For some pet owners, they may wonder what is the best time to feed my cat. The truth is, there are actually different systems, all with the disadvantages and advantages of each. Here, I’ll go over some of the different ways to feed your cat and the best time to do so.
Create a Habit
The first thing to do, is you need to make sure that it’s a regular schedule, and that you’re able to stick to it. That’s because, cats are creatures of habit, and we can use that to our own personal advantage when feeding them.
Creating a habit is good because it does the following:
- Creates security in the cat
- Gives them some predictability to the routine
- Can be seen by them as a cornerstone routine, even when there are major changes to it
- It allows them to be more conditioned to be hungry at times
Creating a routine for the food is essential, and having a routine makes it easier for changing foods too. If your cat is a young kitten and needs to have big cat food, you want to give them the food around the same time, since when a cat eats at the same times every single day, it becomes a conditioning aspect, and hunger is a huge motivator. If you’re able to give them the same meal at regular times, it’s good if you need to either change their food or if you want to start putting them on adult food if they’re young.
The Age Game
When they’re young, they need more food. Kittens require more food per a pound of weight to support than an adult cat does. With kittens up to six months, you may need to do the following:
- Give them more food
- Give them three meals a day
Usually, you can make this happen with breakfast, lunch, and then dinner. With adult cats though, you can do two meals a day with this.
Once a cat becomes an adult, usually twice, or even once a day is good. But remember, they’ll have to be on a routine. You can feed them twice a day if that’s what they did as a kid, just halve their food.
Once a cat is an adult, once a day feeding is actually healthy for them, and it doesn’t cause problems if you feed them like this. So, if you have a young cat, you should make sure that they eat within certain parameters, and also make sure that you do take into consideration how they process food.
Types of Feeding
now, you may know what kind of schedule your cat may need, but did you know that how you feed them can affect the cat as well? Some cats are accustomed to different types of feeding schedules, and here are the ones that you should consider:
All of these are different types, and we shall go over each of these in this section, and the advantages and disadvantages of each.
Free-choice feeding is a common way to feed your cat. This is essentially when there is a slotted time for the cats to have food and graze on this, which is good if they usually like small meals throughout the day. Now, there are a few benefits of this, and they are as follows:
- There isn’t too much effort to use
- It’s good if you work hours that are long and random
- It allows the cat to eat when they want
However, there are a few disadvantages to this, and they are as follows:
- The cat tends to overeat if they love the food
- This, in turn, can lead to obesity
- This can be hard if you’re trying to check for the cat’s appetite in case if there is something wrong
Now, this is actually good if you do control the food portion since it can lead to obesity if left unchecked. It’s also good to let cats eat when they want, but don’t fill up the bowl until the next day. They may not like it initially, but at the same time, they’ll have to get used to it.
Another cool thing that you can add to this is a food puzzle that includes food that’s pre-measured since it’s good because it not only gives them food, it does the following:
- Provides mental stimulation for cats
- Obligates them as hunters, since they’ll work for a bowl of food
Set Meal Times
Another way to feed your cat is if you feed them at mealtimes, instead of giving them a chance to graze all the time, or for long periods of time.
Now, there are advantages to this, and they are as follows:
- You can easily control and monitor intake
- The cats will be monitored so that one doesn’t eat more than the others
However, there are a few problems with this type of feeding, and they are as follows:
- The cat may beg for meals, which ultimately can be super annoying
- There can be issues with dominance if the dominant cat eats the other’s food and you’re not paying attention
- You also may end up overfeeding your cat, since you can’t control how much the cat eats within a certain period of time. If you follow the advice of the vet though on how much to feed and regular feeding schedules, this, in turn, will ensure that the cat gets the right nutrients
Adult cats usually just need this once or twice a day, but if you use this, it gives you the benefit of taking control of your cat’s health and wellness. Usually, kittens will need three times the meals, but you should, if you’re concerned, check with the vet for the exact amount of times you should feed them.
Now, how do you do this with multiple cats? Do the following:
- Give them separate food stations
- Keep it in a quiet area with low traffic that the cat likes to spend time in
- Don’t hover over them, but instead give them some privacy
These should be treated like individual meals for each of the cats. You can set it up to coincide with mealtimes as well if you feel like you want to ensure that the cat gets enough food as well.
This, in essence, is combining two different types of food, giving them small meals throughout the day. Now, this isn’t for every single cat, and it’s one that can be a bit of a problem since it might lead to overeating more so than the others.
But, with combination feeding, you’re feeding them wet and dry food throughout the day.
Some of the advantages of this include the following:
- It allows for the cat to have small and multiple meals throughout the day on the schedule that they like
- You can also monitor their food easier, and if you have a set mealtime, they’ll be able to follow it easily
- It also gives the kitty the extra benefit of both wet and dry cat food, which is something that’s not really touched upon by owners
However, there are a few disadvantages to this, and they are the following:
- Can easily lead to overeating along with obesity, so you’ll need to be vigilant and measure out the food and not refill the bowl until the next mealtime
- If you have multiple cats, it’s difficult to really control the food intake, so you should make sure that you watch this since it can be a bit of a problem
Now combination feeding has both advantages and disadvantages in the food themselves. Some cats have medical conditions that may benefit from the higher amounts of moisture that are in the wet food, but dry food does have the benefits of dental health and it’s much easier to store it.
You can always if you feel like the cat isn’t being challenged enough to provide a food puzzle for the cat so that they have a chance to practice this and get some snacks from this.
This is like humans with their own “diets” that are used in order to lose weight. Cats essentially do the same thing, and portion controlled feeding does involve getting the recommended daily amount of food that they need between two or so meals. You should space these meals out about 8-12 hours or so.
Now, there are some plus and minus points with this, and they are as follows:
- It’s a simple way to help the cat lose a few pounds
- Can help them stay regulated on a schedule
- It can be a problem because you need to have a consistent schedule for dishing out the meals
- It also gives the problem that the cat may beg for food when they’re not being fed, and if you’re the type that gives into that, you’ll need to make sure that you watch for that
This is probably the most committed of the types of meal feeding. Now, this is a great way to combat overeating, but it does take a bit of time and discipline. Basically, what you want to do, is you dish out the two meals that are there, but the thing is, it’s timed. Instead of letting them graze and have it out for the entirety of the 12 hours, they just eat it when they’re hungry, you time this for exactly 30 minutes. Once that’s done, you get it out of the way.
Now, what’s so great about this? Well, here’s the following:
- It’s the surefire way to get the cat to lose weight
- It teaches discipline
- It can help with portions
But, there are a few disadvantages to this:
- You have to be really on the ball and time the meals
- The cat will probably hate you initially since you’re taking away their food
- This, in turn, can make them extremely annoying when dealing with them, so if you’re not ready to deal with a cat being annoyed you took their food away, then this may not be the best option
This is ultimately the most disciplined of the different meal types. You should always keep in mind that if you do this, you’ll need to dime it. Set up a timer, and when it’s over, you’ll take it away. This can be a rude awakening, but it’s a way to show them that they shouldn’t graze all day and that it’s important that they don’t do that since it’s how they gain weight. This is actually a great one for obese cats, but you’ll need to stay committed, and you’ll want to make sure that you keep on top of the time, and don’t give in to their demands.
Times of Meals
We talked about the different types of feeding, and what’s so great, and not so great about them. But what about actual times? Usually, the times to feed them are as follows.
- Evening time
Now, morning has a few advantages. One of them is, that they can get the day started just like with you. It’s a good way to really get the cat some food before they nap for about 16 hours during the day. It’s also good if you’re on a schedule that causes you to not be at home a lot. However, the problem is, it actually can be a problem because they’ll learn that their feeding time is morning, so if you decide to sleep in, this can be super frustrating.
The afternoon is good for when you’re actually home to feed them. Those that work perhaps first shift, or before going into the third shift, can benefit from this. With afternoon, you get the following benefits:
- Keeps them moderately full by feeding during the middle of the day
- Can be good if you wake up kind of late
But, the main disadvantage is that it’s right in the middle of the day, so it might not be best if you’re someone that works during the second shift since you won’t be there.
Now, evening time is actually something that you should consider. That’s because, it’s done right when you get home, or maybe before bed. The advantages of this are as follows:
- If you’re monitoring meals, you’ll be able to easily do this
- If you’ve got a cat that loves to wake you up early, this is actually a way to stave it off
- It allows for them to eat when you eat, can be a good way to watch for portion control too
But, it does have a few disadvantages, and they are the following:
- Your cat may try to beg or get in trouble during the day
- Sometimes, it may not help them as much if you do it at night
But, if you do this at night, you’re giving them some energy to play, so you may hear them a bit more. But, lots of pet owners like this, since it’s easy.
There are those that do it very late at night too, and it does help if the cat loves to wake you up early, and it can fix that. But ultimately how you feed your cat is to your discretion. You need to take some time and figure it out for yourself. You can let them graze during the day for meals, but remember that does lead to weight gain and obesity, so it’s a big thing to remember.
The best rule of thumb is to choose the least chaotic time for yourself, and that can be whenever. If you do have a busy morning taking care of the kids, or you work early, you should either feed your cat super early or wait till much later. You want to make sure that you keep a solidified routine in since this can help with improving the morale of the cat, and ensure that they have a routine put in. If nothing else, give the cat a routine. You’ll be glad that you did later.
Another big part with feeding your cat is making sure that they get some form of bonding time. You should do this during either their last meal or after their meal. Lots of pet owners actually don’t realize that they need to spend time with their cat after you feed them. You want to do something that’s not related to food, including the following:
- Petting them
- Brushing their fur
- Playing with them
- Cuddling the cat
This is a form of bonding time, and it’s something that many pet owners don’t realize is a huge part. You don’t want the cat to think that you’re literally just a food source. There is a reason for that. If your cat thinks that you’re just a feeding source, the cat will be obnoxious, and it tends to be quite frustrating for the owner at times. The reason why is because the cat sees you as someone who feeds them, and if they only see you as a food source, that’s how you’re going to be regarded.
Besides, you don’t want the cat to think that, right? it’s very important.
On Multi-Cat homes
With multi-cat homes, you need to be even more vigilant about how your cat is eating. What that means is, you need to make sure that the volume of food they’re given doesn’t exceed their caloric requirements. If you don’t, this is how cats get fat, and it’s actually the cause of a variety of health problems for the cat themselves. Fat cats may be cute, but they’re not healthy, so you should try to curb this whenever possible.
You should always track just how much your cat is eating. You should look at the feeding guidelines, and check out the feeding guidelines online for the cat or with a veterinarian in order to ensure that they’re getting enough calories, or if they’re eating too much. You should talk to your vet, and if you notice that the cat is struggling with keeping the weight off, you should always set up a schedule with the vet in order to make sure that they get the food that they need. Your vet is a here to help you, and if you’re worried about your cat overeating, or if there are struggles with feeding your cat, then you’ll want to check with them.
So is there a best time?
The answer is no. There isn’t one set best time. Remember that they have simple stomachs, which means the following:
- The cat eats
- The food goes into the stomach
- The cat digests it and it moves to the small intestine
- After about 8-10 hours it empties, and it sends signals for more food, which triggers the hunger response
Cats need to eat, and you should always make sure that they have a habitual schedule. That’s what matters more. If they’re not eating despite the habitual schedule though, that’s a sign that they need to see the vet, because that can prove something is very wrong.
Taking care of your pet is important, and for cat owners, knowing what your cat needs to eat is essential to the success of the cat’s health. You can set up the perfect feeding time, since it’s ultimately up to you, and you as a pet owner can really benefit from getting your cat the food that they need, and also ensuring that they get the attention that they desire as well, making them happier and healthier, and creating a bond that they will enjoy with you, and throughout their life too.