Feeding from Kittenhood to Cathood: a how to guide for proper caloric intake

Approximately 60% of companion cats are considered over overweight or obese. Additionally, many cats are plagued with kidney failure, diabetes, urinary cystitis, and pancreatitis. We have wondered if it is because companion cat parents are not given the latest knowledge and tools at the time of adoption or purchase to raise them. Then, they and their cats unwittingly form bad habits that cause health conditions that could have been mitigated or prevented with proper feeding.

With that, we will show you how to calculate how many calories per day your companion kitten or cat may need throughout her life. 

The Basics with Cats and Kittens

#1. Feed a high-moisture food.

#2. Feed at least 4 small meals throughout the day.

#3. Scheduled feedings.

#4. Even though your mother told you not to play with your food, we want our cats to play with theirs.

#5. In multi-cat households and with other animals about, feed your cats separately.

#5. Use a water fountain or interactive water dispenser.

#6. Practice proper litter box maintenance. 

How old is your companion kitten or cat?

If you purchased a companion kitten from a breeder, you will definitely have a better idea of the kitten’s age. 

If you adopt from a shelter or a rescue, they should have a good clue as to the age. With that knowledge provided, you should take your new companion to the veterinarian. They can confirm the age and gauge your pet’s body condition score. In turn, this will help you with feeding the right amount of calories. 

How much should your companion cat weigh in adulthood?

Again, your veterinarian can give you a good ballpark weight for your cat. 

Need to Know Abbreviations

BW = Body Weight

RER = Resting Energy Requirement

MER = Maintenance Energy Requirement

LSF = Life Stage Factor 

kCal = Calories

Need to Know Equations

The calculation for RER is RER = (BWkg^.75)x70. That’s body weight in kilograms to the power of .75, then multiplied by 70. 

MER is MER = RER x LSF. LSF refers to how many calories a day a cat or dog needs based on its life stage. It is a number that is applied to different life stages such as gestation, lactation, kittens/puppies, age, neutered, and intact.

MER will tell you how many calories your companion pet needs to consume per day based on their age.

Don’t worry; we will show you step-by-step how to accurately use these equations for your cat’s weight.

Feeding Kittens

Kittens need to be fed for growth up until 10 months or one year of age. Since cats are prone to obesity, this is why we really want your veterinarian along with the breeder or rescue to give you a ballpark of your kitten’s age. 

As previously mentioned, the veterinarian should also provide an idea as to how much your companion kitten should weigh as an adult. This is the target weight. This is the weight you are feeding for. 

So, how do we feed for kitten growth?

In this instance, we will assume your veterinarian wants your companion kitten to weigh 8 pounds as an adult. The LSF for kitten growth is 2.5. 

Companion Kitten Food for Growth

Steps Unit Notes
Ideal Weight in Pounds 8 lbs.
Convert Weight to Kilograms 3.64 kg. Divide pounds by 2.2 for kilograms
RER = (BWkg^0.75) x 70 184.33 kcal/day The caret sign (^) is to the power of in Excel.
MER = RER * LSF 460.83 kcal/day LSF = 2.5

Your companion kitty will need 460 kcal/day. 

Applying it to the Food

We referenced a complete and balanced, grain-free turkey, dehydrated cat food. With this food, you add warm water, let it sit for a few minutes and serve it. (By the way, since it is in cups, you can apply this calculation to kibble as well.)

This food has 512 kCal/cup. 

Dehydrated Kitten Food

Measurement Calories Multiply Calories in Cup by the Number Below
1 cup 512 1
3/4 cup 384 0.75
1/2 cup 256 0.5
1/3 cup 168.96 0.33
1/4 cup 128 0.25
1/8 cup 64 0.125
1 Tablespoon 32 0.0625
1/2 Tablespoon 16 0.03125
1 teaspoon 10.67 0.020833

With this, you can feed 3/4 cup plus 1/8 cup plus 1 teaspoon for 458 calories per day. Please divide it into small equal amounts throughout the day and make it interactive for your kitten. 

Now, let’s apply this to wet (canned) cat food that comes in a box. The same companion pet food manufacturer also has a wet, minced, grain-free turkey food. This has 5.5 ounces per net weight. So, you cannot rely on liquid measuring cups and you may need to weigh. 

The already wet cat food has 157 kcal/box.

Wet Kitten Food

Measurement Calories
1 Box = 5.5 oz. 157
1 ounce 28.55
1/2 ounce 14.27

Three boxes are approximately 471 kcal/day. This is a smidge over. You can feed 2 boxes and 5 ounces for around 456 kcal/day. 

Next Life Stage: Cathood

Now that your kitty is now a cat and around 10 months old or your veterinarian asked you to start cutting back early, you can simply change the LSF to calculate calories and change the weight to your companion cat’s current weight. Let’s say your cat is neutered or spayed. We will apply a LSF of 1.4.

The new calorie count is 258 calories per day for an 8 pound cat. We would prefer that you do a gradual reduction for around 10 days. You would feed 1/2 cup of the dehydrated food. The wet food, you can now feed 1 box plus 1 ounce plus 1/2 ounce.

What are all of the life stage factors?

Glad you asked! Please see below for feline life stage factors. 

Nutritional Assessment Factors Life Stage Factor (LSF)
Neutered / Spayed 1.2 – 1.4
Intact 1.4 – 1.6
Inactive / Obese 1.0
Weight Loss 0.8
Gestation 1.6 – 2.0
Lactation 2.0 – 6.0

Now that you have a plan in place…

Remember, talk to your veterinarian to get sign-off on your plan. Planning early should help with mitigating or preventing metabolic diseases that have become way too common in cats these days. 

References

Cline, Martha G., et al. “2021 AAHA Nutrition and Weight Management Guidelines for Dogs and Cats.” AAHA, American Animal Hospital Association, https://www.aaha.org/aaha-guidelines/2021-aaha-nutrition-and-weight-management-guidelines/home/

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