It is not always concerns about the correct diet I am being asked about by my customers. Very often it is very simple issues pet owners are worried about and want to make sure they do the best they can do for their pets. One of these questions is “How often should I feed my cat?”
While I have my very own opinion on this issue, to make sure I am providing proper advice I did as usual consult the Internet with its hundreds of related websites addressing feline dietary issues. This time I ended up at the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. Based on an article I found there written by Karen Commings for the Feline Health Center I came up with the following:
Obviously the amount fed and frequency of meals depends on your cat's age, health and preference.
Karen says “Check the pet food aisle at your local supermarket, and you'll find a dozens of varieties of food to entice your cat.” I am not too happy with this statement, especially not since it is coming from the College of Veterinary Medicine. These guys should know better than recommending the food as quoted. At least they should have added “outlets where you can find high quality and healthy food”. Anyway, this is a different subject and Karen continues:
“Feed your cat too little or the wrong kind of food, and he won't maintain good health. Feed him too much, and he'll get fat. But you can help get your cat off on the right paw by establishing regular feeding routines. Although the food you feed your cat should be complete and balanced, the simple answer to how often you should feed him is that there isn't a simple answer.”
The cat’s life stage should be the first consideration. “Kittens require more food per pound of body weight to support their growth than do adult cats, and therefore should be fed more often throughout the day. "Growing kittens up to six months of age may require three meals a day," says Francis Kallfelz, DVM, PHD, board certified by the American College of Veterinary Nutrition and James Law professor of nutrition at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. "From age six months to maturity, most cats will do well when fed two times a day."
Once the cat becomes an adult, at about one year, feeding once or twice a day is appropriate in most cases. Senior cats, age seven and above, should maintain the same feeding regimen. "Once cats reach adulthood, once a day feeding is fine as long as they are healthy and have no disease problems suggesting a reason to feed differently," says Dr. Kallfelz.”
Then, obviously the health of your cat matters. If your cat suffers from a health problem such as diabetes, you may need to feed him based on whenever he is administered insulin, depending on the type. "Talk to your veterinarian," says Dr. Kallfelz. If your cat has hyperthyroidism, he may want to eat all the time. "Treat the disease," says Dr. Kallfelz. "If it is a treatable problem, treat it and then feed your cat normally." With age, the cat’s teeth may go bad, or gum disease may develop making it difficult to chew dry food. "If they get to that point, then offer them canned food or dry in a finer nugget size," says Dr. Kallfelz. You can also mash up the dry and mix it with water to make it easier to chew.
Going the extra mile for your cat: Should pets be put on special diets? "If they are obese, then weight reduction diets may be often required to get the weight off. Historically, higher fiber and low fat containing diets have been used," says Dr. Bartges. I would like to add that most of the times simple portion control will do the job just fine. It is a fact that many pets are simply being overfed. But continue reading as this still is going to be addressed.What is the best type of food: Many cat owners feed only dry food to their felines. "Dry food is fine as long as it is complete and balanced," says Dr. Kallfelz. Dry food may be less expensive than canned cat food and may stay fresher longer. Cats that eat only dry food need to be provided with lots of fresh water, especially if they are prone to developing urinary tract blockages. For all cats, constant availability of fresh, clean water is important.
Canned cat food is typically about 70 to 80 percent water, and can be fed in addition to or instead of dry. Some cats may find canned food more palatable. These cats may consume too much if they are allowed free access to food. Of course, this may occur with dry food as well. "Food with average palatability may be preferable," says Dr. Kallfelz. If it is extremely palatable, the cat may be more likely to overeat. If it is not quite so palatable, he may be less likely to overeat.
Super sizing food portions is not just a problem for people. Since the feeding instructions on pet food labels are based on the needs of the average cat, you may be feeding more than necessary if your cat's needs are lower than average. Also keep in mind that feeding instructions typically are recommendations based on ideal and not actual body weight. So if your cat is overweight to begin with and you use that value for figuring out how much to feed you are guaranteed to over feed. If you feed your cat dry food, you may provide it to him at specific mealtimes in measured quantities. Dry food can also be supplemented with a small amount of canned food to make meals more appealing.
According to Dr. Kallfelz there iss no problem mixing the two types of food as long as you make sure the calories are what your cat needs and and don’t exceed those needs.
Free feeding dry food is acceptable for cats exercising self control. However, some cats like to snack. For them, free feeding can add up to extra pounds. "If a cat can maintain his weight, free choice feeding is okay," says Dr. Kallfelz. Even dry food left out for your cat to free feed needs to be fresh, so be sure to provide new food each day. If free feeding doesn't work, you need to control how much they eat. "Several small meals may make them feel less hungry," says Dr. Kallfelz. "But one (meal) is okay nutritionally."
Here is another useful hint especially for cats who tend to be way more finicky than dogs, at least I am being told so daily by my cat owning customers: If you have a finicky cat, switching foods occasionally may help keep from the cat becoming hooked on only one diet.
And finally: How often you feed your cat depends on your schedule as well. Whether you feed in the morning or in the evening, make sure the cat gets used to your schedule and not the other way around. Most important, find a schedule that works for you and your cat and then keep it consistent.
In a multi cat household, not all cats automatically come when called for dinner, potentially making it difficult for some to get food unless it is left out all the time. That in turn comes along with the risk that other cats may eat too much when food is always available. It's up to you to be creative and come up with a plan. Hints: Feed them separately or in different parts of the house.