Wednesday, February 1, 2012

How much do cats need to eat every day?

Eamon the cat looking out the window
Eamon patiently waits for his food.
For much of his life, Eamon has been pretty laid-back about food. In fact, he could be downright picky when it came to food, and sometimes it was a struggle to get him to deign to eat in the first place. Over the last several months, however, he's become a food-obsessed freak. He even took to climbing on the counters, in search of food.

I had a bit of an "Aha!" moment at the veterinarian's office a few months ago, when the staff notified me that he'd lost a few pounds. I asked the doctor about this, but at the time, she told me that Eamon seemed to be at a healthy weight and the loss wasn't cause for alarm. As the weeks went on and the food roving continued, however, I decided to do a bit of research and experimentation.

Most websites are quick to point out that the amount of calories a cat should eat are based on a variety of factors, including the cat's age, breed and activity level. However, articles like this are more direct and suggest that a cat should eat the equivalent of about a can of wet food per day, plus about 4/5 cup of dry food. At first, I thought I was in the clear. Eamon eats about two cans worth (in quantity) of a raw diet per day. Should be enough, right?

Maybe not. As articles like this suggest, these low-carb (or in his case, no-carb) diets are considered weight loss diets. Whack out the fats and carbs, and the food just doesn't have the same caloric punch. Perhaps Eamon simply wasn't getting enough calories per day, so his weight was dropping and he was just plain hungry. The behavior I was seeing could have a medical component to it.

So I did an experiment. For about a week, I gave him about a 1/2 cup of dried kibble at lunchtime, and I waited to see if his behavior would change. Lo and behold, he stopped coming into the kitchen altogether, and he was much quieter at mealtime. He also began to recover a bit of that lost weight.

Normally, I don't go against medical advice. But there are times when being a good pet guardian means doing your research and making decisions that are best for your individual pet. Honestly, I think this was one of those times. If Eamon is so hungry that he's out hunting for food in our house, he needs more food. Plain and simple. He feels better, and I feel better.

So Eamon now gets a lunchtime feeding every day. Here's hoping the good behavior continues.