The Daily Mail reports on a study which says that cats are better off in terms of controlling their hunger when they are fed one meal a day. They should be fed in the morning at breakfast time. It results in less food begging. They also say that this replicates what happens in the wild.
This certainly does not replicate what happens in the wild except for fasting (see below). The wildcat ancestor to the domestic cat is essentially nocturnal and just like our domestic cat they stalk prey from after sunset until the early hours of the morning. They move silently through their territory watching and listening for signs of prey activity. When they see a prey animal they crouch and creep forward to within striking distance and then dart forward, grab the prey and bite it to kill it.
The scientists don’t know how many times an African wildcat does this every night. I have the best book on the wildcat you can get and they do not mention the African wildcat’s feeding pattern in terms of how many prey animals they catch and when they catch it over a night-time’s hunting. They just explain the sort of prey that they eat.
Therefore, I will speculate that the wildcat ancestor to the domestic cat probably catches several animals every night or more. Therefore we can say that they eat three, four or five meals per night over a 12 hour period. This is nowhere near what is being advocated by the researchers in the study that I mention above. Also domestic cat stomach’s are small indicating small but frequent feeding is more suitable.
Other studies have said that free feeding more accurately replicates the natural feeding behaviour of the domestic cat’s wildcat ancestor. And it does in some ways because when a wildcat is hunting they have to find their food but they can normally catch it and have a fairly successful kill rate. Putting down food in the home in the same place each day is not the same as a cat hunting prey. You might put it down in different places but there is no challenge in catching it. But it is the nearest we can get to a wildcat’s hunting life.
The point I want to make is that this study referred to in the Daily Mail appears to be misleading the public in my opinion. I don’t think is a good idea to provide one meal a day in the morning at breakfast time. It may be a way of dieting your cat if she is obese. But she will be begging for food the rest of the day and night if she is a full-time indoor cat. If not she’ll go outside and hunt all night to supplement her diet. That is not something you want to encourage in the interests of the conservation of wildlife. Although hunting is separate from hunger, I believe that if a cat is hungry they are better motivated to hunt and will hunt in a more committed way.
This is where the benefits might be shown. It has been shown that fasting in humans improves health. There is one aspect to feeding your cat once a day which replicates what happens in the wild and that is fasting. No doubt the African wildcat has periods when they cannot catch prey and this period may last for a day or two or more rarely. That is fasting which has been forced upon them. Fasting has health benefits to the best of my knowledge. Fasting your domestic cat is probably going to be a good idea to a certain extent especially if she is overweight but nobody does it because their cat would complain and beg for food and they would win the argument.
- How big is a cat’s stomach? And are we feeding our cats all wrong?
- The inherited feeding behavior of domestic and feral cats as wild cats
- How often should domestic cats be fed?