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As a veterinarian, I would estimate that about 75% of the issues we see in cats at a clinic are related to improper feeding. Obesity, diabetes, grooming issues, behavioural issues, urinary issues, and liver disease are just some of the food related illnesses we treat. So, I’d love to never have to treat a pet again that is sick due to improper feeding.. I hope you will help me make this dream come true.

First, what should you feed your cat. A complete, balanced wet food diet is suggested. Dry food should be limited unless for a specific problem like dental disease. Please ask your veterinarian for their recommendations and follow their advice. If you make a food change, make it slowly and gradually (See article ‘Changing Diets’). Your veterinarian can tell you the appropriate amount to feed.

Now, how should you feed your pet. You should decide how many times a day you want to feed your cat. Cats prefer to nibble so at least two feedings is suggested. 4 – 5 small feedings/day is ideal. Once you have decided how many times/day you will feed, then you can divide the recommended amount/day into the number of feedings/day. So if the recommendation was one can/day then you could give 1/3 of a can per meal and feed three times a day.

Ideally, your cat should have to hunt for his/her food. You can accomplish this by further dividing each meal into several small bowls. To start with, put all the bowls at your normal feeding spot. Then gradually start moving the bowls out to different areas so that eventually they will be in several different areas of the house. Be sure to gather the bowls up about 20 minutes after the feeding and wash them up ready for the next meal. This will help you know that your cat is eating OK. If you want to leave a dry food snack for your cat, consider a food dispensing ball that the cat has to play with to get the food. Another option is to just put small pieces of food in the areas that your cat frequents. Again, this encourages your cat to hunt for their food.

The above may not be practical in multi-cat households. In these cases you will need to separate cats to feed them. This is very important, although I realize it is difficult, as it helps you ensure that all your cats are eating. We often see very sick pets from multi-cat households as well meaning owners didn’t realize the pet wasn’t eating. Sick cats may lose their appetite and shy pets may not compete well for food. Sometimes this occurs when owners are away from home and have someone come in to feed as well. Any change in the household can affect shy cats.

Weigh your cat every month and adjust food as recommended by the veterinarian or their staff. If you’ve just changed diets or are starting a new diet, be very sure that your cat is eating at least 60% of the calories recommended. Otherwise, your cat could get sick as they start to break down body fat and it overwhelms the liver causing disease. Discuss with your veterinarian if you feel that your cat is not eating enough. If you are trying to get the cat to lose weight, monitor the weight loss carefully as again, if they lose too fast, they may get ill.

If you feed your pet treats (either from the table or commercial kitty treats), remember that these will add calories too. If your pet is overweight, consider low calorie treats or chicken or turkey cut into very small portions. Table food and treats should not make up more than 10% of the diet or they will ruin the balance of the diet. If your pet is overweight, consider using a low calorie kibble as a treat! Balanced nutrition and you won’t feel like you are depriving your cat. Do not feed cats garlic, onions, chocolate, grapes, raisons or nuts or fatty foods. Remember too that cats are carnivores so they are strictly meat eaters. Don’t ever feed bones to your cat.

Now I know some of you are saying this will never work with my cat. He’ll meow and pester me. This may be true. At first the cat might bother you. Once the cat understands the routine, they will stop pestering you (likely). So, remember that you are making these changes because they are healthy for the cat. You will need to love your cat enough to say No!! If you are concerned that you might waffle, here are some tips:

  • Start the diet change on a day when you will be busy outside of the house. If you aren’t home, there is nobody there to pester.
  • If you work during the day, do a very small meal in the morning and then do the rest of your meals when you are home. Then they will be full and happy and less likely to pester you.
  • Instead of food give them love or a play session when they meow. Look at the ‘Fun Things to Do With Your Cat’ article.
  • If you are feeding dry food, consider having a game of throw the kibble. Kitty gets to run and chase and eat his/her kibbles one at a time. This is great for cats that tend to eat their dry food really fast and then throw up a tube of undigested food (ask your veterinarian about testing as this can be due to medical issues).

The purpose of these techniques is to mimic the natural hunting and eating tendencies of a cat in the wild. Benefits include:

  • Reduction of boredom and stress.
  • Increased ability to recognize changes in appetite early in the course of an illness.
  • Weight loss, especially if calories are restricted as well.
  • Increased exercise if the cat is hunting for its food.
  • Improved overall health due to the above factors. Yippee!!

I hope this information was useful and you have more fun feeding your cat from now on! Thanks for caring enough to read this.

Don’t forget to check with your veterinarian before any food change, especially if your cat is on a special diet or has other health problems. Sorry for nagging!