Cats naturally eat several small meals a day, but they don’t necessarily need to have food available to them 24/7. They should however have a permanent source of fresh water available and accessible to them.
The way you choose to feed your cat will depend on your schedule and lifestyle, but the important thing to remember is not to overfeed your pet.
Work out How Much to Feed Your Cat
Whatever food you choose to feed your cat, there will be a table somewhere on the pack or the can to tell you how much cat’s of particular age/activity/weight should eat, make sure you’re not overfeeding your cat by thinking about his age and activity and by weighing him.
To weigh your cat:
- Stand on a bathroom scale whilst holding your cat, note the weight
- Stand on the scale alone, note the weight
- Take your weight from the combined weight
- The remainder will be the weight of your cat
Use this information to actually weigh out the amount of food that your cat should be eating each day, do this using a weighing scale rather than making an ‘educated’ guess about what looks like the right amount, and remember if you have more than one cat you might need to weigh out different amounts of different types of food depending on their individual circumstances. You may also need to feed different cats in different ways to cater for their specific needs, so you may need to think about where to feed particular cats and how you might isolate their food from the rest od your pets.
There are then essentially three methods you can employ to make the food available to your cat:
- Free Feeding
- Time Restricted Feeding
- Portion Restricted Feeding
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This does not mean constantly feeding your cat.
To be done correctly you should weigh out the amount of food your cat should be eating a day and then put it into their bowl. You should not add to the food bowl if your cat eats all their food.
This method of feeding trusts your cat not to stuff themselves at the first opportunity. Most cats will eat their fill and then return to snack throughout the day.
It works best with dry cat food, which doesn’t smell the house out or congeal in the heat.
Time Restricted Feeding
This is a good method to use if you’re looking to get your cat used to Portion Restricted Feeding when they’re used to being Free Fed. It’s also good if you’re not keen to, or are unable to leave food down all day.
You simply choose a portion of your cat’s daily allowance to put down and leave it down for a set amount of time from between 10 minutes and 30 minutes.
Obviously, this method of feeding relies on your cat being around at the set feeding times, so it may work best for indoor cats or cats that don’t venture very far from their home territory.
It also relies on you being available at the times you have set for mealtimes, so wouldn’t really work if you have the kind of job where you might not be able to guarantee getting home at a particular time, it would also make anything other than a carefully planned social life difficult and might challenge you when you go on holiday as the cattery or person looking after your cats would have to be able to guarantee feeding them to your set times.
However long you choose to leave the food down for, ensure that fresh water is always available and accessible for your cat.
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Portion Restricted Feeding
This method requires you to put down a set amount of food at set times throughout the day. It is particularly helpful for cats who’re on an eating plan for diabetes weight loss, or for medical conditions like IBS and also for kittens.
With both Time Restricted and Portion Restricted feeding methods you would need to make sure that your cat is actually eating their full daily allowance of food, so you might need to add a couple more feeding times.
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Greedy cats who might be inclined to scoff all their food in one go could be fed using a feeding toy or puzzle toy to slow down their eating (and stimulate their brains), by encouraging them to work for their food.
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Keep an eye on how your cat is eating whichever method you choose, so that you ensure they are eating the right amount per day. If you weigh out the correct daily amount each day you will be able to keep an accurate eye on this.
Do remember that how your cat’s feeling, the weather, whether they are hunting and eating prey outside, whether they are being fed at other houses in the local area, might all be reasons for your cat not eating their full daily quota. They might simply not really like your choice of cat food, so you may need to experiment with a few different varieties of both dry and wet cat foods before you find the ones your faithful pet really enjoys. If it feels like your cat isn’t eating enough, or if your cat seems overly hungry even of they’re eating the recommended amount every day, you should seek advice from your vet just to check whether there are any medical conditions or other underlying health issues present.
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- Naomi Millburn, How Many Times a Day Should I Feed My Cat?, The Nest
- Annie Stuart, Feeding Your Adult Cat: What You Need to Know, WebMD
- Ryan Llera, BSc, DVM, Feeding Times and Frequency for Your Cat, VCA Hospitals