How much food does a cat need?
How do I feed two cats different diets?
How do I get my cat to stop crying for food between mealtimes?
These are universal questions faced by many a cat caregiver (or servant, depending on your cat’s point of view). When it comes to feeding your cat, it can feel much more complicated than just opening a can of cat food. How can you achieve feeding success in the eyes of your fave feline?
Did you know by the time a cat realizes they are thirsty, they’re already a bit dehydrated?! Although water is essential for life, cats do not have the same thirst drives that people do and are very efficient at creatively sourcing water outside the cup or bowl. Historically, cats would have obtained part of their daily water from fresh caught prey, but now they get the equivalent from moist or canned foods.
When they do decide to drink water, a bowl might not be their first choice. Some cats prefer to drink from moving water sources, such as dripping taps. For these felines, providing a fountain might help strike a balance between a well hydrated cat and your water bill. No matter how you provide water, whether in a bowl or a fountain, it is important that they are kept clean and that the water is fresh. After all – who among us wants to drink stale water from an unwashed cup?
Just as with people, we are seeing a steady rise in the waistline of cats. Although Garfield-esque figures provide us with more cat to love, it does lessen their 9 lives. For cats that are “easy keepers”, it may fall on us to resort to portion feeding. Portion, or meal, feeding is feeding a measured amount of food multiple times a day.
As cats have evolved to eat mouse-sized meals, their natural calorie intake is 30 calories in 5 – 8 hunted meals a day, or a measly 150 – 240 calories total per day. Once we know how much to feed, in terms of calories per day, we can convert this into a portion of food fed and divide it over the day. If 5 – 8 mini meals suit your cat, but not your schedule, three meals a day (breakfast, supper, and bed time snack) should work fine.For those with erratic schedules or cats that are very good at pestering them for snacks, automatic feeders are a viable option. Auto feeders can be programmed to dispense small meals throughout the day and, by taking humans out of the food equation, may improve your relationship as you can focus more on cuddles and less on saying “No!” to more food when being pestered by a hungry cat.
One of the biggest challenges of feeding time in a home with many cats is that you can’t exactly tell cat A that he cannot eat cat B’s food (because cat A clearly knows his buddy’s food tastes better, even if it the exact same thing!). Separate feeding can be a challenge, but it is important to feed individual cats according to their nutritional or disease needs. Creating separate feeding stations helps but at times we may need to be more creative. Feeding can be done in separate areas, behind a closed door, or using microchip auto-feeders that use technology to keep the opportunistic feline out of his friend’s area.
As with anything we do as cat owners, we can only do our best. No one is purrfect! If, despite our best efforts, there are still attempts at mingling of meals, then it’s important to prioritize feeding any cat with specific health or disease needs properly.
For more on feeding success, visit our YouTube channel to view our Feline Nutrition series.
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This article was written by Cat Healthy feline specialist Dr. Elizabeth Ruelle DVM, DABVP and sponsored by Hill’s Pet Nutrition.