Cats are pretty good at regulating themselves, in warmer weather, for example, some owners notice their cats deliberately eat less. But how can you tell when habits change if it’s for environmental reasons or if there’s something deeper going on? It’s important to know.
So, how much should you feed your cat and how can you tell what changes in eating habits might mean? With the help of pet experts at Sure Petcare, this article will cover both topics to help your cat stay healthy and happy.
How Often Should I Feed My Cat?
Unless there is a specific health reason, cats should be allowed to eat whenever they want, rather than being meal fed. Sure Petcare explains the history behind this and helps us pull out some of the basic facts on a cat’s typical eating behaviour.
“Wild and feral cats will eat 10-20 small meals a day, so it is best to give them free access to food. If you feed a cat two meals a day, that could be like you only being fed every few days. Hunger makes cats irritable, and it can lead to tension and fights in multi-cat households.”
When it comes to how often you feed, it could be argued a routine might not be helpful. Here’s why.
“Being meal fed also ties cats to your routine, which can be frustrating for them; if you come home or get up late, your hungry cat has to wait even longer for a meal. Some owners worry about their cats’ overeating, but this is generally not an issue. Just keep watch on your cat’s weight and ask your vet to show you how to check your cat’s body condition score.”
For cats who do eat quickly, owners might want to investigate ways to help their cats to eat more slowly because by slowing down how quickly a cat eats, you can help prevent vomiting and digestion issues as a result of finishing meals quickly.
Sure Petcare recommends this fun activity to help.
“Using activity feeders that make your cat work or solve a puzzle to get food are a great idea for cats that tend to “face-plant” in the bowl and gobble all the food in one go.
Dry or Wet: What’s Right for Your Cat?
This is usually a personal choice for owners and the cat in question. Some owners choose to mix both together or feed a wet diet with dry treats to give their pets a little extra crunch for dental health.
Sure Petcare explains whether cats really are likely to have a favourite kind of diet.
“Cats do have preferences, with some liking dry more than wet food, or vice versa. It’s best to stick to one type of food rather than mixing things up. Likewise, it’s best to stick to one flavour of food. This might seem boring, but it helps to reduce the risk of obesity.
“Dried food stays fresh all day, and just need topping up, which makes it easier to feed cats on an ad-lib basis, but wet food will dry out and become unappetizing so it’s best to use a feeder that stops this.”
Are treats bad?
Cat treats can be quite calorific if fed in large numbers.
On the topic of treats, Sure Petcare say, “The simple answer about treats is not to feed too many. Stick with the manufacturer’s recommendations. To get the most out of every treat, rather than just give them to your cat try to use them as part of a game. For example, hide a couple of treats and use a fishing toy game to lead your cat around the room until he or she finds them.”
How to Tell if a Cat Is Overweight
Working out if your cat is overweight or carrying a thicker coat for the colder seasons is important to know because it will help you to get a feel for what’s normal for your cat and to assess their weight.
Learning how to feel your cat’s body to assess their body condition score also gives you chance to keep up to date with any lumps or bumps that might be developing and is a great way to bond.
Sure Petcare explains the best way to calculate a cat’s body condition score.
“The best way is to ask your vet to show you how to estimate your cat’s body condition score. This is similar to your doctor assessing your body mass index. It’s really easy to do, and you can even use online tools to help you. For example, the WSAVA provides a simple diagram for assessing your cat’s body condition.
“If your cat suddenly changes eating habits or gains weight you should make an appointment to speak with your vet. They can rule out any underlying issues and put your mind at rest on how to move forward.”
How to Help a Cat Lose Weight
If your vet believes your cat needs to lose weight, they may put a regime in place to help your cat get back to a healthy weight. In some cases, this process can be aided and more easily monitored by smart technology.
Sure Petcare offers this advice to owners who want to help their cat lose weight.
“It’s important not to try dieting your cat without first getting professional advice from your vet. If overweight cats are dieted too drastically they can get a serious liver problem called hepatic lipidosis or fatty liver syndrome.
“Monitoring food intake is important, but it can be difficult to achieve unless you invest in some technology like a feeder that records the amount of food your cat eats. That enables everyone in the household to see what the cat is eating, and avoids mistakes if the cat asks different people for a food top-up. If your cat’s food intake increases or decreases, that could also be a sign of illness. Keep track of the treats you give, maybe using a noticeboard if there are several family members.
“One of the most important changes you should see as your cat loses weight is an increase in activity and playfulness. Just like us, cats feel more energetic when they aren’t carrying around as much excess weight. So, keep offering your cat opportunities to play and record your cat’s responses on the calendar.
“It’s a good idea to weigh your cat regularly during a diet, but don’t expect big changes. Typically we aim to get cats to lose about 1% of their body weight per week, which for a heavy 5kg cat means a weekly loss of 50g. That’s not a lot, and if your cat has just eaten or hasn’t been to the toilet when you do your weight measurement you may not see a change. Better to weight often and look at the trend, rather than compare consecutive weekly weights.”