Fat Cats and Portly Pets…How much Should I Feed?

In our last post we considered how easily overfeeding occurs in many pet households. A few simple family behavioral changes can rectify this. But how do we account for the pet food manufacturer’s guidelines? Where can you find the actual nutritional calorie count on the diets and treats you are feeding? Shouldn’t following the manufacturer’s feeding recommendation result in an optimum body condition?

A positive answer to all of the above should be prefaced by: “in a perfect world”. Reality is that most manufacturers do publish nutritional information on line but package recommendations often yield calories well in excess of what your pet needs. The equation is a simple one. Calorie requirement varies considerably depending upon the species, activity level, age and physical condition. A basic rule of thumb is that most adult cats require approximately 10-15 calories per pound per day for current maintenance and dogs need more closely to 15 calories per pound per day. Remember I said “for maintenance”. That means that a ten pound cat may need as few as 100 hundred calories daily in order to maintain their current weight. Similarly a fairly inactive 60 pound dog may only require 900 calories on a daily basis. If you think in terms of what we consume as humans these numbers are painfully low.

So what do we do if we are one of the two thirds of the pet owning population with overweight pets? Logically we can either reduce calories consumed or increase the number of calories burned. No secret here that long walks with your dog or for many owners with their cat as well as initiating periods of play indoors will help to burn calories. Ball or toy chasing, laser pointer games as well as active play with other pets either within your home or in a play group setting helps significantly. Take some time to calorie count using the manufacturer’s published data as well as phone calls to the company when necessary to figure out exactly what your pet is consuming, Keep a chart for one or two weeks of everything your pet is consuming including treats, snacks, morsels of your own food and reward treats to get a sense of exactly what he or she is eating. It will take a bit of effort to figure the calorie count for everything in the diet but it is doable. Once you have done a one or two week calorie count the real work begins. Consult with your local vet to evaluate your pet’s diet and to brainstorm how to go about increasing calorie burn while reducing calorie total. This is not rocket science. If we think in terms of counting points (Weight Watchers anyone?) your pet can only consume so many points (calories) daily. If he or she has more treats one day then something has to come off somewhere else.

If the above seems simplistic it is. But taking the time and putting in the effort can significantly increase your pet’s life expectancy as well improving the quality of that life. Make sure the entire household becomes involved in this project for in the end everyone wins……especially our four legged friends.