How Often Should I Be Feeding My Cat?
Do cats need lunch?!? 🍛
You eat around three meals a day. And since you and your cat basically do everything together, shouldn’t he have the same mealtimes, too?
“Cats do like to graze and eat in small amounts throughout the day,” Dr. Laci Schaible, a veterinarian and advisor for the veterinary software company IVEE, told The Dodo. “But this isn’t the case with every feline.”
To help you figure out how often to feed your cat, The Dodo spoke with Dr. Schaible to learn more about a cat’s ideal feeding schedule.
A vet’s recommended feeding schedule
In general, “[healthy adult] cats prefer to eat small, frequent meals,” Dr. Schaible said.
Dr. Schaible recommends looking at your cat’s food label to find out how much your cat should eat daily, and then breaking that amount out into two or three meals per day.
For example, if the recommendation is to give your cat 260 calories per day, you might want to feed him two meals with a total of 130 calories each, or three meals with a total of 86 calories each.
Sure, you can pour all 260 calories worth of your cat’s dry food into his bowl and call it a day, but cats have tiny stomachs, so smaller meals are sometimes necessary to avoid scarf-and-barf (vomiting after eating too quickly).
And if you feed him wet food, your cat has about half an hour to eat the food before it spoils, so knowing the right time to feed your cat is essential.
According to Dr. Schaible, your cat’s own preferences have a huge influence on how frequently you should feed him in a day. So if your cat normally gets breakfast and dinner, but he keeps eyeballing his food bowl around noon, for example, consider adding lunch to your cat’s feeding schedule.
Factors that might affect feeding schedules
While most healthy cats will thrive on two or three meals per day, some cats might need an adjusted schedule.
If your cat has a health issue, your vet might recommend a custom feeding schedule. For instance, a diabetic cat should only eat when he takes insulin, so you’ll need to pair meals with doses.
Kittens should also eat more frequently — up to six times per day — because they require more calories per pound and have even smaller stomachs.
If you’re unsure how often to feed your cat in a day, your veterinarian can help.
Tips for feeding your cat on schedule
If you’re like most people, you can’t be home all the time to feed your cat two or three times a day (no matter how much you might want to).
Luckily, there are plenty of solutions to make sure your cat gets fed on time, even if you’re out and about.
Automatic feeders are great because they have built-in clocks that serve your cat’s food at a preprogrammed time.
You can also try interactive feeders, so your cat has to work for his food. This eliminates scarf-and-barf and helps keep your cat mentally stimulated.
Should you free feed your cat?
Free feeding (aka giving unlimited access to food throughout the day) is not typically recommended by vets, as cats can easily eat too much and gain unnecessary weight.
This is especially true for certain indoor cats who don’t get much stimulation or exercise throughout the day. They end up eating out of boredom — and those calories can add up fast.
Cat obesity is a very common, preventable disease (multiple studies suggest that up to 63 percent of cats are obese), so having control of how much you feed your cat in a day is incredibly important.
How much to feed your cat
The quantity of food you feed your cat in a day will depend on his weight. To find out how much your cat should eat, follow the recommendations on your cat’s food label. “The guidelines on the bag can be used as a starting point for the overall amount to be offered each day,” Dr. Schaible said.
If you notice your cat looks like he’s gaining or losing weight, contact your veterinarian, who can tell you if you should offer your cat more or less food each day to get him back to a healthy weight.
To make sure you’re feeding the exact recommended amount, a designated cat food scoop can really come in handy.
To keep your cat on track, be sure to regularly check in with your veterinarian, who’s your best resource for keeping your cat healthy.
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