07 November 2018

How to Feed Your Cat: The Modern Guide to Feline Foraging

The best way to feed cats has changed. Instead of leaving kibble in a bowl, here’s what you should do now.

How to feed your cat. Instead of leaving kibble in a bowl (pictured), here's what to do instead
Photo: Africa  Studio / Shutterstock


It used to be simple: put kibble in a bowl and leave it out all day.

But that’s not how we should be feeding our pet cats. A new consensus statement from the American Association of Feline Practitioners explains the way we feed cats now.

The AAFP says are several reasons to think more carefully about you feed your cat. One is the increase in overweight and obesity in pet cats, which is bad for their health (see: how to help a fat cat lose weight).

Another reason is that using food puzzles for cats is a great enrichment activity that engages cats’ hunting instincts. This is especially important now that most pet cats are kept indoors for a lot or all of the time.

As well, having the right feeding system can help to keep feline stress levels low. This is especially important in households with more than one cat.

Read on to find out the modern way to feed a cat.



Use puzzle feeders


Puzzle feeders are toys that make the cat work to get the food out. For example, a ball with a hole in that lets pieces of kibble fall out when the cat pushes the ball around. Or something the cat has to reach into with a paw to get the kibble.

There are many different commercially available food puzzle toys, but it’s also very easy to make your own. Most are designed for dry food like kibble, but some also work with wet food.

When your cat is new to food puzzles, you need to make them easy and use treats; over time, your cat can progress to more difficult food toys.

For reviews of many different types of food puzzles, check out foodpuzzlesforcats.

How to feed your cat: Multiple small meals a day with food toys, different locations, and separated resources



Frequent small meals for cats


The AAFP recommend the cats’ daily calorie count is split into multiple small meals throughout each 24 hour period.

Although they do not specify how many meals a day is ideal for cats, International Cat Care suggest you feed your cat five (or more) small meals a day.

Since it is likely you will be out for some of those meals, you can use an automated feeder and set the timer to provide a meal when you are at work.


Feed High Up and in Different Places


Cats like to be high up, and so food does not have to be provided on the floor. In fact, the AAFP recommend that you use high places to feed your cat.

But they caution that for some cats, such as those with arthritis, this may not be possible.

For all cats, change the location of the food instead of feeding in the same place each time. This way cats have to use their senses (such as their nose) to forage for it.


Keep food and water separate


Cats prefer to have their resources separated, so that means food should be kept separate from water. And it needs to be in a place(s) the cat feels safe.

How to feed your cat: multiple small meals a day, via food toys, and other rules of feeding cats these days
It's easy to make DIY food toys for your cat. Photo: jessjeppe / Shutterstock

As well, food and water should of course be in a different location than the litter boxes.


Separate food in multi-cat households


If you have more than one cat, you need to take account of the relationship between the cats when feeding them.

Although some cats may get on well and not mind, most cats would prefer to eat separately. Remember they are solitary hunters and would normally hunt and eat on their own.

So if you have multiple cats, make sure their food is separate. They should be able to eat their food in peace without seeing the other cats.

If need be, you can get crafty and put one cat's meals in locations other pets cannot reach or squeeze into, and/or use automatic feeders that will only open for the correct animal's microchip.


Keep an eye on your cat’s weight


Your vet will weigh your cat at each appointment, but the AAFP recommend that you monitor your cat’s weight. If you have any concerns, speak to your veterinarian.

They also say that treats should not make up more than 10% of the cat's daily calorie intake.


How to feed cats


So that’s how to feed cats: Five (or more) small meals a day, via puzzle feeders left in different locations, preferably high up, separate from the water bowl, and away from other cats in the household.

If you have any questions or concerns about you cat's weight or food, speak to your veterinarian.

Do you already follow these guidelines when feeding your cat? How many meals a day do you give your cat?


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You might also like:  Five things to do for your cat today and how to make the world better for cats.


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