Feeding guidelines – how good are they?

Cat Feeding Guidelines – How good are they?

On every pack of food we give you some feeding guidelines. These state the amount of food required to meet the energy needs of the average cat. But of course we all know that every cat is different…

Generally cats that go outside need more energy than those who live indoors, especially in the winter when they have to cope with the cold. For cats with access to the garden and beyond you have no way of knowing what they get up to! You might think he is a busy hunter and may even see the evidence for this but he could be sleeping most of the day in a sunny hideaway or even visiting a neighbour who feeds him a second breakfast!

It’s easier with an indoor cat but you still need to take a look at what your cat is doing. A cat in a busy household with other pets and children will tend to be more active than a lone cat with a mature family. Having two or more cats in a household may mean your cats play together and that’s great exercise for them.

Neutering can sometimes lead to weight gain in cats so you may need to reduce the amount you’re feeding if your cat has been neutered.

So with all these things to consider how do you know you are feeding him the right amount?

The most accurate feeding guide is very simple:

  • If your cat is underweight, give it more food
  • If your cat is overweight, give it less food
  • If your cat is the correct weight,you’re got the level right

But how do you know if your cat is the right weight? Just like us your cat should be not too fat and not too thin! If your cat is just the right shape then, by definition, it is at its own ideal weight. Take a look at the cat on our body condition score tool and see how your cat measures up.

Then just follow these steps:

  1. For the new cat or the new food, use the feeding guidelines to get a good starting point, choosing the most appropriate activity level / body condition compared to our ‘normal’ cat
  2. After 4 or 5 weeks, re-check body condition score
  3. Increase or decrease feed level according to whether the cat is over- or under-weight.  The change in allowance should be kept between 5 and 10%. So, if the current daily allowance is 60g, an acceptable increase or decrease would be 3-6g
  4. After 4 or 5 weeks, re-check body condition

Keep making small changes and monitoring condition score. If you need to increase or decrease your cat’s weight, it’s a really good idea to weigh them or take pictures. We’re looking for a gradual change in weight and, when you see the cat every day, you sometimes don’t notice this slow change happening

BUT – watch out for these special situations:

condition action
I always have dry food down for my cat and he’s got a good condition score. You’re one of the lucky ones – some cats seem perfectly able to decide for themselves on the right level of food. But do keep monitoring condition – these things can change, particularly as the cat gets older.
My cat was seriously overweight (body condition score over 4) and hasn’t reduced weight at all in the last 5 weeks. See the ‘light’ feeding guide – your cat would benefit from a ‘light’ diet but we recommend you discuss this with your vet.
My cat was overweight and I reduced his food. He’s lost weight but there’s still a long way to go. Don’t try and speed things up. Keep feeding at the current rate and keep monitoring the weight loss until he achieves body condition score 3 then slowly increase food to prevent further weight loss.
My cat was always in good condition. She still has the same food allowance but she’s started to lose weight. Any change like this should be investigated. She may have worms or she may have a more serious health problem. If her health is OK, she may have lost a second source of food that you didn’t know about. Increase the food allowance and keep monitoring condition.
My cat is very thin (body condition score less than 2). Again, we recommend that you talk to your vet.
My cat seems very hungry and she’s putting on weight. Could she be pregnant? If so, she needs more food, not less (see ‘feeding during pregnancy and lactation‘).

 

Dog Feeding Guidelines – How good are they?

On every pack of food we give you some feeding guidelines.

These state the amount of food required to meet the energy needs of the average dog

BUT… of course we all know that every dog is different:

The feeding guide tells you in a fairly scientific way that big dogs need more food than small dogs, that active dogs need more food than inactive ones and that growing dogs need extra food to support that growth.  What they can’t tell you is exactly how much food your dog needs.

So why isn’t it accurate?

Firstly, different breeds of dog have differing energy needs even when they’re the same weight. The most quoted example is that a Great Dane needs up to 50% more food than a Newfoundland of the same weight. Possible reasons for differences between breeds would include coat type and body surface area (it takes energy to keep warm), thyroid activity and muscle to fat ratio.

Secondly, we give you a choice of 3 activity levels – high, medium and low, but which describes your dog?

Normal Activity  – one definition is ‘outside for between one and 3 hours per day’ but, obviously, it depends on what the dog is doing whilst it’s outside. We think that 20 minutes playing vigorously with you or with other dogs is equivalent to 30 minutes off-the-lead walking and running or a couple of hours walking on the lead, and we would class those as ‘normal activity’.  So High and Low Activity mean more and less than that.

But…

…if you went for half and hour’s walk with a Labrador and a Chihuahua, both on leads, the Chihuahua  would use up far more energy than the lab.

…the dog that lives in a household with other dogs, cats or children will normally use up significantly more energy than the dog that lives just with its owner.

 

Thirdly, there are other factors which will also make for variations in food requirement:

The dog that lives outside or in a house with no central heating will use up more energy just to keep warm in the winter.

Neutering can sometimes lead to weight gain in dogs so you may need to reduce the amount you’re feeding if your dog has been neutered.

So, with all these things to consider, how do you know you are feeding your dog the right amount?

The most accurate feeding guide is very simple:

If your dog is underweight, give it more food

If your dog is overweight, give it less food

If your dog is the correct weight, you’re got the level right

But how do you know if your dog is the right weight? Just like us your dog should be not too fat and not too thin! If your dog is just the right shape then, by definition, it is at its own ideal weight. Take a look at the dog on our body condition score page and see how your dog measures up.

Then just follow these steps:

1)      For the new dog or the new food, use the feeding guidelines to get a good starting point, choosing the most appropriate activity level /body condition compared to our ‘normal’ dog

2)      After 4 or 5 weeks, re-check body condition score

3)      Increase or decrease feed level according to whether the dog is over- or under-weight.  The change in allowance should be kept between 5 and 10%. So, if the current daily allowance is 200g, an acceptable increase or decrease would be 10 to 20g

4)      After 4 or 5 weeks, re-check body condition

Keep making small changes and monitoring condition score. If you need to increase or decrease your dog’s weight, It’s a really good idea to weigh them or take pictures. We’re looking for a gradual change in weight and, when you see the dog every day, you sometimes don’t notice this slow change happening

BUT – watchout for these special situations:

condition action
I always have dry food down for my dog and he’s got a good condition score You’re one of the lucky ones – a small number of dogs seem perfectly able to decide for themselves on the right level of food. But do keep monitoring condition – these things can change, particularly as the dog gets older
My dog was seriously overweight (body condition score over 4) and hasn’t reduced weight at all in the last 5 weeks See the ‘light’ feeding guide – your dog would benefit from a ‘light’ diet but we recommend you discuss this with your vet
my dog was overweight and I reduced his food. He’s lost weight but there’s still a long way to go Don’t try and speed things up. Keep feeding at the current rate and keep monitoring the weight loss until he achieves body condition score 3 then slowly increase food to prevent further weight loss
my dog was always in good condition. She still has the same food allowance but she’s started to lose weight Any change like this should be investigated. She may have worms or she may have a more serious health problem. If her health is OK, increase the food allowance and keep monitoring condition
my dog is very thin (body condition score less than 2) If you’re already feeding above recommendation, this could indicate a health problem and you should talk to your vet
my dog seems very hungry and she’s putting on weight Could she be pregnant? If so, she needs more food, not less (see ‘feeding during pregnancy and lactation’)