Healthy portions are smaller than you think
Many pet owners think their cat needs more food than they really do. This means that many cats are overfed; this contributes to weight gain, which in turn, may lead to other health issues.
What is the correct portion size for my cat?
Healthy weight is achieved by maintaining the correct balance between the energy your cat takes in through their food, and the energy they use.
The starting point is to follow the feeding guide, which can normally be found on the packaging of the pet food you have selected for your cat. However, a number of factors may also need to be taken into consideration when determining the portion size. Recommended feeding quantities for cats are often just a guideline, and should be used as a starting point.
Firstly, consider the activity levels of your cat; are they often on-the-move, do they spend a lot of time outdoors, or are they more sedentary indoor cats? How much exercise a cat gets will determine the energy they need throughout the day.
Next, has your cat been spayed or neutered? These procedures can impact the calorie ration your cat will need. Sterilisation changes their metabolism and you may see an increase in your cats appetite. After sterilisation, a cats appetite increases by 20-25%, but their actual energy requirement reduces by 30%.
It's important to pay close attention to their shape or any changes in activity and adjust their portions to account for this.
How a cat's eating habits impact their portion sizes
What cats eat, as well as how they eat and how they live, greatly impacts their well-being and their health.
Domestic cats have distinctly different feeding habits from humans or dogs. Instead of two or three large meals, some cats prefer to graze over the day. It is important, therefore, not to overfeed during these meals. Instead, measure out your cat's portion for the day and then either divide this into smaller meals, or leave the bowl out during the day and allow your cat to revisit whenever they like, depending on their preferences.
Feeding puzzles are another great way to engage your cat's hunting instincts and encourage them to be more active during meal times.
Why is my cat begging?
Does your cat keep asking for some of your food? Despite appearances, this might not mean that they are hungry. Their behaviour may instead be a habit, boredom or attention seeking. Giving in to these behaviours only serves to reinforce the action.
Having said this, continuous begging can also be an indication of illness. Infestations of parasites, for instance worms, can cause increased appetite and continuous begging, sometimes combined with weight loss.
If food seeking behaviour or consistent hunger continues, consult your vet who will be able to identify or rule out any underlying concerns or conduct a full nutritional assessment.