Felines are often viewed as ‘lower maintenance’ pets than their canine counterparts, which is no wonder many cat owners practice free-feeding by simply leaving out a bowl of kibble throughout the day, and replenishing the food whenever it runs out. While free-feeding may be a convenient solution to keeping your pet full at all times, overfeeding can easily become a problem that leads to health issues such as obesity, especially for the greedy ones that like to snack.
When should my cat be fed?
Most manufactured canned and dry food will be labeled with a general guide to when and how each meal should be served, which makes establishing a routine simple as you will just have to follow the instructions. From about six months until it reaches maturity, two meals a day will do just fine, while adult felines will need to be fed about once or twice daily. Feeding should take place at the same time each day, leaving the bowl out for it for a short period of time so that it knows to finish its meal right after it is served.
Monitor the food bowl while you’re at it; it serves as a basic indicator of whether your pet is consuming too little or too much. Also try to schedule your cat’s final meal of the day such that it takes place after you have spent some quality time with it with activities such as petting and games, as you don’t want your pet to associate its owner with just mealtimes.
What can I feed it?
Moist or canned cat food generally takes a much shorter time to consume, but expect your cat to drink less water as a result. Avoid leaving moist food out for more than 24 hours, or serving it too hot or cold (in the case of refrigeration, which will affect the taste and scent if consumed cold). On the other hand, dry kibble can be left out all day, and can serve as a good source of snacking if you have to ‘break’ your cat’s routine on certain days when you are unable to come home in time to feed it. Never feed your cat milk, as most felines are lactose intolerant – or put it on a vegetarian diet, which may cause blindness or even lead to death.
If obesity is a concern, which is a common health problem among adult cats, specially-formulated ‘light’ cat food is available for weight management purposes. Light diets will help to reduce your cat’s caloric intake, while still satisfying its appetite and providing all of the other necessary nutritional benefits that it requires for optimum physical health.
Where should my cat eat?
Free-feeding may pose obstacles in ensuring that your cat gets the right amount of nutrition in multi-cat households, where it is the survival of the fittest in the animal world. If there happens to be a less assertive cat among the household, chances are that the timid kitty will eventually end up malnourished due to conflicts over the food bowl. If you have more than one cat, put some distance between their individual bowls so that they are less likely to bully, get bullied, or get into confrontations over food. Choose a quiet spot to station your cat’s food bowl, away from its litter tray and from where your dining table is located. Placing the bowl on surfaces that are easily cleaned, such as a mat or tiled floor, is also advisable.