As veterinarians increasingly recommend wet food diets for cats, owners are faced with many decisions. Much like dry food, it can be difficult to determine what kind of wet food is best for your cat. Once you find the right type of food for your cat, you need to figure out how much wet food to feed your cat.
Why Do Cats Need Wet Food?
Many veterinarians recommend that cats eat a diet of exclusively or mostly wet food. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, cats are obligate carnivores and are not designed to ingest many carbohydrates (if any). Dry food will automatically contain many more carbohydrates than wet food. For many cats, dry food consumption leads to obesity.
Secondly, most cats are not big water drinkers and tend to keep themselves on the edge of dehydration. Wet food naturally provides more water in the diet, which supports the kidneys, urinary tract, and overall health.
Should You Feed Your Cat Both Wet and Dry Food?
First, determine if you will be feeding your cat a 100 percent wet food diet or including some dry food. While the gold standard is to feed all wet food to cats, some cats love dry food and will undereat if they are only given wet food. In addition, dry food is more affordable, so feeding part dry will be easier on your budget.
Feeding a mix of wet and dry may require a bit of math to make sure your cat is getting the appropriate number of calories. One easy starting point is to look at the recommended daily feeding amounts on each type of food and half them.
Once you have settled on the ratio of wet-to-dry, it's time to determine the calorie count of the food. Make sure you are feeding a quality diet that's listed as "complete and balanced" by AAFCO. Then, determine the number of calories per portion.
How Much Wet Food Does Your Cat Need?
Your cat's caloric needs depend on several factors. Your cat's weight can give you a basic guideline of how much to feed. However, it's essential to determine your cat's body condition. A lean, muscular cat with large bones may weigh 15 pounds and be at a healthy weight. This cat will require more calories to maintain that healthy weight. However, a 15-pound, small-boned, overweight cat needs fewer calories. The overweight cat should be fed according to her ideal weight, not her actual weight.
Age and activity level also play a role in determining the proper amount of calories needed. A growing kitten needs many more calories than an adult or senior cat. An active cat that runs and plays frequently will need more calories than a cat that remains sedentary most of the time. A nursing mother needs extra calories to produce milk and stay healthy.
If you wish to be accurate in calculating the number of calories you feed your cat, then start by finding out how many calories your cat needs. The National Research Council offers a general guideline of nutritional needs of cats:
- Require about 200 calories a day per five pounds of body weight (after weaning).
Lean Domestic Cats
- A 5-pound cat with a lean body type needs about 170 calories per day.
- A 10-pound cat with a lean body type needs about 280 calories per day.
- A 15-pound cat with a lean body type needs about 360 calories per day.
- A 20-pound cat with a lean body type needs about 440 calories per day.
Overweight Domestic Cats
- An overweight 5-pound cat needs about 180 calories per day.
- An overweight 10-pound cat needs about 240 calories per day.
- An overweight 15-pound cat needs about 280 calories per day.
- An overweight 20-pound cat needs about 310 calories per day.
- A 5-pound pregnant or nursing cat needs about 336 calories per day.
- A 10-pound pregnant or nursing cat needs about 603 calories per day.
- A 15-pound pregnant or nursing cat needs about 851 calories per day.
- A 20-pound pregnant or nursing cat needs about 1,091 calories per day.
Cat Food Guidelines
It's acceptable to use the feeding recommendations on the packaging as a starting point for how much to feed. The website for the diet may go into greater detail about feeding guidelines. The amount you feed may need to be adjusted based upon how your cat responds. If you notice undesired weight gain or loss, the amount should be adjusted. If your cat seems extremely hungry and is not gaining weight, it's acceptable to increase the amount you feed.
Many wet foods come in three-ounce cans and recommend feeding approximately one can a day for every three to three and a half pounds of body weight. However, brands vary.
A happy, healthy cat will maintain a good weight and stay active. A properly fed cat will not act hungry all the time but will also maintain a healthy weight.
Remember to visit your veterinarian for annual or biannual wellness exams to make sure your cat is as healthy as possible.