Should cats eat small meals often?

Yes, domestic cats should be fed small meals often. This mimics free-living cats. Free-living cats are opportunistic predators of small prey such as mice. They typically have frequent small meals throughout the day. They spend a large part of the day searching for prey.

A study, Bradshaw & Thorn, 1992, concluded that cats with free access to food usually prefer to eat several small meals throughout the day.

If a cat’s owner provides one or two large meals a day it requires minimal effort on the part of the cat to feed himself. Commercial dry cat food allows cat to graze at will. The food is of a different composition and texture than a genuine wild diet. This may lead to overeating and boredom in indoor cats.

Scientists Dr Sarah Ellis and Dr Lizzy Rowe recommend giving your cat five or more small portions of food a day as opposed to feeding fewer but larger portions. They also suggest, incidentally, using puzzle feeders. You may have heard about these. You place dry cat food into a plastic container which the cat has to struggle with before gaining access to their food.

Dr Ellis is a feline behaviour specialist. She makes the point that cats have changed very little over the time that they had been domesticated therefore we should try and mimic the feeding pattern of the wild cat ancestor to the domestic cat.

The modern human lifestyle does not generally match the lifestyle demanded by the genetic inheritance of the domestic cat.

In conclusion, the answer to the question as to whether cat should eat small meals often is, yes, ideally. I wonder how many cat owners consider the frequency with which they should feed their cat. Many cat owners probably feed their cat when they feed themselves. Also, arguably, some pre-packed (sachets) portions are too large. I believe that smaller portions frequently given are better. If this is true many manufacturers of wet cat food in sachets should consider reducing the size of the sachet.

Sources: Myself primarily, backed up by the sources quoted which come from the Independent newspaper and The Domestic Cat: The Biology of its Behavior (a book I have on Kindle).




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Should cats eat small meals often? — 1 Comment

  1. My cats are allowed to go out during the day and I’ve found that feeding small meals, encourages them to come home at regular intervals.

    It’s also less wasteful. I feed wet food, but none of them ever want to eat a 100gm pouch in one sitting. Understandably,they want fresh food at each meal so it makes more sense for me to split one or two pouches between 2-3 cats for each meal.

    I used to give one of my cats freeze-dried chicken treats in a SmartyKat puzzle feeder. She was the only one smart enough to figure out how to manipulate the feeder to dispense the large chunks and seemed to enjoy the challenge. The other cats loved these treats too, and rattling the tube was the perfect way of calling them indoors for the evening.

    Personally I don’t see the point in using a puzzle feeder if the the dry food or treats are so small that they fall out easily. That doesn’t slow down the eating habits of a greedy cat, nor does it pose much mental stimulation.

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