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How Many Calories Should a Cat Eat? Vet-Reviewed Cat Feeding Guide

Written by: Hallie Roddy

Last Updated on March 21, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

himalayan cat white eating hepper nom nom bowl

How Many Calories Should a Cat Eat? Vet-Reviewed Cat Feeding Guide


Dr. Lorna Whittemore Photo


Dr. Lorna Whittemore


The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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All cats have individual dietary needs based on their breed, size, age, and health conditions. As notoriously picky eaters, finding the right food for them is only half the battle. Feeding your cats the appropriate amount is a crucial aspect of their diet. Obesity in cats comes with a long list of severe health problems, so keeping their weight in check with appropriate food portions is key to keeping them at a healthy weight long term. In general, an average indoor cat should have about 20 calories of food for every pound of body weight.

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How Many Calories Do Cats Need?

While every feline is different, there are a few general guidelines for an indoor cat’s calorie consumption. Veterinarians use calculations that are based on your cats’ resting energy requirements (RER) and factor in additional needs such as life stage and activity levels.

There are useful calorie calculators that can take the guesswork out of it for you and put you at a good starting point.

Cat eating wet food from white bowl on wooden floor
Image Credit: IMG Stock Studio, Shutterstock

Maintaining Weight

If you’re trying to maintain their weight, the average cat should have about 20 calories of food for every pound of body weight. If you have an outdoor cat, they need about 35 calories for every pound of body weight. Indoor/outdoor cats usually land somewhere between the 20 and 35 calorie mark.

With that said, an indoor cat should eat roughly 200 calories per day if they weigh 10 pounds. If they weighed 15 pounds, they would consume about 300 calories per day.

Weight Loss

Some of us have cats that are overweight. Thankfully, their food consumption is in our control. For overweight cats, you’ll want to feed them for 2 pounds less, or about 40 fewer calories, every day. You will have to readjust this number every time your cat loses a pound until they hit a healthy weight. From there, you can give them maintenance calories.

Many veterinary clinics have weight loss programs to help support and advise you through this journey.

hepper nom nom cat food bowl with food

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A Cat’s Metabolism

While these calories are a good guideline for cats, there are some major factors that also need to be considered. Not every cat can eat 20 calories per pound of bodyweight simply because their metabolism is faster or slower than an average cat. If you put your cat on a diet and they aren’t losing weight, then you may need to lower the number of calories they consume even more.


Foods That Cats Should Eat for Weight Maintenance

Like with the foods we eat, there are some cat foods that are of better quality for their bodies than others. The trick is to find a food that your cat enjoys eating but makes them feel full at the same time.


Cats are carnivores, and nearly all of their food should come from meat-based protein. They are not omnivores like dogs. Cats do not need grains, fruits, and veggies to live healthy lives. Sure, they can add some nutritional value to their diets, but they are not necessary for survival.


If you’ve ever tried eating a low-fat diet for a long period of time, then you understand how it feels to be hungry all the time. The same is true for cats. They have a requirement for moderate fat levels in their diets, with 9% on a dry matter basis as a minimum standard. With that said, there is such a thing as too much fat. Excess fat in the diet that is not burned off as energy will lead to weight gain.


Fiber is essential for promoting efficient digestion and utilizing food calories. It also keeps your cats from feeling hungry as often. However, it is sometimes hard to find meat-based cat foods with high levels of fiber. The safest way to introduce fiber into your cat’s diet is with a higher fiber food recommended by your vet. You can also try supplements but monitor for digestive upset.

Siamese cat eating dry food from a bowl
Image Credit: catinrocket, Shutterstock

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Determining how many calories your feline friend needs is simple once you’ve wrapped your head around the equation. Of course, you should always check with your vet to ensure they are eating the appropriate amount of food before making any changes to their diet. They will be able to give you the best guidance for appropriately feeding your beloved pet and keeping them healthy for years to come.

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