Feeding your pet is not just putting food in his bowl. Although things should not be complicated, there are a few critical things that you need to know about feeding your cat. And one of those is determining how to best feed your furry little pal.
Nutrition is critical to the health and wellbeing of your pet. As such, every aspect of his diet should be carefully considered, including how many meals your cat should eat in a day. For these and other reasons, feline nutrition experts recommend putting your pet on a cat feeding schedule.
What is a cat feeding schedule?
A kitten or a young cat up to about one year old should be fed two timed per day and an adult cat once or twice per day.
There are three ways to feed a cat: cat or meal feeding, free feeding, and mixed feeding.
Essentially, meal feeding is giving your pet food at set times during the day. It does not matter whether you give him wet or dry food as long as you adhere to a set schedule. For example, an adult cat can be fed twice a day. You can give your cat one meal before heading out for work and another one after coming back.
In free feeding, you leave out food on the bowl so that your cat can eat anytime he wishes to. Usually, dry food is given to free-fed cats because this type of cat food does not go stale as fast as wet cat food.
However, many feline diet experts do not recommend this type of feeding method because many cats do not self-regulate. When food is readily available, they will continue to eat even if they are nearly full. In turn, this can lead to obesity which is a leading cause of health issues in felines.
Also known as combination or mixed feeding, this feeding method employs both feeding types, meal and free feeding.
Usually, in this type of feeding, you give your cat two servings of wet food in a day while you leave a bowl of kibble for the rest of the day.
What are the advantages of a cat feeding schedule?
But why should you even consider putting your cat on a feeding schedule? Here are a few advantages that you should look into.
1. Knowing how much food your cat needs
Usually, the quantity of food you see on product labels is geared toward the needs of an average house cat. While there is nothing wrong with following that, you need to be aware that cats are individuals with differing needs.
In feeding your cat, you need to take into account a few factors including his age, current weight, and activity level. But figuring out how much to feed can be difficult if you do not know exactly how much your cat eats, especially if you own more than one.
Putting your cat on a feeding schedule allows you to monitor his food intake. In turn, this allows you to adjust the amount of food that you give him.
2. Monitoring your cat’s food intake
Feeding your cat on a set schedule helps you monitor his food intake. This is particularly important if your pet is suffering from a medical issue or has been ordered by your vet to go on a strict diet.
When your cat eats at specific times in a day, you can observe certain behaviors like lack of appetite, food guarding, and speed eating.
Awareness of these issues will allow you to use the appropriate remedies to prevent long term problems.
3. Mealtimes become bonding opportunities
Mealtimes are one of the best times to strengthen your bond with your pet. Take advantage of meal times to sit next to your pet while he is eating. Soon after, your pet will look forward to eating while you are around him.
The main reason behind this is that cats are responsive to positive experiences instead of punishment.
4. Reminding yourself to replenish your pet’s water bowl
Cats are notorious for not drinking enough water. Unlike dogs who will voluntarily drink water, cats can go on for hours not drinking water. Unfortunately, this bad habit can lead to health problems.
When you fill your cat’s food bowl, make it a reminder for yourself to give your pet fresh water to encourage him to drink more.
How to transition your cat to a feeding schedule
If you have been free-feeding your cat, you should ease your cat slowly to a feeding schedule instead of making an abrupt change. This will ensure that your cat is adequately fed and his body gets the nutrients that he needs.
But be forewarned, cats dislike changes and you might face some uphill battle during the transition. It is also critical to remember that cats cannot go on for long without eating. Unlike dogs and people who can use their fat stores, cats cannot.
To help you and your cat adjust, here are a few tips that you can follow.
The basics of scheduled cat feeding
The first thing that you need to decide on is when you should feed your cat. Cats are crepuscular creatures, meaning that they are most active during dusk and dawn. However, cats can adjust their routines around their humans’.
As such, you can choose a feeding schedule on what works best for you. What is more important is that you stick to that schedule. Later on, your cat will become familiar with his new mealtimes.
Once you have determined the time for your pet’s feeding schedule, the next thing that you need to decide on is the place where your cat should eat. Changing his feeding area will help your cat adjust to his new feeding routine.
Finally, decide what signal you will use to prompt your cat to eat. It can be a sound, word, or phrase. Again, once you choose your signal, you have to use it consistently.
How much food should you give your cat?
Before you determine how much food you should give your cat, you should find out how much food he is currently eating, especially if you are free-feeding him.
To do this, measure how much food your cat has not eaten from the day before. Ideally, you should do this before replenishing his food. Do this for about a week so that you can get a fair idea of your pet’s average food intake.
Once you have the average food consumption of your cat, the next thing that you will need to figure out is how much food your cat needs for each meal.
To do this, put food on your cat’s bowl and allow him to eat anywhere between 10 and 15 minutes. After that period, pull the bowl away from him. Next, check how much food your pet has consumed. This will give you a clue as to how much your cat can finish in one sitting.
Track your cat’s food intake for about a week.
How often should you feed your cat?
On average, feral cats eat eight to 12 times a day. But for you, making Fluffy eat as many meals is not ideal, especially when you add work and chores into the equation.
The number of times you feed your cat should take into account your schedule and your cat’s age, nutritional needs, and activity level.
For instance, kittens need to eat more times a day compared to an adult who can get by with one to two meals in a day.
Again, choose what works best for your schedule. What is more important for your pet is that he eats on a fixed schedule day in, day out.
Troubleshooting common cat feeding schedule problems
Initially, you may need to feed your cat more times until he makes the jump to schedule meal times. But sometimes, it is not possible to feed your cat multiple times a day because of your commitments outside of work.
One way to overcome this is to feed your cat once after you wake up and another one when you get home. Before you go to bed, you can leave a measured amount of food for your cat.
During the transition period, observe your cat and check if he wants to eat more. If your cat is still hungry, increase the amount of food you give him.
If your cat seems to dislike scheduled feeding, there are a few tricks that you can employ. For starters, praise your cat when he comes near his food bowl. To make his food more appealing, you can add a few treats to his meals. You can also play with your cat before he eats.
It can take anywhere between a few weeks to several months before a cat makes a full transition to a feeding schedule. Just be patient with your cat.
A cat feeding schedule is better for your pet
Nutrition is the building block for good health. But apart from ensuring that you feed your cat with quality cat food, timing his meals is just as important. Scheduling and measuring your pet’s food intake is one way to ensure that your cat gets the nutrients his body needs while preventing food-related diseases and disorders like obesity.
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