Many cat owners have been told to feed their cats up to four times a day. Some cat owners have a self-feed system where food is left out all day. What is surprising is that a recent study showed that cats are healthier if they are fed only once a day. Animal nutrition specialists in U of G’s Ontario Veterinary College (OVC) and Ontario Agricultural College (OAC) conducted a study and found that cats who eat once a day were less hungry which might help prevent cats from becoming overweight.
The study showed that cats that ate once a day were more satisfied and burned stored fat which helped them keep a healthy body mass. They also had more protein which helps build and maintain body mass an important benefit for older cats to help prevent sarcopenia.
How your feed your cat is an often-overlooked aspect of stress and health related issues. This was addressed by the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP). They released a Consensus Statement titled, “Feline Feeding Programs: Addressing Behavioral Needs to Improve Feline Health and Wellbeing” which was published in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery. A brochure is available for practitioners to give to clients.
According to the brochure, it is important to allow cats to experience normal feeding behaviors, such as hunting and foraging, a well as eating frequent, small meals by themselves. By meeting a cat’s feeding needs, you will help alleviate or prevent stress-related issues. Stress can cause cystitis and over-eating problems. If indoor cats are not given enough activity, eating can become their main activity leading to obesity.
Multi-cat households must insure that some of the resident cats who are shy are getting enough food which can lead to health problems as well.
The report goes on to stress that each household should evaluate the needs of the cats in the home. Some solutions could be to include offering small, frequent meals, puzzle feeders or putting food in different locations and even including automatic feeders.
It a cat has mental or physical issues, it is important to consider the cat’s feeding program to see if that is a contributing factor.