How many calories does a cat burn in a day?

This page contains detailed information on the calories a cat burns in a day including for lactating mothers and growing kittens.

Pregnant F2 Savannah cat
Pregnant F2 Savannah cat. Photo: Michael Broad. Location: A1 Savannahs. OK, USA.
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Kilocalories burned by domestic cats per day is as per the chart below (source: Dr Bruce Fogle in Natural Cat Care):

Adult weight2 kg4 kg6 kg8 kg10 kg
Inactive lifestyle100-140 kilocalories200-280300-420400-560500-700
Active lifestyle140-180 kilocalories280-360420-540560-720700-900
Pregnant female200-280400-560600-840800-11201,000-1,400

Energy requirements during lactation:

ADULT WEIGHT2 kg4 kg6 kg8 kg
Lactation weeks 1-2220 kilocalories per day440660880
Lactation weeks 3-43006009001,200
Lactation weeks 5-64208401,2601,680

“When a cat is producing milk, her energy needs are up to four times greater than those of an inactive cat. During this time, increase the kilocalorie energy level of your cat’s food to minimise weight loss” (Dr Fogle).

The energy requirements for a lactating female cat increase by about 50% during pregnancy and they greatly rise during lactation. A domestic cat’s milk contains about 40% more energy than the milk of a cow or goat. Therefore, lactating female cats need to greatly increase energy consumption. And after her kittens have reduced their milk consumption her energy demands are still 50% above the usual needs until she can replace the bodyweight that she has lost.

Selkirk Rex kitten in white looking impassive
Selkirk Rex kitten in white looking impassive. Photo: Social media and in the public domain.

Below is a table of various food sources and the energy in kilocalories that they provide. The table also tells you how much of the energy comes from protein or fat. Fat is an excellent source of energy for most cats. The chart is for people who make their own home-made cat food (click for articles on diet). There are some pages on homemade cat food at the base of the page.

It is more difficult to work out how many calories there are in commercial cat food. As a guideline, a standard 400 g can of cat food contains about 300-400 kcal. Nutritionists calculate energy levels on a dry matter basis. Labels don’t give this information. It is difficult to compare nutritional content of one food to another. You need to know the moisture content to work it out. Nutritionists work out the dry matter content with a calculator. The dry matter content is what remains when moisture is removed. If a food is 78% moisture it is 22% dry matter (100% -78%). You calculate the dry matter nutrient content for fibre, fat and protein using the formula below.

Dry matter nutrient content= the label’s nutrient percentage x 100 divided by the dry-matter content percentage. Therefore, crude protein = 8 x 100÷22 = 36.4%. Crude fat = 6 x 100÷22 = 22.7%. Crude fibre = 1.0 x 100÷22 = 4.5%.

You can now compare one type of commercial cat food with another. It’s important to be able to do this if you are switching from one source of nutrients to another to enable you to adjust your cat’s energy intake.

FOOS SOURCES (100 grams)ENERGY (kilocalories)PROTEIN (g)FAT (g)CARBOHYDRATE (g)
Chicken meat12120.54.30
Chicken meat with skin23017.617.70
Duck meat12219.750
Duck meat with skin43011.342.70
Lean beef123204.60
Turkey without skin107222.20
Cottage cheese981442.4
Low-fat plain yogurt5650.87.5

Energy intake is adjusted for, as mentioned, lactating mothers. If your cat is overweight as advised by your veterinarian, you might want to use the table above at the top of the page to assess your cat’s correct intake and adjust their diet accordingly.

If a cat has been ill you may wish to adjust calorie intake upwards to enable them to put on some weight. Incidentally, if your cat has lost weight without obvious reason then please consult your veterinarian.

Female British Shorthair kitten bred in Russia by the Diabrimaris Cattery
Female British Shorthair kitten bred in Russia by the Diabrimaris Cattery

Growing kittens need about 2.5 times the amount of energy needed simply for body maintenance. If you calculate the calories needed according to their weight you can increase this by 2.5 times until the kitten is 18 weeks old and then by 50% until they are an adult. At this stage the energy needs to drop to normal for the first time.

The needs of older cats varies but most elderly cats do well on an adult maintenance diet supplemented with minerals and vitamins. Elderly cats can be overweight and they should be slimmed down gradually. Fatty liver disease can be the consequence of too rapid a weight loss. An increased amount of energy in food will benefit seniors recovering from illness. Strongly smelling fat and protein in their diet will assist appetite.

I am indebted to Dr. Bruce Fogle for this advice in his book Natural Cat Care.


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