Cats are obligate carnivores (they must eat meat to survive) and require certain amino acids to be within their diet as they cannot make them themselves, unlike dogs. These amino acids are found naturally in animal protein, hence why meat proteins are required. Many commercial diets are available for cats, both in supermarkets and online. The important thing to consider is making sure that a diet is complete for your cat, if you are unsure then ask your vet for more advice.
Do cats require more food in cold weather?
During winter and when the colder weather starts some cats may choose to stay inside more to stay warm. Outdoor cats may hunt less as there are less prey for them during colder weather. Studies have now proven that cats do eat more in Winter to help regulate their temperature and help with insulation. With extreme weather impacting the metabolism, which also happens in other animals and humans, they can eat up to 15% more during this time. Their metabolism, known as BMR (basal metabolic rate), is the number of calories the body will burn at rest. In cold weather the body has to work harder in order to maintain temperature and therefore will burn more calories.
Things to consider before adjusting a feeding plan
Does your cat do less exercise during cooler months or stay inside more? Often, if they are doing less exercise – or staying inside in a centrally heated home – their food requirement may not increase as much as very outdoorsy cats. Is your cat’s current weight correct for his/her age and life stage? Your vets can help you with this question and help you decide if you need your cat to lose, gain or maintain weight. It is worth considering a growing kitten or lactating queen will require more food anyway, due to the life stage and growth required.
Other reasons your cat may eat more
Some medical conditions such as hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid) and cancer can cause an increased appetite. So if your cat displays any signs of being unwell please consult your vet for advice. If your cat is displaying odd behavioural changes associated with food then you also should seek additional advice.
How to adjust the feeding plan
By increasing the number of calories your cat consumes each day this will help compensate for the cold weather better, if needed. This can be done by just increasing the amount of food per portion given, or adding in a supplementary feed. It is important to follow instructions on the packaging for amounts of food to give. Wet food has a higher water content, so if feeding wet food alone it may be necessary to increase the amount much more to allow for this.
Ensure there are plenty of food bowls for the number of cats (at least one per cat plus one). This is to avoid competition for food and avoid some cats missing out. There is no need to warm or make hot food portions for them as that will not give them internal warmth: calories allow temperature regulation.
Consider hiding food or puzzle feeders to allow cats to use their natural instincts of hunting to find food. This often encourages them to eat better as well as preventing boredom and lack of exercise.
The bottom line…
Although the need to adjust your cat’s food during winter can occur, it is also important to consider that over feeding your cat can have detrimental effects. Overfeeding can lead to obesity which in turn can make your pet more susceptible to medical conditions such as diabetes mellitus, hypertension (high blood pressure) and arthritis. For more information on feeding your cat appropriately, consult your vet.