What is the 10% rule?

In order for your cat’s diet to be complete and balanced, less than 10% of your cat’s daily calories can come from cat treats, human foods (e.g. meat and fish), treats for giving pills (e.g. Pill Pockets® Treats), fat supplements (e.g. fish oil), etc. These foods are considered unbalanced foods because they do not have all the nutrients a cat needs. Breaking the 10% rule by offering more than 10% of calories daily from unbalanced foods can actually unbalance the complete and balanced kibble or canned food your cat is eating by diluting the nutrients.

What is complete and balanced?

A diet that is complete and balanced has all of the nutrients your cat needs and those nutrients are balanced in proportion to the number of calories your cat is eating daily. Typically complete and balanced diets are kibble or canned foods, where each bite of food provides all the nutrition your cat needs. Have your cat’s veterinary team review the nutritional adequacy statement on your cat’s diet to be sure it is complete and balanced.

How many calories does my cat need daily?

Because your cat is unique, a physical exam is required to determine your cat’s daily calorie needs. Your veterinarian will need your cat’s current weight, body condition score, and muscle condition score to estimate your cat’s needs. As an example, a 10 lbs. (4.5 kg) healthy, adult cat with an ideal body condition score and normal muscling needs approximately 215 calories per day. This means no more than 21 calories daily should come from unbalanced foods.

It’s very easy to break the 10% rule!

Here are a couple examples of how quickly the 10% rule can be broken:

How many calories are in human foods?

Check out the Canadian Nutrient File by clicking here or the USDA’s Nutrient Database for calorie information in human foods here.

IMPORTANT: Some human foods are toxic to cats (e.g. onions, garlic, chives, etc.), so be sure to check with a member of your cat’s veterinary team before offering any human foods to your cat. Additionally, certain human foods could cause problems if fed to cats with medical conditions.

Until next time! Keep it balanced and keep it factual!


The Kibble Queen
Dr. Jackie Parr, BScH, DVM, MSc, Dip ACVN
Veterinary Clinical Nutritionist