How Often Should I Feed My Cat?
Getting your cat on a regular feeding schedule is one of the best ways of ensuring that they live a happy and healthy life. But the question remains: how often should you feed your cat? You will probably hear different pieces of wisdom coming from different places, so there is no one single answer that is going to satisfy everybody. However, we can give you some general advice that will help to set up the right feeding schedule for your furry friend.
Feeding your cat too often is much more likely to lead to obesity, which is one of the most common health risks in domesticated felines. While some cats have the self-control to have food left down all the time, this is not the case for all of them. Obviously, the specific type of food that you choose has a big impact, so you should be investing in high-quality cat food. But the regularity of the meals is also going to play its part. So, let’s look closer at how often you should feed your cat.
The first factor that is going to affect how often you should feed your cat is their age. Per pound of body weight, kittens require more food to support their healthy growth and development. Up to six months old, your little ball of fluff may need three meals a day. From this point until they one year old, two meals a day is the standard advice given. And as your cat moves into adulthood, you can stick with feeding twice a day – or you can even move to once a day if your cat is not a particularly big eater. This also varies from breed to breed as this can dictate activity levels. More active cats will need more fuel for the engine. Once you have established a feeding routine for your adult cat, it becomes easy to stick with this throughout their life.
The Health of Your Cat
Another factor which is bound to make a difference in this issue is the health of your cat. If they suffer from a specific condition such as diabetes, your vet may advise you to only feed them when they are administered insulin. Of course, you should get this advice from your vet directly as they will have more information about your cat’s specific condition. One issue that will probably make your cat a lot hungrier than other felines is hyperthyroidism. Rather than giving in to the symptoms of the disease, it is the illness that needs to be treated directly. Another problem that may affect feeding regularity is a common issue that stems from old age: teeth or gum problems. At this point, your cat may not want to stick to their regular routine, but you can provide them with some help by offering wet food and mashing it up so there is less chewing and using their teeth involved.
Type of Food
The type of food that you choose to feed your cat can also make a difference in how often they eat. Many owners stick to a dry food diet, which has the advantages of being the more affordable option and staying fresh more often. If you choose to go down this path, you should make sure to provide your cat with plenty of access to water as they are not getting so much directly from their food. Otherwise, urinary tract blockages are more common. Whatever cat you own, you should always make sure that fresh, clean water is readily available. Canned cat food is another way to go, and this has the advantage of containing a high percentage of water. Many cats enjoy the taste of this more, which is why it is important that you control their portions and how much they eat on a day to day basis. Switching food from time to time may help to prevent them becoming hooked on a single type of food.
Even if you feed your cat the recommended amount of twice per day, this is not going to do that much good if you give them a huge portion every time! Many owners will simply follow the advice that they are given on the back of the packaging, but this has the inevitable problem of generalizing for the needs of the average cat. You may have a smaller or a less active cat, so you need to make the adjustments accordingly. You are going to have to put more work in with measuring out dry food as the temptation may be to just pour the bag and not really think about it too much. It is not a problem to mix different types of food, but you are going to have to do more complex calculations when it comes to calories.
Some cat owners decide that free feeding is the best approach. And it is certainly true that some cats have self-control and are able to deal with this. But some cats inevitably snack throughout the day, which can be a slippery slope to obesity. Also, the food still needs to be fresh as your cat is not going to enjoy it if it goes bad or stale, so don’t think that free feeding is simply a more convenient way to feed your kitty.
Think About Your Own Schedule
We have talked a lot about your cat so far, but you also need to consider your own schedule as well. As a lot of people work full-time jobs, morning and evening feeding sessions are the most common. If you choose to only feed your cat once every day, it may be the evening session which is the less hectic and easier time to give your kitty food. Once you find the schedule that works for both you and your cat, you should aim to keep that sense of consistency.
But there will inevitably be times when you are out of the house, but you still want to keep the feeding schedules consistent. If you are only going to be away for a couple of days, there are plenty of automatic feeders out there that you can invest in. There are those that a pre-programmable, so you don’t even have to change your cat’s feeding schedule. Alternatively, you could get a cat sitter to come into the house to help out in this task. While you might not be able to keep the feeds exactly one schedule, you can try an keep them as consistent as possible. The same goes if you decide that the best course of action is to check your cat into a cattery.
What About Treats?
While we have talked about the regular meals that you feed your cat, we haven’t so far discussed the treats that you may want to give your cat. There are plenty of pre-packaged treats out there, but some cat parents prefer to offer their kitty things like meat and cooked eggs. The number of treats that you offer your cat should be proportionate to their size. And treats should only make up around 10% of their regular calorie intake. If you are training your cat to be better behaved, it is better that you only give them a treat when they have done something good. Another time is when you want to give your cat a special reward. Perhaps you have been out of the house for a long time or they have just got back from the vet. Don’t feed your cat treats from the dinner table as they are more likely to come and beg on a regular basis. Remember that these snacks are all going to contribute towards obesity if you overdo it. A common problem that many pet owners have is that they forget to count treats as part of their cat’s regular diet, so avoid making this mistake.
Most cats are content being fed a couple of times a day, though this varies based on a number of different factors including age, health, and the type of food you are offering. What is extremely important is that you should not overfeed your cat. This is possible even if you only give your cat a couple of meals a day. Remember, the advice on the back of the packaging is for the average cat. All kitties have different metabolisms, they are all different sizes, and they all have different activity levels. Obesity is a preventable state for a cat to get into, but if you are not careful, your kitty could start nudging up the scales, and it can present a major challenge for them to lose the weight once again. And don’t forget that giving your cat too many treats can also contribute towards them piling on the pounds and becoming overweight. Once you establish a regular feeding routine that works, you should stick to it as closely as possible to keep your cat nice and healthy.