Feeding a cat should be simple, right? You put food in a bowl, and refill it when empty. But while that’s a popular way to feed cats, it’s not necessarily the healthiest, wisest or vet-recommended method. So how should you feed the cat?
How much food does my cat need?
The amount of food your cat needs depends on a variety of factors, including the cat’s weight, amount of daily activity, and any health concerns. Often, you can follow the advice listed on the back of food containers, which lists the weight of a cat and the amount of food needed per day. (Usually, the higher protein in the food, the less you’ll need to give, so higher-end cat foods will require smaller serving amounts). Note, though, that this serving size listed is per day, not per meal – so if you feed your cat twice a day (which we recommend), then divide this total in half. You may be surprised to see that even large cats need less than a cup of dry food per day. Measure out the serving size and only put that amount in the bowl. Avoid overfeeding, even if your cat seems to want more.
Also note that if you also feed your cat canned food or other treats, you’ll need to reduce the amount of dry food offered. You’re aiming for a set number of calories per day. Talk to your vet to determine your cat’s daily caloric needs and discuss any changes you’re considering to your cat’s diet.
Should I leave cat food out all day?
Unlike most dogs, many cats prefer to graze on food throughout the day instead of eating in one sitting. But this habit is not a healthy one. The main issue that arises when we keep food out all day is that cats overeat. Today’s indoor cats are generally sedentary, so they don’t require a lot of food to meet their nutritional needs. And too much food can lead to obesity and the complications that come with it: diabetes, heart disease, arthritis and more. Thus, it’s better to serve measured amounts of food at certain times, and remove the bowl after the cat has eaten.
Keep to a schedule of feeding morning and evening, around the same time every day. Remove uneaten food after a set time. If your cat does not seem to be eating in this set time – and you’re seeing your cat lose weight or energy – talk to your vet about other feeding options.
Dry or canned food – what’s best for my cat?
Another common misconception in cat food is that dry food is always healthier. In fact, the protein-rich, low-carb ingredients of wet food can help manage diabetes and weight gain in cats when served properly. Wet food also provides additional liquids to a cat’s diet, which can help prevent urinary tract infections and other digestive complications.
Some families choose combination feeding – which means rotating dry food and canned food at various meals to add variety and health to your cat’s diet. That said, the best food for your cat is the diet your veterinarian recommends. Make an appointment to talk to your vet about cat food options, especially if your cat is overweight, elderly or has an illness.
Don’t forget water – even if your cat seems to.
Many cats don’t seem to like to drink. But it’s vital they drink water throughout the day to stay healthy. Especially if your cat eats only dry food, which has a low moisture content, you need to ensure the cat drinks more water. To entice your cat to drink more, place water bowls full of clean water where your cat likes to be in the house (which may not be where the food is). Many cats prefer running water, so consider buying a water bowl with a fountain feature, or allow your cat to visit a dripping sink during the day.
Cat food is for cats.
Finally, cats do not need human food. Resist the temptation to give your cat canned fish (which lacks all the dietary needs of a cat) or bowls of milk (which can cause cats to vomit). Additionally, do not put your cat on the latest human food trend. Your cat does not need to be gluten-free, vegetarian or vegan. Feed your cats only food designed for cats. And most important, if your cat begins to gain or lose weight, stops eating, or develops digestive problems, see your vet right away. Changes in eating behavior or weight are often the first signs of bigger problems.