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304 North Cardinal St.
Dorchester Center, MA 02124
Do you have trouble determining the best way to feed your cat? Do you wonder, “Should I free feed my cat?”
How are you currently feeding your cat? Do you currently have cats that are fed for free? Do you have strict meal hours, or do you combine the two? Continue reading to learn about the three distinct methods pet parents can feed their feline pets, as well as the benefits and drawbacks of each method.
Meal feeding implies that you only feed your cat at specified times of the day. This method can be used to feed both canned and dry foods.
Benefits: Food consumption may be closely tracked, making it easier to detect whether your cat’s appetite has changed. Furthermore, if you have numerous cats, all of them will have access to food without one becoming dominant over the others — one cat could be eating all of the food and gaining too much weight, while the other cat(s) could be losing out on the nutrients they require to stay healthy.
Disadvantages. Between meals, cats may beg for food. Your cat has little control over how much she consumes at any given time. However, if you follow your veterinarian’s recommendations for adequate amounts and regular feeding, you may rest assured that she is getting the proper amount of food and nutrients.
Finally, the bottom line. While kittens should be fed up to three times per day, once a cat reaches adulthood (about one year of age), feeding once or twice per day is sufficient, according to the Cornell Feline Health Center. In reality, most cats should be fine with only one feeding each day. “Once cats reach adulthood, once-a-day feeding is sufficient as long as they are healthy and have no disease concerns that indicate a cause to feed differently,” Cornell writes. Again, always consult with your veterinarian before deciding on a feeding schedule.
If you have numerous cats, The Cat Doctors recommends that each cat have their own food and drink station in a calm, low-traffic area where the cat enjoys spending time. This is because cats are solitary eaters, meaning they prefer to eat alone.
If you haven’t considered other possibilities, you may be asking if free feeding is a viable option. When you free feed your cat, their food is always available. Remember that only dry foods can be fed in this manner because wet food should not be kept out all day. If your cat has been leaving dry food in their bowl for more than a day, you should still throw it out to keep it fresh.
Benefits: Your cat can eat several tiny meals per day on their own timetable. The secret to free feeding success is to place the appropriate amount of dry food for a cat in the dish for only one day at a time.
Disadvantages: If the amount of food is not restricted, free feeding cats can lead to overeating and obesity. It might often be difficult to determine whether your cat’s appetite has changed for the better or for the worse. It’s also tough to discern how much each cat is eating if you have numerous cats.
Bottom line: While free feeding can result in excess weight if not properly controlled, there are ways to allow free eating while keeping your cat’s weight and food intake in mind. Make sure to accurately measure the amount of food they require for the day. When the food is gone, do not replenish it until the next day. This will train your cat to eat throughout the day rather than all at once.
Another alternative for free feeding cats is to use a food puzzle with pre-measured food, which allows you to manage how much and how frequently your cat eats. Mikel Delgado, a cat behavior expert, told Scientific American that she enjoys food puzzles not just for rewards, but also as a means to feed cats every day.
Mixed feeding is when canned food is served twice a day and dry food is readily available.
Benefits: Combination feeding allows your cat to eat numerous little dry food meals each day on their own timetable. When you feed them wet food at a specified time of day, you can at least partially monitor their appetite. It also provides the nutritional benefits of both wet and dry food to cats.
Disadvantages: Combination feeding, like free feeding, can lead to overeating and obesity, thus it’s vital to measure out the food and wait until the next day to refill the bowl. If you have numerous cats, it can be tough to keep track of each one’s overall food consumption, so free feeding may not be the ideal option.
Bottom line: When it comes to your cat, both wet and dry food have advantages and downsides. Cats with specific medical disorders, such as urinary and kidney issues, may benefit from the higher moisture content of wet food. Meanwhile, dry food is better for a cat’s teeth and easy to keep.
If you do decide to try combination feeding, consider utilizing a food puzzle to keep your cat entertained by playing with their goodies.
If you have multiple cats, keep in mind that the amount of food provided should not exceed the total calorie requirements for all cats each day. Otherwise, your cat or cats may become overweight, increasing their chances of having additional health concerns.
Whatever method you use, measure out food each day to keep track of how much your cat consumes. Guidelines for how much your cat should eat each day may be found on every Hill’s cat food bag and in feeding tips on product pages on the Hill’s website.
Keep in mind that these are simply guidelines. The needs of a cat will vary depending on its size, energy level, and health conditions. Consult your veterinarian to determine how many calories your cat should consume each day.
Whatever way you choose for your feline companion, make sure to select a high-quality food that will supply her with the nutrition she requires to live a happy and healthy life. If you believe your cat is struggling with weight management or eating in general, we strongly advise you to consult with your veterinarian to devise the best game plan.