How often should you feed a cat ?
Many cat owners ask the question "how often should I feed my cat? ». Be one of the owners who feed their cat at fixed times or leave food permanently available for your furry friend. This article will bring you a certain number of elements in order to finally have an answer to this question.
Did you know that almost half of all domestic cats are overweight? Being overweight increases the risk of developing diabetes, urinary problems, arthrosis, heart and respiratory failure. In all cases, it reduces your cat's quality of life and life expectancy.
But don't panic, we're passionate about this subject and know exactly how to help you. In this article, you will discover :
- What are the different methods of feeding your cat?
- What are the advantages and disadvantages of each?
- What are the criteria to consider when choosing a feeding method?
Choosing the right strategy will influence your small feline's overall health. You will know exactly which one to consider as a result of this development.
Let's find out all of this together right now.
I. Cat food: everything you need to know
Before getting to the heart of the matter and answering the title question, it is important to lay the groundwork to understand what we are going to talk about.
So let's start together by finding out everything you need to know about cat food by answering all the most frequently asked questions about it.
a. Should I feed my cat wet or dry food?
Before we can answer the question we're interested in in a concrete way, it's important to clarify a few important concepts. Cat food comes in two forms:
- Either homemade cat food, i.e. meals prepared by the cat's owners;
- Either an industrial food which can take the form of dry food (croquettes) or wet food (fresh cans or sachets).
Each type of food has advantages and disadvantages. So let's start together by discovering the different feeding methods with their advantages and disadvantages.
b. Meal Feeding vs. Free Feeding Cats: Advantages and disadvantages
Cats can naturally regulate the amount of calories ingested according to their needs and food composition by modifying the amount of food they eat per meal. However, these felines being pets depend on the policy applied by their owner. You will discover the three methods applied by pet owners, as well as the advantages and disadvantages of each method.
Meal Feeding Cats
Some cat owners may opt for the strategy of feeding their cat at fixed times during the day. This can be either canned or dry food.
Advantages of this method
The advantages of feeding your cat at set times are as follows:
- Managing calorie intake: The owner can manage the cat's nutrient intake by feeding portions that are appropriate for her age and health.
- Monitoring your cat's appetite: Food intake can be closely monitored so the cat owner can see if the cat's appetite changes. Whether her cat is eating more or less, which is an indicator of stress or feline malaise.
- Manage the calorie intake of each cat: If you have several cats, it is easier with this method to control the food intake of each cat. Indeed, among a group of cats, there may be one dominant cat that eats more than the others. This cat may have a larger portion of food than the others. Sometimes cats in the group may lack the nutrients they need to stay healthy.
- Create a routine for your cat: Feeding an adult cat at regular times provides the security and predictability of a routine. Meals become a key event of the day around which other activities are added. A feeding routine helps your cat cope with changes in the household (for example, the arrival of a new baby, moving house, ...).
Disadvantages of this method
Cats can beg for food between meals. Your cat cannot control her calorie intake on her own. The cat is hungry for most of the day and adopts two different strategies:
- Either the cat throws itself on the food and eats everything in one go, which is detrimental to its digestion (frequent vomiting), and causes bulimia (the cat may have the reasoning "all that is taken is no longer to be taken").
- Either it develops aggressive behaviors called predation.
However, if you follow the advice of your veterinarian with adapted quantities and a regular diet, you can rest easy.
While kittens should be fed up to three times a day because they need to develop, once they are adults (about a year old) you can feed them once or twice a day. Of course take advice from your veterinarian as this method is not suitable in all cases (breed of cat, age or health condition). IF you have several cats, ideally each cat should have its own bowl (see our cat bowls collection). The advantage of this method is that you can feed your cat with dry or wet food.
Free Feeding Cat
If you don't plan to feed your cat at regular times, you may be wondering if it's better to make your pet's meal available at all times. With this method, cat owners leave food available for their pet at all times. It is important to note that this feeding method is only suitable for dry food because wet food cannot be left out in the open all day.
Your cat may eat several times a day. It should not be forgotten that cats are great snackers and therefore they eat a small amount of food about ten times a day. This method has the advantage of not stressing your cat.
With a permanently accessible diet your cat may overfeed and become obese. It can also be difficult to tell if your cat is changing its feeding habits. (by getting better or worse). In addition, if you have several cats, it is difficult to measure the caloric intake of each cat.
Things to remember
Constantly providing food for your cat can lead to weight gain if you are not careful. There are ways to leave food for your kitty all day long while taking into account her weight and your cat's needs. If you set portions to be fed daily and your cat eats it all, restock it the next day. This will teach your little feline to feed itself throughout the day, rather than swallowing it all at once.
Another variation to the method of leaving food always available for your cat is to set up a puzzle with pre-measured food to control how much and how often he eats. The purpose is twofold, the food puzzle provides activity and mental stimulation for the cats. The second objective is that as hunters, your pet naturally works for their food.
With this method, you should encourage your cat to drink a lot more water to compensate for what it doesn't get from canned food.
Combination Feeding Cat
This method consists of giving your cat wet food twice a day and dry elements available at all times.
Combination feeding allows your cat to eat several small meals a day according to his needs. You can control your cat's appetite at least partially when you feed him wet food. This method has the advantage of providing the nutritional benefits of dry and wet food. In addition, if you have several cats, you can partially control the energy intake of each one.
This method as well as the method of making food permanently available can lead to overeating and obesity. It is important to measure the food and not fill your bowl until the next day. If you have several cats, it can be difficult to monitor the total dietary intake of each one.
II. A supply frequency according to several criteria
The first part presented the different feeding methods for your cat. We looked at the advantages and disadvantages of each. However, before choosing a method for your kitty it is very important to consider several things.
a. The age of your cat
Kittens for their development need more food to have a good growth. They need to be fed more often throughout the day. Growing kittens up to 6 months old may need three meals a day. Conversely, from six months of age to maturity, most cats require only two meals a day.
For adult cats (about one year old), feeding once or twice a day is appropriate in most cases. Those seven years of age and older should be fed the same diet if the cat is disease-free. For more information it is important to consult your veterinarian.
b. Your cat is pregnant or nursing
Nutrient requirements are different when a cat is expecting kittens or nursing kittens. This is because your kitten has to feed her kittens, so she needs more calories.
c. If your cat has been spayed or neutered
Today, a very large majority of domestic cats are sterilized (more than 70%). However, sterilization promotes an increase in appetite. Nearly half of sterilized cats are overweight.
48 hours after the intervention, his eating behavior will be modified. The cat will spontaneously eat more while at the same time it expends less energy. There is therefore a major risk of rapid weight gain that can lead to predisposition to certain diseases and a reduction in life expectancy. Without an adapted diet, the sterilized cat will gain weight more easily.
d. Your cat's health
If your cat has a medical condition such as diabetes, you may need to feed your cat depending on when he or she is given insulin.
If your cat has hyperthyroidism, she may want to eat all the time. It's important to treat your cat. If this is a treatable problem, treat it and then feed your cat normally.
As a cat ages, her teeth may deteriorate or she may develop gum disease that can make it difficult to chew dry food. If your cat is in this situation, choose a canned or homemade cat food.
For more information, visit the Cornell University website, which will give you useful information for your cat's health.
e. Depending on your cat's weight
Beyond aesthetic criteria, being overweight can turn into obesity. In cats as in humans, obesity is considered a pathology.
Obesity increases the risk of developing diabetes, urinary problems, osteoarthritis, heart and respiratory failure. In all cases, it decreases your cat's quality of life and life expectancy.
f. Depending on where your cat lives
Many indoor cat owners often ask the question "How much should you feed an indoor cat? ». To answer, it's important that the cat owner take into account the above-mentioned factors, i.e. the kitten's age, health and weight. An indoor cat requires careful monitoring in relation to its weight.
III. Is your cat eating enough or too little?
Throughout your cat's life, you will need to modify her diet to adapt to changing metabolism and dietary needs. Feel your cat's spine and ribs. If the ribs and spine are showing through her skin, she's too thin. If you can't feel the ribs, your cat is probably overweight. Adjust her portions accordingly.
It's much easier to prevent your cat from becoming obese than it is to force your overweight cat to go on a diet. This will make you and your cat much happier.
IV. Finally, how often should you feed a cat ?
As you have understood it, the frequency of feeding your cat depends on several factors (age of your cat, its weight, your availability...). It has a direct impact on your cat's health and well-being.
This decision is important and it is not to be taken lightly.
This is why we suggest that you first test several methods to see how your cat reacts. Make food available to your cat at all times. If you notice that he cannot manage his calorie intake by himself and eats too much (and gains weight) you can change your method and opt for another strategy.
The Cat Paradise has a collection of food bowls for every situation.
Discover them now by clicking on the image below.