Did you know that how you feed your cat is just as important as what you feed them? There is change underway led by leading veterinarians to provide your cat's inherent requirements by ditching the food bowls and forgoing the twice-a-day feeding schedules. In today's blog, we look at what we might be doing wrong when feeding our beloved furry friends. And discover how to feed cats the right way.
How we feed cats—and what's wrong about it
Most cat owners feed their cats from bowls. And a significant percentage of cat parents free-feed, that is, leaving food out 24/7. The idea is that cats don't usually gobble up meals at one time—and that is true. Cats catch what they can and when they can.
Nonetheless, given the buffet that is always available, most cats eat unnaturally big meals at once and then return later for more. Perhaps, making matters worse, many cats have little else to do but gorge on food.
According to the AVMA, most cat proprietors have over two cats on average. With two cats or more in residence, it's tough to know which cat is eating more. And cats being cats, humans can't resist keeping filling up the food bowls.
And exclusive wet food feeding does not solve the issue either. Proprietors give meals at fixed times, cats eat, and it's over. To survive outside, cats need to catch someplace around 8 to 13 small prey in a day. The edible parts of a bird or mouse are around 1 to 2 tablespoons, not a whole bowl, and definitely not all at once.
Cats are born with prey drive and are hardwired to hunt for food. We do not allow them to act on these natural instincts in our domestic homes. Absolutely, having toys to chase or scratch is essential. However, it's not the same as searching for food.
Experts have the behavior of neighborhood cats. The observation is that outdoor cats sleep a great deal—62% of the day, to be precise. Much of that resting time happens after the searching and feeding, representing 19% of their time. The remaining hours are used for grooming and playing.
Cats are used to search and hunt for food
Inside homes, mealtimes are predictable and do not require time or effort. Searching is no longer done, though there's certainly a lot of feeding. There is a correlation to why 59%of felines are obese or overweight, according to Association for Pet Obesity Prevention.
Some professionals argue that we're not allowing our cats to be cats by giving food in a silver bowl. There's evidence that many animals would instead work food than have it given to them freely. So far, research has been limited to some zoo animals and laboratory rodents, but if the meerkats and rats were in favor of labor to get their food, why would felines want it differently?
What's more, not having the ability to search and catch food appears to harm cats. A dull, unenriched life is anxiety-inducing in cats.
The best way to feed your cat—what feline moms and dads can do
Cats need frequent, small portioned meals every day, and they need to interact with their prey. It is typical cat behavior to take 1 to 3 bites (about 30 calories) and leave; cats are not being picky when they do this. Some cats can overeat when given big portions of food, which results in what we describe as 'scarf and barf.' A cat's stomach is only as small as a Ping-Pong ball and can hold only so much food at once. Here are the best practices when feeding your favorite feline:
Activate Their Prey Drive
Some veterinary behaviorists have been talking about ways to activate prey drive. All cats have this, and there is a way to activate it. You can use interactive cat toys. When playing with your cat, drop an occasional piece of kibble or a treat. You can also use feeding toys and puzzles to activate your cat's prey drive as they eat.
Don't Feed Your Cat Alongside Other Pets
Although your cat may live harmoniously in your home with your other pets, eating is a vulnerable cat for your cat. Bear in mind that pet cats are solitary hunters and killers. They want to hunt and eat alone. Likewise, they are also prey, and they will do best if hidden from any signs of tension or weakness.
You may be unintentionally depriving your cat of being a cat by putting down that bowl full of kibble every morning and night. Leaving a row of bowls for your two or more cats might be causing more harm to them than you know. Veterinarians say that the stress caused by the environment plays on a feline's health and wellness. An anxious cat is in danger of obesity, scarf and barf events, skin conditions, and even urinary system infections.
Don't Overfeed Your Cat
The most common error pet owners make when feeding their cats is over-feeding. Obesity is the most common dietary condition seen in cats.
Although an overweight feline may look charming, obesity is connected with health issues like diabetes, arthritis, and urinary tract infections. Cats may experience something similar to that extremely human disease, metabolic syndrome.
And it is not that we deliberately give our cats more food than they need; our cats are more inactive now than when they were barn cats. They're lazy bones now; their nutrition requirements are lower, so overfeeding is so easy these days.
Knowing this, how much food does your cat need? Suggestions range between 24 to 35 calories a day per pound to keep cats at a healthy weight. However, most of us don't know how calories translate to food, so I urge pet parents to seek their veterinarian's to help establish their cat's body condition score and feeding routines.
Don't Make Your Cat Eat Solely Dry Food
Today's residential tabby came from desert-dwelling forefathers, a heritage that undoubtedly left our fuzzy felines with their grace, agility, and low thirst drive.
We know that a cat's sensitivity to thirst is weaker than that of dogs. They do not willingly drink water as a dog would. And because cats typically produce concentrated pee, we're setting them up for urinary tract problems when their diet is low in liquids.
When cats have urinary issues, the suggestion is to get them on a water-rich diet. But prevention, as the adage goes, is always better than cure, right? Why not exercise preventive nourishment by feeding them moisture-rich canned food before they wind up with urinary tract infections?
Cats are made to get their water with their food; although mice, a stray feline's typical food, is around 70% water and tinned food about 78%, dry food is between 5% -10% water. That's why canned food does better in keeping your cat well-hydrated.
Give Your Cat More Water
Water is essential. Water makes up 60% to 70% of an adult cat's body weight. A significant water deficiency can have critical repercussions for pets, causing severe health problems or death.
And although wet food can go much towards meeting your feline friend's water needs, a cat must also have a lot of water sources available inside the home. Pay attention to where the cat likes to stay and make sure that water is available for them in that area. Some cats like to drink running water, so you can buy water fountains.
The number 1 cause of death in cats remains euthanasia; the cause of euthanasia is cats being surrendered to sanctuaries, predominately due to behavioral problems. Giving cat's the opportunity to practice their natural feeding behaviors in residence is a great start to curb unwanted behaviors.
A cat's "seeking circuit" mentality is to hunt for food, play with it, "kill" it and eat it afterward. Throughout this circuit, the brain releases dopamine, which heightens a cat's stimulation and activates a sense of joyful anticipation compensated by finding and eating the searched food.
Felines spend 60% to 80%of their waking hours seeking prey. We rob our indoor cats of their natural demand to hunt and capture their target by feeding them in bowls.
How do you feed your cats? What do you think about these suggestions on how to feed your cats?