Free Feeding Cats

Free feeding cats is not a good thing. It results in a lack of control over how much your cat eats, which can lead to obesity, and it is a barrier to monitoring your cat’s health. An excellent example of the advantages of controlled feeding is provided by Sharon who lives with Abbie a beautiful long haired tabby cat. Sharon says that she spotted, early on, that Abbie was feeling unwell because she had lost her appetite.

Sharon says:

The reason I knew something was wrong right away is, I never “free feed” my cats, so I know exactly how much they eat. Abbie loves her food and is always very happy and alert. She didn’t look quite right……The second day, she ate her breakfast, but then only had a couple of licks of her dinner…

Sharon got Abbie an early appointment with her vet and he diagnosed an infection. He thought “she might have licked something that caused it“. “After some subQ fluids and 10 days of antibiotics“, she recovered nicely.

Here is a fine photograph of Abbie at the vets. Sharon takes a good cat photograph, I have to say and I know a thing or two about cat photography:

Abbie at the Vets
Abbie at the Vets. Photo copyright Sharon. See the original on Flickr.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

I want to say, “well done Sharon”. This is excellent cat caretaking. Controlling food intake (and excretion, I have to say) and being aware of your cat’s routines and habits is very important for monitoring your cat’s health. Her story highlights that.

The cause of the infection is interesting. Antibiotics only work on bacteria so it seems that Abbie ingested bacteria. She had become dehydrated too. Therefore she must have stopped drinking as well or was not drinking enough.

 A quick note on free and controlled feeding

Free feeding is an interesting subject. I don’t know if Sharon feeds dry cat food. Dry cat food encourages free cat feeding because it does not go off. Cats can graze whenever. It is said, that dry cat food causes permanent mild dehydration because cats do not drink enough to compensate for the lack of moisture in the dry food.

Vets who sell dry cat food should provide a measuring cup and instructions for controlled feeding. How many people do this?

In multi-cat households where the cats are feed almost exclusively dry cat food, it must be almost impossible to monitor the food intake of individual cats. This will lead to late recognition of loss of appetite with a consequent delay in getting the cat to a vet. Losing appetite is one of the obvious symptoms of illness. Anyone can spot it. Controlled feeding allows a cat caretaker to use this diagnostic tool.

My Feeding Style

I am not saying it is the best. I feed my cat per a routine. He asks at certain times and I feed wet food and the odd treat. I restrict the amount. If he asks for more I may or may not give it to him. I am aware of his weight and can feel differences. The key, I believe, is to be quickly aware of a loss of appetite. For a short period it maybe nothing significant but over a few days it must be a good indicator of illness. Free feeding blunts this method of monitoring your cat’s health.


I would like to thank Valley Girl (VG) in America for providing me with the “fodder” for this post and Sharon for providing such a good example of cat caretaking and Abbie for being so cute and sweet.

Please search using the search box at the top of the site. You are bound to find what you are looking for.

Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior

4 thoughts on “Free Feeding Cats”

  1. I leave my cats wet food in the morning when i go to work and they eat about half of it. I know Gigi eats very little or none and waits til I give them biscuits in the evening. When I give them biscuits I give them each a bowl and each a small handful and they eat them right in front of me. Gigi seems to rely on this too much. I do see her nibble the wet food but rarely. I’m sure she must have some while I am at work. I leave them plenty. This is free feeding wet food technically speaking though.

  2. As far as I can tell from looking at Sharon’s flickr sets, she currently has 4 cats- all beauties, including Abbie.

    Abbie, Heidi, Reilly, and Findlay. All are rescue cats from VOKRA = Vancouver Orphan Kitten Rescue Association)

    Other sets indicate that she is involved in the work of VOKRA. So, there’s some interesting background to the story about Abbie.

    So, Sharon knows a lot more about cats than this “feeding example” might indicate.

    Pretty sure she would pass the “Cat Village” test! 😉

    I’ll add a link below, b/c I know a link will trip the filters.

    1. She sounds very savvy. I wanted to theme the post and was struck by the sense in controlled feeding as it helps to manage a cat’s health as well as food intake.

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