Food is a very powerful thing in the lives of our cats. It is something that can help them thrive, but it is also something that can lead to illness. What we feed our cats is very important, but how we go about it is important too. There is such a thing as too much of a good thing! That’s where scheduled feeding comes in. This tool can help you keep your cat on the track to wellness.
What is scheduled feeding for cats?
There are two basic methods for feeding cats: free feeding and scheduled feeding. Free feeding is a common method used by cat owners who feed their cats dry cat foods. The kibble is placed in a food dish for the cat and left in the cat’s eating area all day or until the cat finishes eating all of the food. Often the food dish is only filled once per day or even less frequently if a feeder is used. This is a very simple feeding method and it is very convenient for the cat owner.
Scheduled feeding for cats is also known as meal feeding. Rather than leaving food out as an all-day buffet, the cat is fed at scheduled times throughout the day. Many cats are fed twice per day, but the number of times can depend on the particular cat’s needs. Consult with your veterinarian to find out how much food your cat should be fed and how often.
How your cat could benefit from scheduled feeding.
Benefit #1: Your cat’s eating habits are easier for you to observe.
Cats are notoriously good at hiding any symptoms of illness. You may not know that anything is wrong with your cat until a disease has been present for some time. The most glaring symptoms tend to be those related to food. Scheduled feeding for cats allows you to watch what happens to each and every meal that your cat eats. It allows you to answer questions such as the following:
Does your cat eat the food?
- Was your cat as excited to eat as he/she usually is?
- How much food did your cat consume?
- Did your cat still seem hungry after meal time?
- Is one of your cats bullying another at meal time?
- How quickly did your cat eat the food?
- How long after eating did symptoms begin?
- What kind of bowel movement followed that meal?
Of course, you don’t have to analyze your cat at every meal. As you use scheduled feeding, you will naturally learn what is “normal” and what is not. Different cats will have different behaviors and that is okay. The unusual behaviors will stick out like a sore thumb.
Benefit #2: You have more control of your cat’s diet.
When you use free feeding, the cat eats as much or as little as he/she wants to during the day. The only control you have over your free-fed cat’s diet is which food is in the dish. If you use scheduled feeding, you can control not only which food is given, but when and how much. These are very important factors for cats that need to lose weight, cats with medical conditions that require a special diet, and multiple cat households. Obesity is a serious problem for cats! When your cat needs to lose a little weight, it might not be enough to switch to a lower calorie food. Scheduled feeding allows you to not only choose the cat’s food, but also the portion size. It doesn’t do any good to use lower calorie food if the cat eats twice as much of it. A lot of the foods that claim to help your cat lose weight base those claims on specific portion sizes being fed to the cat. Multiple cat households have the challenge of meeting the dietary needs of all of their different cats. This may include cats that are on special diets due to medical conditions like diabetes, lower urinary tract disease, kidney disease and bowel problems. Scheduled feeding allows the cat owner to feed each cat exactly what they need and know that they other cats aren’t eating it instead.
Benefit #3: It is easier to make changes in diet.
There are a number of reasons why you might choose to change your cat’s diet. A cat’s nutritional needs change as they move through different life stages. You might also become educated about a diet that is healthier for your cat (like a wet or raw diet) and want to transition over. Scheduled feeding allows you to slowly change your cat’s food meal by meal. You can add a little of the new food to the old food in the morning and see how it is tolerated. If all went well, you can add a little more new food to the dinner meal. Step by step you can complete the transition without making your cat sick.
Benefit #4: Feeding your cat enhances your relationship with him/her.
The way to a cat’s heart might just be through his/her stomach. Free feeding is pretty impersonal. Your cat develops a relationship with his/her bowl more than with you. When you start scheduled feeding, your cat will begin to see you as the all-important-giver-of-food. This is something very positive for your relationship! It builds trust and friendship. A cat that was once a bit standoffish might start coming around you more often. You can also use feeding time to help your cat get along better with someone else in the home that they might not have bonded with well.
My cats eat 2 meals per day. How often do you feed your cats?
Sources & Digging Deeper