How Much to Feed

Being overweight is unhealthy. Here’s how to get it right.



How much should I feed my cat? I thought I was doing the right thing by following the recommendations on the bag but when I took “Shalako” for his shots, he weighed over 12 #. Now I feel guilty that he may not get as old because his doctor said that overweight cats usually don’t. How much is the right amount?


Dr. Nichol:

This is a very good question. Please don’t feel guilty for trying to do the right thing for Shalako. There are many things in life that we cannot change. Be thankful that body weight is not one of them.


Your veterinarian is right. Extra weight puts extra strain on the heart, kidneys, and joints. In cats we have the added risk of a potentially fatal liver disease too. So thin is in. What’s the right amount? Remember that pets are a lot like us in that they have differing individual needs. But the average adult cat does fine on 1/4 cup of dry food morning and night. This amount should help Shalako maintain a weight of around 8 1/2 to 9 1/2 pounds. You say Shalako is just big boned? Even a big framed cat has no business weighing more than 10 1/2 pounds. And because Shalako is male, be sure to add some water to his dry food to help prevent crystals from forming in his bladder.


What about dogs? I’m glad you asked. Here are my guidelines (this is per meal for twice daily feeding): Up to 15# of body weight feed 1/4 cup dry food, dogs weighing about 25#: 1/2 cup; 35#: 2/3 cup; 45#: 1 cup; 55#: 1 1/2  cup; 65#: 2 cups; 75# 2 1/2 cups; 90#: 3 cups. Don’t forget that these are ballpark recommendations. Start here then adjust the amount you feed to keep your pets lean and healthy.


What’s lean? Here is how I determine if a pet’s weight is healthy. With the pet standing, feel for the ribs with your fingertips. If you can count the ribs with your fingers but you cannot see the ribs individually, that critter is about right. If you can’t find the ribs with your fingers, your pet needs to lose weight. Use the above feeding recommendations as a starting point. Then adjust the amount fed as needed.


What about treats and snacks? Food rewards are good. My advice is limit them to 2 per day. If your pet extorts you for more by threatening to report you for animal cruelty explain that it hurts you more than it hurts him. (They never fall for that one but it’s fun to say.) Then throw the ball and hide the telephone.


So the last questions is: Why did Shalako get fat following the manufacture’s advice? Shouldn’t they know best how to feed their diet? The answer is that the manufacturer’s advice is based on cats and dogs who live in research colonies-a very different life than your pets. Not only that but pet food companies are in the business of promoting pet food sales. Your veterinarian is in the business of promoting pet health.