A lot of pet cat parents struggle with this question of ‘How many times a day should I feed my cat?’. There are various schools of thought that recommend different answers to this question. Some say to go for free-choice feeding; some say mealtime approach while some advice hybrid of the two approaches. To find what will be the best solution for your cat, you may keep in mind the following considerations:
Age of the cat:
Kittens require to be fed more frequently than adult cats. The frequency of food intake for a kitten is three to four meals per day. Compared to that, a grown-up cat, which is more than a year old, needs food once or twice a day. The kittens may be given food on a free feeding basis so that they can eat small meals at their pace while the adult cats can be provided with a fixed feeding schedule, also known as mealtime approaches.
The activity level of the cat:
For a cat that has a sedentary lifestyle, free-feeding may cause obesity in the cat. However, for the active ones, you can easily free feed your cat without worrying. You may also pick to feed your cat through puzzle toys. This will give the cat continual access to food by simultaneously making him/her work a little more to have that food.
Types of food given to the cat:
You can give your cat dry pet food and leave it out for the whole day, but you cannot do the same with wet food or canned food. You can choose to refrigerate the leftover wet food but only till the next mealtime. If it still remains leftover, then the best practice would be to throw it and use fresh food.
The number of cats you have:
The amount of food given to your cat should be monitored closely to see if he/she has finished it and whether the cat is feeling healthy. If you own more than one cat, then monitoring their food each day becomes a challenge if they are given food in the same container. Therefore, to avoid this problem, it is suggested to give them food in different rooms so that their individual appetite can be tracked efficiently.
Pros and Cons of each meal plan:
- Meal Feeding Cats
It implies that the cat is provided meals only at specific times throughout the day.
Advantage: The cat diet can be easily monitored.
Disadvantage: The cat may feel hungry in between the meals, especially when the cat did not eat properly in the last meal.
- Free Feeding Cats
In the feed only method, dry food is always available for the cat. However, even dry food should be thrown out if it is kept in the open for more than a day.
Advantage: The cat, especially the kittens, can eat several small meals in a day according to their hunger.
Disadvantage: One cannot tell how much does the cat eats exactly whether it is less than required, which may lead to malnourishment or more than the required intake, which may lead to obesity. The body condition of the cat is at stake in this method of providing a meal.
- Mixed Feeding
It implies striking a balance between the meal feeding and free feeding plans. Generally, pet parents choose to serve wet or canned food as a part of meal feeding plan, which is served twice a day. The dry food is, however, freely available throughout the day.
Advantage: The cat is provided with the nutritive benefits of dry and wet food options.
Disadvantage: Mixed feeding can also often lead to obesity and overeating in the cat. Therefore it is essential to measure the meals given and not refill the bowl till the next day.
Choose what’s in the best interest of your feline friends:
A cat’s meal requirements will depend on the various factors mentioned above. Sometimes wet food does not suit some cats as they may develop kidney and urinary problems. For some cats who are already overweight, fixed meal plans work best. Thus, it is a good thought to consult your veterinarian time and again about the appropriate amount of food that should be fed to your cat in a day. In the end, the most important point remains that only good quality food must be provided to the cat. This will ensure the cat gets the required nutrients for a healthy and happy life.