Many cat parents have routines set when it comes to feeding their kitties. What they feed, when they feed, how they feed. But a lot of what could be considered common practice is actually wrong. There are a few common mistakes when it comes to serving up supper.
So what’s the best way to feed a cat? And we don’t mean what you feed – that’s a whole other issue – we actually mean how.
The Best Way to Feed a Cat
First off, let’s start with time.
When it comes to cats who eat kibble, lots of pet parents free-feed. Raw feeders don’t usually take this approach, as it isn’t a good idea to just leave raw food sitting out for long periods of time. It is, however, easy to pour some dry food into a bowl on the counter or floor and allow your cat to eat at their leisure.
But there are a few issues with this.
- You may not be aware of how much your cat is actually eating. If you just fill the bowl whenever it is empty, you could be missing key cues that something is going on health wise, or you could be opening the door to cat obesity. This is especially true if you have more than one cat in the house.
- It goes against natural feline behaviour. Cats in the wild don’t have access to lovely overflowing bowls of food. They hunt and eat what they can catch. At home, seeking the food is predictable and doesn’t account for time or effort – and when it’s always on offer is gives cats little more to do than eat. And that goes against natural prey drive and the desire to hunt.
As far as timing, you can get into a routine of feeding within a certain range, and perhaps rather than 24/7 free feeding, feed a small amount 3 times a day. If your cat doesn’t finish the bowl in a reasonable amount of time, put it away. You can then put it back down a few hours later.
Also, keep in mind that cats are solitary hunters and predators. They want to hunt and eat alone. If you have more than one cat in your house, or both a cat and a dog, feed them separately, perhaps at other ends of the kitchen or in different rooms or at different times.
The other issue with the way most people feed their cats is what the food is given on, or in this case, in.
Many, many cat parents feed their cats in bowls…
Feeding Cats From Bowls
Your cat’s whiskers have a big job.
They’re ultra-sensitive antennae that tell your cat a lot about the world around them. By communicating with the brain and nervous system, they help your cat move around small spaces, navigate in the dark, even alert them to prey in the areas around them.
They may be small, but they’re mighty.
And unfortunately, your cat can’t actually turn all of that information off.
So when a cat eats from a bowl, and their whiskers touch the sides of the bowl, their brain is constantly being sent signals which can stress them out big time. This is called whisker fatigue.
Additionally, cats like to be aware of what’s happening around them, especially when they’re eating. This can be a vulnerable time for a cat, so cutting off their vision with the sides of a bowl can cause anxiety and more stress.
A Bowl or Plate?
Our founder and formulator Julie Anne Lee DCH has been recommending flat plates for 20 years after working with cases when cats would vomit after eating and no amount of diagnostic ultrasounds, bloodwork, etc., could explain why. She recommended a glass plate, thinking the plastic could be the culprit, and low and behold the cat stopped vomiting. She then tried it with other patients, but when people used glass bowls it did not help. Putting two and two together, she realized the plate was the answer, and has since recommended saucers and VERY wide brimmed water bowls.
All of this long term stress is not good, especially when it can so easily be prevented.
An easy way to prevent this overload of sensation and signalling is simply by switching out your cat’s food bowl. A flat plate, china tea cup saucer, or a wide, but very shallow, bowl will allow your cat to eat without her whiskers touching and give her an unimpeded view of the world around her!
Additionally, you can try to find special feeders that allow for “hunting” of food, to meet both the whisker needs and mental needs of a cat.
Feeding time shouldn’t be a stressful time. In fact, with a little extra effort, it can help to be a time of engagement and mental exercise that triggers your cat’s natural instincts. With a few simple changes, you can help ease your cat’s stress and provide them with stimulation that helps keep them healthy.
As a final note, when it comes to what you’re feeding, we do not ever recommend dry food for cats! It is detrimental to their kidneys and their pancreas. If raw is not your thing, then a good quality canned, freeze dried, reconstituted dehydrated, or home cooked diet is best for the health and longevity of our beloved cats.