From Flabby to Fab - helping cats back to their ideal body condition
Stop the Buffet!
Feeding your cat should emulate the feeding habits of cats who live outdoors. These cats eat several small (mouse sized) meals per day and expend energy when hunting and this is the model we should use when establishing a feeding plan for our cats. Not only does this help with physical health but by providing meals that use hunting behaviours, we engage and stimulate our cats mentally, particularly important for indoor only cats. Don't worry, we don't need to keep mice for our cats to hunt or risk our cat's safety by letting them outdoors, we are just going to mimic the natural behaviour for our cats.
How much to feed:
1. Understand your cat's daily caloric needs. Pet food companies are feeding every cat from the couch potato to the avid hunter and the feeding recommendations are guidelines based on the need to accommodate the energy requirements of all these cats, not specifically your cat. Your veterinarian can provide you with the daily caloric needs of your cat and this will provide you with the information you need to feed the appropriate amount of food regardless of the food you feed. All pet foods will have the calorie content listed which you will use to determine how much you should be feeding. The higher the calorie content of the food, the less food your cat will eat and this should be a factor in deciding on which food you choose.
Once you know how many calories your cat needs to consume daily, you can determine how many treats your cat can have as no more than 10% of their daily calories should come from treats. Temptations are by far the most popular of cat treats and they are ~2 calories each. No more than 5 a day is my general rule for all cats, understanding that most of us (me included) find it hard to stop once we get the Temptation bag out!
2. Measure meals! With cats, every kibble counts as even 2 kibble more a meal, twice or three times a day over a week, month and year results in excessive calories. The most accurate way to measure your cat's meal is with a food scale. If you don't have a food scale, ask your veterinarian for a measuring cup and measure out the total daily amount in the morning and dispense the food from the cup. The reason I recommend this is for accuracy. It is better to over-kibble (remember only one or two kibble more makes a difference) once a day than multiple times a day.
3. Feed three to four meals a day. This is not always convenient with our busy lives but in my next installment, I will be discussing ways to feed and will address this concern.