Categories: diet

How much should an inactive cat eat?

You’d probably like a table listing the weight of an inactive cat and the amount you should feed them daily to bring their weight down or to stop them putting on weight. However, I have decided that there is a better, more flexible and accurate way.

A person who is asking how much an inactive catch should eat is likely to live with a cat who is overweight (or gaining weight) and they want to manage their cat’s weight. Because every cat is slightly different in weight and size and because there is a range of inactivity levels it is difficult to provide a table of data which covers all circumstances and all individual cats.

Cat body shape guide. Image in public domain.

Monitor weight

I notice that on Amazon you can buy weighing scales for cats which cost between about £20 in the UK (they will be about $20 in America) to about £60 in the UK or $60 in the US. I think these prices are pretty good so I would buy one. I would then weigh my cat and record it.

If she was visually overweight I would give her a little less food than I normally give her and keep on doing that and at the same time measure her weight on a daily basis or perhaps every other day. Write down the details so you can monitor the weight loss accurately.

If there is no weight loss, I would feed her a little bit less till you start seeing a gradual weight loss. When you achieve it you keep on that diet until she hits a weight which you consider to be satisfactory. You can do that visually by looking at your cat from above. You should see a slight waist just in front of the hind legs – see picture:

Correct weight cat. Photo: Warren Photographic with his permission.

Visually assessing cat’s weight through body shape

To be perfectly frank, anybody with a modicum of common sense can tell whether their cat is overweight or not. Just try and be as objective as possible and don’t distort what you see by normalising an overweight cat as a cat of normal weight. This is what can happen. People become subjective and they are unable to really look at their cat critically and decide whether their weight is normal or not. But it should be quite easy to recalibrate your brain and start obeserving objectively!

Change amount of food rather than the calory content of the food

When I’m proposing here is for the cat owner to manage their cat’s weight through the amount of food that they give them. You can buy dry cat food prescription diets (lower calorie) which are designed to bring down the weight of a domestic cat over time. You can try them if you like but I think the simpler method is simply to provide less food rather than food that contains less calories.

Cat weight chart. Image: PoC.

Decent quality wet and dry food

Once your cat is on a gradual weight loss pathway, you can carry on as you are provided the food that you give her is of decent quality. I would not feed my cat with low quality dry cat food. It should be wet cat food with high quality dry for grazing at night perhaps. I think high quality dry cat food is satisfactory but the low quality stuff I think is no good.

Just make sure you feed her a good diet with the highest quality food that you can and in the right quantities as per your weighing regime described above. You can then manage your weight downwards to an acceptable level. And you will decide that level visually if you want to keep the process nice and simple and straightforward.

Starting guide for standard cat

If you want a starting point this picture may help but I have decided that you can do this through weighing your cat and using a visual assessment of weight as mentioned.

Weight of wet cat food daily for a cat of normal activity. Image: PoC.

Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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  • This is round #2 with my two being overweight; thankfully, not by much. Abby (Maine Coon) is a big cat, but I recall the vet saying "Yea, she should be big, but yours is round like a basketball!" Seems funny now, but it's a great visual guide - she needs to lose 1.5-lbs. Shadow (Chartreux) is very muscular, but I can tell just by picking him up. He's 1-lb overweight.

    What's working for me is a high quality wet food, mostly 3-oz pouch-style that I split between the two of them. I cut the morsels in half for each dish so it looks like more. They love the food so there's no issue. I cut way down on the dry to just a few kernels in each dish (and I make them wait for it) twice/daily rather than measured amounts.

    In the beginning, they both complained LOUDLY, but I held firm. Instead, I fussed them up, lavishing love and kisses and engaging in play time. Now they've gotten used to less food and don't mind so much knowing they're going to get extra special attention afterward.

    Sometimes I may capitulate a tad if I have rotisserie chicken for dinner. They come sniffing but don't beg. They know they get nothing if they misbehave. They'll excitedly wait and when I say "want a treat?" their bodies vibrate with excitement. It's far and few in between, which is the point. They always have fresh water too; in the hot weather their water gets a couple ice cubes that they love. Their bodies are beginning to show the difference.

    • Thank you for telling this story about weight loss. It is useful because it drives home the point about how easy it is for a cat to gain weight. I think you've done very well to stand firm and provide a strict diet for your cats. I know how difficult that can be. It is very hard for me to say no to my cat. I am well trained as they say and he normally wins the arguments. Your comment is useful about weight loss. My cat, for a long time, was what is described as "fighting fit". He was quite slender but not underweight. Now he's approaching about six-years-of-age he is putting on a bit of weight which I like as long as it doesn't go too far. Perhaps it's a kind of middle-age spread. It's a sign that he has moved on from being a young man to a middle-aged man to use human language. I'll watch out for his expanding waistline and make sure he doesn't become overweight.

      • Even prior to their recent vet visit, I could tell they were becoming chunky monkeys. Abby was having difficulty jumping up onto a foot locker that has a plush kitty rug on it. Shadow was becoming a little slower in his 'craziness' which is always funny to watch. The vet confirmed the weight gain I surmised. COVID didn't help either, as well as moving from a 2/bedroom unit to a studio - less room to run and play.

        Since the diet change, Abby can now jump onto the foot locker again, but sometimes pulls the rug off in her effort. Shadow has started his crazy play again. Both seen to have forgotten they're seniors and behave like squabbling kittens. A beautiful sight to behold.

  • Get a veterinary exam, ask whether your cat is overweight, and if so, by how much. Ask your vet for food recommendations. Keep in mind that the “feeding guidelines” on the food packaging are written by the same people who want to sell you more cat food. Also, cats are obligate carnivores, which means their metabolism needs animal protein and doesn’t process carbs as efficiently as we do. Several years ago, my vet convinced me to switch my cat to a wet food, high protein diet, and the extra weight disappeared.

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