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Cat Feeding Schedule: When Is Best Time to Feed Cats

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    Understanding the cat feeding schedule is crucial for pet owners, especially given cats’ known finicky eating habits. As caretakers of these independent creatures, it’s our responsibility to ensure they receive nutritious meals at appropriate times.

    cat eating

    In this article, we delve into the optimal times to feed cats, considering their natural instincts and dietary needs.


    Understanding cat feeding patterns

    Before discussing the specifics of feeding domestic cats, it’s vital to consider their natural behaviors. Their biorhythms and digestive systems play a key role in determining the ideal feeding approach.

    • Being obligate carnivores, cats need a diet that’s high in protein and low in carbohydrates to flourish.
    • In their natural habitat, cats often hunt smaller prey like rodents, birds, and insects, consuming these in multiple small meals throughout the day. Such prey is usually more active at dawn and dusk.
    • Cats are solitary in both hunting and eating, not sharing their food with other cats.
    • They typically consume their prey whole, including bones, fur, and feathers, which adds extra nutrients and fiber to their diet.

    In the wild, cats hunt when their prey is most active, primarily at dawn and dusk, categorizing them as crepuscular animals. This hunting behavior influences their natural tendency to eat primarily during these times.

    It’s also critical to remember that cats have small stomachs, and their digestive system isn’t built for large meals. Hence, feeding them several small meals throughout the day is essential, rather than a few large ones. For this reason, automatic feeders can be extremely beneficial.


    Nutritional needs and food choices for cats

    • Senior Cats: They often require diets lower in calories but higher in fiber, with adequate protein levels to maintain muscle mass.
    • Kittens: Their diets should be rich in protein and calories to support rapid growth and development.
    • Cats with Health Issues: For conditions like kidney disease, a diet low in phosphorus and protein may be recommended, while diabetic cats may require a diet low in carbohydrates.


    How often should cats be fed?

    Determining the frequency of feeding your cat hinges on factors like their age and specific dietary requirements. Generally, kittens require more frequent feeding compared to adult cats.

    As previously noted, cats prefer multiple small meals throughout the day due to their small stomachs and inability to efficiently store or metabolize fat.

    A significant health risk for cats, particularly those that are overweight, is hepatic lipidosis, or fatty liver disease. This condition can develop if cats go too long without eating.

    When cats fast, their bodies start breaking down stored fat for energy. This process can burden the liver, tasked with fat metabolism and processing. An overwhelmed liver may begin to store fat cells, leading to hepatic lipidosis. Without treatment, this can progress to liver failure and potentially be fatal.

    cats eating foods

    For kittens, the recommendation is to feed them at least 4-5 times daily. Adult cats may be fed 3-4 times per day, though more frequent meals are preferable. It’s important to note that more meals don’t equate to more food; rather, it means smaller portions spread throughout the day.


    Is free-feeding a good choice for your cat?

    Free-feeding is the practice of leaving food accessible for your cat to eat at will throughout the day. Though it might appear as a convenient method, it can often result in cats overeating, leading to obesity.

    Utilizing an automatic feeder can be a healthier alternative, especially if you’re unable to be home to feed your cat at set times.

    Ideally, a consistent feeding schedule should be established and followed.

    Adhering to a feeding routine is crucial in helping your cat maintain a healthy weight, thus preventing issues like obesity.

    Moreover, being the provider of your cat’s meals can greatly strengthen your bond with them.


    The significance of routine in feeding

    The well-being of cats is heavily reliant on routine and consistency. Therefore, establishing and adhering to a feeding schedule is crucial. Consistent feeding times each day provide your cat with a sense of security and control, helping to alleviate their anxiety and stress.

    A set feeding schedule also offers several advantages:

    • It aids in determining the optimal times to discipline your cat, as treats hold more value between meals.
    • It reduces random disturbances in your cat, as they learn when to expect food and when not to.
    • It helps prevent your cat from waking you up during the night.
    • It curbs excessive meowing and begging for food.


    Optimal feeding times for adult cats

    Adult cats typically benefit from being fed 3-4 times daily, tailored to their individual dietary needs. While it’s possible to feed a cat 2-3 times a day, their systems are better suited for multiple small meals.

    Consider this feeding schedule:

    • 7:30 am – Upon waking up, it’s one of the first tasks you might do.
    • Noon – Offer lunch around the time you eat, allowing for a break from any feline begging during cooking.
    • 6 pm – Dinner time for your cat coincides with your meal, providing a chance for a peaceful dinner.
    • Midnight – The final meal right before bed helps ensure a full night’s sleep for both of you.

    When not working from home, the noon meal might be skipped, adjusting the schedule to 3 meals: 8 am, 7 pm, and 12 am.

    Incorporating feeding toys hidden around the house can encourage your cat to scavenge for food during the day.

    Here are suggested ways for days at work:


    Optimal feeding schedule for kittens

    As previously stated, kittens require more frequent feeding than adult cats. They should be fed small meals throughout the day, combining both wet and dry food. For those unable to provide 4 to 5 meals daily, automatic feeders are highly recommended for kittens.

    Given their rapid metabolism and growth phase, leaving food out for kittens to graze isn’t as risky as it is for adult cats. However, this practice might reduce the opportunities for bonding, which is crucial during their early months.


    Key points on feeding your cat

    To summarize this article, here are the essential tips to remember:

    • Choose high-quality, nutritious cat food.
    • Always ensure a supply of fresh water.
    • Feed adult cats at least 3 times a day and kittens around 4 times. Automatic feeders can assist in maintaining a consistent schedule.
    • Introduce puzzle feeders or food-dispensing toys for mental engagement.
    • Refrain from giving your cat human food or table scraps.
    • Accurately measure the food portion according to your cat’s weight and activity level.

    prepare a cup of water for cat


    What to do when your cat won’t eat

    If your cat refuses to eat, identifying the cause is key. Reasons may include dental problems, illness, stress, or changes in the environment.

    For suspected illnesses, it’s important to take them to the vet, potentially using a cat harness for safe transport. The vet can perform diagnostics and suggest a treatment plan based on your cat’s needs.

    If your cat is picky, try different food types and feeding methods. Some cats may favor wet food or might be more inclined to eat using a puzzle feeder or food-dispensing toy.


    Regular weight monitoring and health checks

    Closely monitoring your cat’s weight and adjusting their food intake accordingly is vital. Weight changes can indicate health issues or dietary imbalances.

    • Regular Weight Checks: Keep a consistent schedule for weighing your cat. Any significant weight gain or loss should be addressed with your veterinarian.
    • Health Checks: Regular veterinary check-ups are essential for early detection and management of any health conditions that may affect your cat’s appetite or overall well-being. These checks can also provide an opportunity for dietary adjustments based on the cat’s age, weight, and health status.


    Summing up

    Understanding and implementing a proper cat feeding schedule is a pivotal aspect of feline care. This involves recognizing the unique nutritional and dietary needs of cats at different life stages, from kittens to adults, and those with specific health conditions. Regular feeding times not only cater to their biological needs but also foster a sense of security and routine, reducing stress and anxiety.

    Additionally, incorporating methods like automatic feeders, puzzle toys, and regular health checks can significantly enhance their well-being.

    Ultimately, a well-planned feeding schedule aligns with their natural habits and ensures their overall health and happiness.



    FAQ 1: How do I transition my cat to a new feeding schedule?

    Transitioning your cat to a new feeding schedule should be done gradually. Start by slowly adjusting the current feeding times to the new schedule over a week or so. This helps your cat adapt without stress.

    FAQ 2: Can changes in feeding times affect my cat’s behavior?

    Yes, changes in feeding times can affect your cat’s behavior. Cats are creatures of habit and sudden changes can lead to stress or anxiety. It’s important to maintain a consistent schedule to keep them calm and comfortable.

    FAQ 3: Are there specific types of food recommended for automatic feeders?

    When using automatic feeders, dry food is typically recommended because it does not spoil as quickly as wet food. However, some advanced feeders are designed to accommodate wet food. Always ensure the feeder is clean and functioning properly.

    FAQ 4: How can I determine the proper portion size for my cat?

    The proper portion size depends on your cat’s age, weight, activity level, and health status. Consult your veterinarian to determine the right amount. Overfeeding can lead to obesity, while underfeeding might not meet your cat’s nutritional needs.

    FAQ 5: What should I do if my cat seems uninterested in puzzle feeders or toys?

    If your cat shows no interest in puzzle feeders or toys, try different types to find one that appeals to them. Each cat has unique preferences. Sometimes, simply changing the location of the toy or altering how you introduce it can spark their interest.



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