How Often Should I Feed My Cat?
The question of how often to feed your cat is one that many owners debate. There are several different schools of thought that are worth discussing in more detail. Some people want to go down the path of free feeding, while others prefer to take a more structured approach to their cat’s mealtimes. We are going to look at some of the pros and cons of each, but before we do this, we will look at some factors that should influence your decision. After all, cats are different and there is no one size fits all approach that works for all of them. This cat feeding guide should hopefully provide you with a lot of the information that you are looking for.
How Much to Feed a Cat
There are a few different factors that can influence how much you feed your cat. Here are a few to take into account.
If you are asking ‘how much should I feed my kitten?’, it is a widely established rule that kittens need to eat more often than adult felines. For many young kitties, this means three or four times per day, and this number generally reduces to around once or twice a day once that cat reaches a year old. This is if you go for the structured mealtime approach. If you go for free feeding, your cat will set their own mealtimes. While young cats like to eat little and often, older cats tend to be fine with less frequent feeds.
- Activity Level
Whether you free feed or set mealtimes can also depend on your cat’s activity levels. For example, this may not be the best approach if your kitty is cooped up indoors all day long as this can result in them eating out of boredom, which can easily lead to overweightness. However, if your cat is very active and burns off the calories anyway, free-feeding may well be a more viable option. If your cat has already strayed into obesity, it may be necessary that their mealtimes are more controlled. Your vet should be able to provide useful advice on this subject.
- Type of Food
While dry food can be left out for your cat to graze on, the same cannot be said of wet food. If it is left to sit out, it is more likely to start attracting insects and it can end up going rancid. When your cat is finished eating, any fresh or canned food should be picked up afterward. If you notice that your cat is leaving a lot of food, you may have to reduce the amount you are offering or see if there is another flavor that they would prefer.
- Number of Cats
Free feeding is a much more viable approach when you only have a single cat as you know exactly how much they are eating. However, if you have multiple pets, you may find that one is greedier and eating the food intended for another. If you can feed your cats in different locations, this will prevent any food-stealing situations. The other problem with not knowing how much your cat has eaten is that it is not as easy to tell when they are sick. A loss of appetite is a common condition involved in many illnesses, and cats are notorious for being able to cover up when they are feeling unwell.
- Health Issues
If your cat already suffers from any pre-existing health issues such as diabetes, you may need to be more structured with their feeding as this can impact their blood sugar levels. You may need to adjust the type of food that you offer as your cat gets older. Many senior felines suffer from teeth and gum issues which can be worsened by a dry food diet, so this may be the time to offer wet food.
Different Feeding Methods
First up, we have the standard meal feeding approach. Essentially, this means that you will choose certain times of the day to feed your cat. Usually, this is once or twice a day with adult cats. Both dry and canned foods can be given in this way. If you have multiple cats in the household, they should all be shown an individual food and water station. Ideally, this will be in a low traffic area of the house where they won’t be disturbed. Cats prefer to have their own space when they are eating and they don’t like to be disturbed if it can be avoided.
You have a much better monitoring system to tell how much your cat is consuming on a regular basis. If they have a change in appetite for some reason, you will be able to tell. If you have multiple cats in your house, all cats will have access to food, and one is less likely to be dominant over the others. Of course, if you do have a greedier feline, you may need to monitor their mealtimes to ensure that they are only eating their fair share and not everyone else’s! When one cat eats too much, this can lead to them becoming overweight, while the other cat is not getting the nutrients that they require.
Your cat may bother you and beg for food in between mealtimes. Plus, you are the one who is deciding how much your cat is allowed to eat rather than allowing them to make the decision for themselves. You are also more tied to giving your cat meals at certain times of the day, which can prove to be awkward if you lead a busy life.
This method involves leaving food down for your cat all the time for them to eat as they please. Bear in mind that this should only be done if your cat is on a dry food diet as it is not suitable for wet or fresh food. Even dry food should not be left in their bowl for more than 24 hours or it will lose its freshness. You will need to measure the amount that you are offering to your cat and keep this consistent. When the food has been eaten, you shouldn’t keep putting more down as your cat will not learn to manage their appetite.
Your cat is able to set their own diet and can eat multiple small meals throughout the day. You just need to remember to top up their bowl once a day and leave them to it. If your cat is able to control their own appetite, this may be a good approach to take.
On the downside, this approach is more likely to lead to obesity due to your cat overeating. Also, you are less likely to be able to tell if your cat’s appetite has changed for some reason, which can make it hard to tell if they are suffering from an illness or tooth trouble. If you have multiple cats, it is more difficult to tell how much each one is eating.
Essentially, this involves a combination of the two methods discussed above. Most owners who do this will put canned food down once or twice a day while leaving dry food out for their pets to graze on. This allows them to get the high moisture content from the wet food, while still getting the teeth-cleaning benefits of dry food. Remember, the volume of food put down should not rise above the total calorie needs.
Again, this approach allows your cat to set their own schedule with regards to meals. Your cat will receive the nutritional benefits of eating both wet and dry food. Plus, you can partially keep track of their food consumption.
Again, this is another method that can easily become a gateway to obesity. This means that you should measure out how much your cat is eating and not fill up their bowl until the next day. If you have many cats, it becomes much trickier to keep track of their food intake.
No matter which feeding approach you take, you need to measure how much your cat is eating on a daily basis. The individual needs of each cat depends on their energy levels, size, and any health issues that they are suffering from. Consult your vet if you are not sure how much your kitty should be eating every day. Whatever method you choose, you should ensure that the food you give is high-quality. If your cat is struggling with weight issues, setting their mealtimes is probably going to be the best approach, but you may find that free feeding or a combination of the two works if your kitty is able to control their appetite.
If your cat is already overweight, you may need to make use of a cat feeding schedule or cat feeding chart to keep track of how much they are consuming on a regular basis.