Cats are known for their finicky eating habits, and as pet owners, we often wonder about the best time to feed our feline friends. While cats are known to be independent creatures, they do rely on us to provide them with nutritious meals at the right time.
In this article, we will explore the best time to feed cats, taking into consideration their instincts and dietary needs.
Understanding Cat Eating Habits
We need to consider cats' natural behaviors before getting into the details of feeding domestic cats. Their biorhythms and digestive system are going to define the best way to feed them.
Cats are obligate carnivores, meaning that they require a diet high in protein and low in carbohydrates to thrive.
They typically hunt small prey, such as rodents, birds, and insects, and consume them in small meals throughout the day. These rodents tend to be more active at dawn and dusk.
Cats are solitary hunters and eaters, meaning that they do not share their food with other cats.
They may consume the entire prey, including bones, fur, and feathers, which can provide additional nutrients and fiber.
In the wild, cats would hunt for their food during the times when their prey are most active, making them crepuscular animals. Because hunting occurs during that time, cats are naturally inclined to eat most of their meals at dawn and dusk.
It's also important to note that cats have small stomachs, and their digestive system is not designed to handle large meals. This is why feeding them small meals throughout the day is crucial, rather than one or two large meals. Automatic feeders come in handy for this.
How Many Times Should You Feed Your Cat?
The number of times you should feed your cat depends on their age and individual dietary needs. As a general rule, kittens need to be fed more frequently than adult cats.
As we were mentioning earlier, cats like having small meals during the day because they have small stomachs, and their body is not designed to store or metabolize fat.
Hepatic lipidosis, also known as fatty liver disease, is a serious condition that can occur in cats when they go without food for an extended period. This is especially dangerous for overweight cats.
When cats don't eat, their bodies begin to break down stored fat to use for energy. This can overload the liver, which is responsible for processing and metabolizing fat. The liver becomes overwhelmed and starts to accumulate fat cells, leading to the development of hepatic lipidosis. If left untreated, it can lead to liver failure and death.
For kittens, it's recommended to feed them at least 4-5 times a day. Adult cats, on the other hand, can be fed 3-4 times a day, but the more the better. Remember that more meals do not mean more food, we are talking about smaller meals, more frequently.
Should You Free-Feed Your Cat?
Free-feeding refers to leaving food out for your cat to graze on throughout the day. While this may seem like a convenient option, it can lead to overeating and obesity in cats. It's a lot healthier for your cat to use an automatic feeder if you don't have the time to be home to feed their meals.
In an ideal world, you should establish and stick to a feeding schedule.
This helps your cat maintain a healthy weight and prevents them from becoming overweight or obese. Also, being the one who provides meals to your cat will increase your bond considerably. It's one of the secrets of our blueprint for bonding with your cat.
The Importance of Consistency
Cats thrive on routine and consistency, so it's important to establish a feeding schedule and stick to it. Feeding your cat at the same time every day helps them feel secure and in control, which can reduce anxiety and stress.
Feeding schedules also help with:
- Helping you define which are the best times to train your cat (between meals, treats become more valuable)
- Prevents them from disturbing you at random times as they know when to expect the food and when not.
- Prevents them from waking you up at night.
- Stops uncontrollably meowing and begging for food.
Best Time to Feed Adult Cats
Adult cats should be fed 3-4 times daily, depending on their dietary needs. If needed, you could potentially feed a cat 2-3 times a day, but their systems are prepared to have many small meals instead.
I feed my cat Mia 4 times a day:
- 7:30 am - When I wake up, it's the first/second thing I do.
- noon - Feed her lunch at the time that I eat, giving me some cooking time free from begging.
- 6 pm - Feed her dinner at the time I eat, giving me some personal space to have my dinner in peace.
- midnight - Before I go to bed I feed Mia's last meal of the day. This will get her to sleep through the night.
When I am not working from home the noon meal disappears and the schedule readjusts to 3 meals: 8 am, 7 pm, and 12 am.
I sometimes use feeding toys hidden around the house so that Mia can scavenge some food during the day.
Here's my morning routine when I go to the office:
Best Time to Feed Kittens
As mentioned earlier, kittens need to be fed more frequently than adult cats. It's recommended to feed them small meals throughout the day, with a combination of wet and dry food. With kittens it is very recommended to use automatic feeders if you can't provide 4 to 5 meals a day.
Because kittens methabolism is very fast and they are growing, leaving food out for kittens to graze on is not as dangerous as with adult cats but that's going to diminish your bonding ability, which is extremely important during the first months.
Tips for Feeding Your Cat
Summarizing the article, these are the key takeaways I'd like you to leave with:
- Use high-quality, nutritious cat food
- Provide fresh water at all times
- Feed at least 3 times a day in adult cats and 4 to kittens. You can use automatic feeders to help you with keeping the schedule on.
- Use puzzle feeders or food-dispensing toys to provide mental stimulation
- Avoid feeding your cat table scraps or human food
- Measure out the correct portion size for your cat's weight and activity level
What to Do If Your Cat Refuses to Eat
If your cat refuses to eat, it's important to identify the underlying cause. Some common reasons why cats may refuse to eat include dental problems, illness, stress, and changes in their environment.
If you suspect that your cat is sick, it's important to take them to the vet for a checkup. The vet can run diagnostic tests and recommend a treatment plan based on your cat's specific needs.
If your cat is simply a picky eater, you may need to experiment with different types of food and feeding methods. For example, some cats prefer wet food over dry food, while others may prefer to eat from a puzzle feeder or food-dispensing toy.
Can I leave food out for my cat to graze on? It's not recommended to free-feed your cat, as this can lead to overeating and obesity. Instead, establish a feeding schedule and stick to it.
How often should I feed my kitten? It's recommended to feed kittens 4-5 small meals a day, with a combination of wet and dry food. Raw diets are not recommended for kittens as they are still developing their inmune system.
When is the best time to feed my cat? The best time to feed your cat is... as often as possible but on a schedule. Most important meals are those which happen at dawn and dusk.
What should I do if my cat refuses to eat? If your cat refuses to eat, it's important to identify the underlying cause. This may involve taking them to the vet for a checkup or experimenting with different types of food and feeding methods.
Should I feed my cat table scraps or human food? No, it's not recommended to feed your cat table scraps or human food, as this can lead to digestive problems and obesity. Stick to high-quality, nutritious cat food instead.
Stay wild, stay safe and we´ll see you outdoors!
Albert & Mia