reason” in the middle of the night, it is possible that he is simply hungry. In such a case, we should give him a small portion of food, because it will simply be the healthiest solution for him.
Be sure to read the article “Why is it worth feeding your cat healthily? – comprehensive guide”.
How much should a cat eat – a practical approach
While on this topic, we also need to touch on the practical side of selecting the dose of food for our cat. Please remember that we always monitor our cat, its figure, activity, well-being and appetite. It may be that in the case of our cat, the above conversion factors will not work, and in addition, the energy demand may change on an ongoing basis, for example due to the ambient temperature. Therefore, in my nutritional practice, I focus primarily on observing the cat and its figure. The BCS scale works great for this purpose, and you can read about it in the article “Is my dog or cat fat? – BCS figure assessment”. Especially if we are talking about cats being on BARF diet , where it may look completely different. It is important to remember that well-balanced home-made diets are much more digestible and highly digestible than most commercial foods. I have even had cases of cats where a dog with moderate activity felt best on a dose that covered its resting energy requirement, i.e. the previously mentioned RER.
Therefore, we should treat the above patterns as a base from which we must start, but ultimately we focus on observing our pet.