How Much Should You Feed Your Pet?

A vet's complete feeding guide for cats and dogs

1 NOVEMBER 2020

This article is written by Pet Circle veterinarian, Dr Carla Paszkowski BVSc (Hons)

Establishing a healthy diet is a vital part of pet care, but it's important to know how much food your pet actually requires. Overfeeding is the leading cause of obesity in cats and dogs, and often this is done without pet parents being aware of it.

So how much food does a cat or dog need each day? Unfortunately there's no 'one size fits all' answer. The ideal daily feeding amount for your pet depends on the particular food you are feeding, as well as your pet's life stage, size, activity level and individual metabolism.

Read our Pet Feeding Guide to take the guesswork out of your pet's portions.

Skip to a section:
How Often Should You Feed Your Pet?
How Much Should You Feed Your Pet?
Calculate Your Pet's Daily Feeding Amount

How Often Should You Feed Your Pet?

Puppies and Kittens

Juvenile pets need to be fed more frequently than adult pets. Up until the age of about 5 to 6 months, puppies and kittens should be fed 3 meals per day - ideally splitting their daily recommended food allowance equally into thirds.

From the age of 5 or 6 months until they've reached adulthood, puppies and kittens can be fed 2 meals per day. This can be achieved by halving the daily recommended feeding amount and feeding one half in the morning and one half in the evening.

Adults and Seniors

Adult pets (including seniors) over the age of 12 months can be fed either once or twice daily, depending on your preference. Most people prefer to feed their pet twice daily as it fits in with their own schedule. Whichever frequency you choose, make sure to evenly split the daily feeding amount accordingly.

What about treats? Treats, dental chews, and bones are fine to give separate to meals, but should be accounted for in your dog's daily recommended feeding amount. Read below about how to calculate this.

How Much Should You Feed Your Pet?

@bostonandspencer

Determining how much food you should feed your pet is easier than you might think, although it does depend on what you're feeding your pet and how active they are. We've broken it down based on what type of diet you currently feed your pet - one dry or wet food, a mixture of dry or wet foods, or some home cooked or meat ingredients.

1. If you feed one sole dry or wet food

This one is easy! If you're currently feeding one dry food OR one wet food as your pet's sole diet, simply stick to the feeding guidelines included on the packaging. Every manufacturer will print feeding guideline tables on the packet, but if you aren't sure, you can also consult their website. Please note that feeding guidelines are guides only and should be adjusted depending on your pet's body condition score.

The daily feeding amount specified for your pet can be split into portions depending on how many times per day you feed your pet. If you choose to give your pet a few treats, it's important to take this into consideration with regards to their daily calorie intake. For example, one Greenies Regular dog treat contains 91 calories, so every time you feed a Greenies dog treat you'll need to reduce their daily meal by the equivalent calorie load.

2. If you combine different dry foods and/or wet foods

Feeding a mixture of dry and wet food has many benefits - not only does it allow your pet some variety, but it helps them reap the benefits of both. If you're feeding a mixture of two or more types of food, it's best to take the recommended daily feeding amount for each (as stipulated on the packaging) and divide them accordingly. Remember that the daily amount provided on the packaging is given under the assumption that the food is fed as the sole diet - so when combining two diets, divide this suggested amount. A good ratio to work off is to give a majority of dry food - for instance, feed 2/3rds of the recommended daily dry food amount and 1/3rd of the recommended wet food amount.

For example, let's say Maria is feeding her 10kg adult Spoodle, Archie, a mixture of Royal Canin Dental and Advance Weight Control wet food. The two feeding charts for these products can be viewed here:

Royal Canin Dental Dry Food (left) and Advance Weight Control Cans (right) daily feeding guides.

Archie is 10kg, and for the sake of this example, let's say that his activity level is 'normal', his body condition is fine and he only requires 'weight maintenance' at this point. If fed solely the Royal Canin diet, Archie should have 140g per day. If fed solely the Advance diet, Archie should have 2 cans per day. Because Maria is combining the two, we can either halve each amount, or work off a ratio of 2/3rds dry food, 1/3rd wet food. (Let's use 2/3rds, as it's my top recommendation for good dental care!)

Therefore, Archie requires 2/3rds the daily recommended amount of Royal Canin Dental (94g) + 1/3rd the amount of Advance Weight Control cans. This equates to 94g of Royal Canin and two-thirds of a can of Advance Weight Control per day. If Maria wants to feed Archie twice per day, she can divide this daily amount further into two meals - specifically, 47g of Royal Canin + one-third a can of Advance, fed twice daily.

3. If you feed home cooked food or extra meat

Many pet parents choose to incorporate home cooked food and extra meat into their pet's diet. Obviously meat and other wholefood ingredients don't come with a daily feeding guideline, so in order to figure out how much you should feed, you'll have to do the maths yourself.

How much meat should you feed your dog or cat? Rest assured that if you choose a premium, balanced diet, there's no need to supplement your pet's diet with extra meat or vegetables. Premium diets contain everything your pet needs. But if you'd like to provide some extra ingredients, we recommend keeping a balanced pet food as at least 80% of the daily calories and including no more than 20% of the daily calories as extra meat. For puppies, we recommend even less - no more than 10% of the total daily calories.

How to Calculate Your Pet's Daily Calorie Requirement

@smudgepudges

Determining your pet's daily calorie requirement is important when mixing foods or accounting for extra meat and treats to avoid overfeeding. But it's vital to understand that daily calorie requirement is only part of the equation if you're creating a home cooked diet, as it doesn't take into account macro or micronutrients such as protein, carbohydrates, fat, or vitamins and minerals. Therefore, if you're attempting to create a balanced, home-cooked diet, we suggest consulting with a veterinary nutritionist for further advice.

The first step is to determine your pet's resting energy requirement (RER), then use this figure to determine their daily energy requirement (DER). RER represents the energy requirement of your pet while at rest at a controlled temperature. To determine RER, you can use the following formula:

RER = 70 x (body weight in kg)0.75

So, for example, a pet who weighs 5kg has an RER calculated as 70 x 50.75 = 234kcal per day.


The next step is to take your pet's lifestage and body condition into account by calculating their Daily Energy Requirement (DER). DER is found by multiplying your pet's RER by a coefficient (𝑥) based on their life stage, activity, and body condition, in the following formula.

DER = 𝑥RER

Common coefficients (values for '𝑥') are listed below:

  DOGS CATS
UP TO 4 MONTHS 3 x RER 2.5 x RER
4-12 MONTHS 2 x RER 2.5 x RER
DESEXED ADULT 1.6 x RER 1.2 x RER
INTACT ADULT 1.8 x RER 1.4 x RER
Weight Loss 1 x RER 0.8 x RER
Overweight prone / inactive 1.2 x RER 1 x RER
Highly active / outdoor cats 2-5 x RER 2 x RER
GESTATION 1.6-2.0 x RER 2-3 x RER
LACTATION 2-6 x RER 2-6 x RER

These figures are a guide only and should be checked with your vet.

Taking these 𝑥 coefficients into account, let's say your 5kg pet (who has an RER of 234kcal/day, as calculated above!) is a 6 month old puppy. This pet's DER can therefore be calculated as:

DER = 𝑥 RER
DER = 2 x RER
DER = 2 x 234
DER = 468kcal/day

Our Top Weight Control Products:

Shop All Weight Control Products Now

Further Reading

Want to read more? Check out our other articles:

Games to play with your cat in isolation

Premium pet food: is it worth it?

Dental care for dogs

Dental care for cats

What is the best dog food?

What is the best flea and tick treatment?

Shop All Pet Supplies Now