Energy Needs of Your Cat

Cats need a certain amount of energy to sustain the normal activities of their daily lives. Growth, pregnancy, lactation, and exercise all increase these normal energy requirements. Generally measured in terms of calories, energy comes from three major dietary components: carbohydrates, protein, and fats.

While not essential in the diet, carbohydrates provide an abundant source of energy. The major sources of carbohydrates in commercial cat foods are cereals, legumes, and other plant foodstuffs. Because cats are carnivores, the short length of their long intestines limits their ability to ferment fibers that are found in many carbohydrates.

ENERGY NEEDS OF KITTENS

Before weaning, kittens need 20–25 Calories for every 100 grams of body weight. Cat owners should start supplemental feedings from 2.5 to 4 weeks after birth, because mother’s milk is no longer sufficient.

ENERGY NEEDS OF PREGNANT AND LACTATING CATS

New mothers typically suckle their kittens for 7 to 9 weeks and will lose weight while nursing no matter what you feed them. That is why it is important to feed your pregnant cat enough to allow her to increase her body weight by 40–50% by the end of her pregnancy. The energy needs of nursing cats generally increase with litter size and through the fourth week of nursing. As a rule of thumb, nursing mothers with more than two kittens need between 2 and 2.5 times the calories they needed at the time of mating. Lactating cats should be given free access to a highly palatable, high-calorie food.

AVERAGE DAILY ENERGY NEEDS

CALORIES PER DAY
(Kilocalories per day*)
TYPE OF Cat 5 lb 10 lb 15 lb 20 lb
Kittens (after weaning) 200
Lean Domestic Cat 170 280 360 440
Overweight Domestic Cats 180 240 280 310
Exotic (wild) Cats 100 – 480
170 – 810
230 – 1100
200 – 1360
Pregnant/Nursing Cat
(4 kittens / 4 kittens at peak lactation)
336 603 851 1091

*1 Calorie =1 kilocalorie =1,000 calories. The term Calorie that is used on food nutrition labels
is really a “food calorie” sometimes called a “large calorie.” It is equivalent to 1,000 calories
(or 1 kilocalorie) as calories are defined scientifically (the amount of energy needed to warm
1 gram of water 1°C). In Nutrient Requirements of Cats and Dogs, energy needs are expressed
in terms of kilocalories, which are equivalent to Calories in this document.

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