What we feed our pets is a major health topic of discussion today. New research shows that how we feed our pets is also an important component of maintaining good health as feeding methods can affect them both physically and emotionally. It has come to light that cats, in particular, are extremely sensitive to how they are fed.
Current feeding methods include feeding them a large portion of food once or twice a day in one location and in multiple cat households, feeding them as a group. These traditional methods have now been proven to be contributors to obesity- and stress-related problems. Feeding one or two large meals can lead to inactivity, stress, overeating, and obesity. A cat may eat too quickly or not enough if he or she is trying to avoid a stressful encounter with another cat or even an active child.
These health problems arise because current feeding methods go against the natural eating behavior of cats. Cats are carnivores and have a strong instinct to hunt. They are solitary eaters and prefer multiple small meals throughout the day. Developing a feeding plan that complements a cat’s natural feeding behavior will reduce begging for food, feline frustration, and inter-cat conflict.
To encourage the hunting instinct, you should use puzzle feeders that hold food and must be handled by the cat to get the food out. They vary in complexity so it is recommended to start with simple ones and slowly introduce more difficult ones. To further promote the hunting instinct, you can hide kibble and treats in different locations in the house. Just remember to divide your cat’s daily food allowance into multiple small meals throughout the day.
For multiple cat households, it is important to provide separate feeding stations (individual food and water bowls) that offer distance and visual separation between cats, as well as utilize elevated space if they prefer to eat on counters, to reduce stress and associated health issues.
Satisfying the need to hunt and eat small meals alone, will make your cat happier and healthier, and avoid over or underfeeding. For any help developing a feeding plan for your cat(s), please consult with your veterinarian.