When feeding our cats, no matter WHAT you feed them, it’s important to keep your cat’s natural behaviors in mind so that eating can be a pleasant and healthy experience for your cat. Here’s some important things to know:
Cats naturally eat 8-15 small meals each day: That’s right, your cat is naturally a grazer. Some cats will adapt to meal feeding, just be aware that some cats may need more ready access to food, or frequent meals. If you aren’t home, you can try an automated feeder that operates on a timer. If you have one cat who eats EVERYTHING in a rush, but another cat who grazes, a microchip activated food bowl can allow some cats, but not others, to access a food dish.
Cats are not family-style eaters: Even if your cats are friends, they should be offered separate food and water dishes in SEPARATE locations. Cats naturally hunt small prey, such as birds and mice, which they don’t share with other cats. So please don’t force them to share a dish with their housemates. Offer separate dishes and let them choose whether they want to share or swap bowls!
Feed with awareness: You should know about how much food your cat is eating each day. Weighing food is more accurate than using a scoop. Your vet can help you determine the right amount to feed each cat; this will help you prevent weight gain, and will also help you know if your cat has a change in appetite, which can indicate a health problem. It is also helpful to weigh your cat at least once a month to train excessive weight gain or loss.
Cats want to feel safe while they eat: Feeding areas should be in a relatively quiet area that allows cats to see if anyone (human or other animal) is coming. Don’t ask your cat to eat facing a wall, or in a cramped corner where they might feel trapped.
Why not make it fun? Many cats enjoy working for their food -- you can provide your cat with food puzzles - toys that require interaction by your cat to release their food - to keep them occupied while they eat. There are several types of commercially available food puzzles, or you can make your own out of common household objects, such as cardboard boxes, water bottles, wine corks and toilet paper rolls! Puzzles can slow down eating and provide your cat with mental stimulation, and it’s fun to watch your cat use them.
Keep it clean: The National Science Foundation says that pet food dishes are some of the dirtiest surfaces in our homes. Be sure to empt and wash bowls DAILY, don’t just pile new food on top of old food. We also know that cats eat more when food is fresh; another good reason to keep the bowl clean and the food fresh. Cats also don’t want to eat near where they go to the bathroom, so keep food dishes AT LEAST 12 feet away from the litter box.
Feeding our cats is a necessary part of our routine, but hopefully with these tips you can make it safe, enjoyable and even fun for your cat.