You’re probably thinking, “Wait? What? First, you tell me to put my cat on a leash. Now you’re telling me I should be feeding cats on a schedule? Are you crazy? Won’t my cat rip my eyes out while I sleep if I don’t have a full bowl of food sitting out for them?” My answer is, yes,, I’m crazy. How else do you think I got the title, The Official Cat Lady? As well as many other interesting nicknames. Duh.
No, your cat will not rip your eyes out as you sleep if you don’t have food out for them 24/7. If anything, having your cat on a feeding schedule will help them,, and you sleep much better at night. It can even help with training your cat. That is what this site is all about, after all. Continue reading, and I promise to explain myself.
Why should you be feeding cats on a schedule?
There are many reasons to have your cat on a feeding schedule.
Cats love routine.
Feeding them on a schedule can help their mental balance in times of stress.
Cats tend to be prone to anxiety disorders. Your feline friend is a predator that is small enough to be prey. Maybe this explains many of their strange behaviors, including why they like to hide in small spaces. Due to this natural mental state, when cats have a predictable routine to follow, they have less stress. If something stresses you out, it’s likely to stress your kitty out tenfold.
According to VCA Hospitals:
“Feeding an adult cat at regular times provides the security and predictability of a routine. Meals become a cornerstone event of the day around which other activities are added. A feeding routine helps your cat cope when there are changes in the household.”
Have you ever noticed that cat food containers often have small print on them? If you look carefully, you will see those are guidelines for how much you should feed your cat based on weight and age. Cats, just like humans, when eating too much, can become overweight or even obese. Some say that a fat cat is a happy cat. However, like an overweight human, a cat can develop health problems, such as diabetes.
Simplify the observation of appetite changes.
Often times the first sign of illness in a cat is they aren’t eating the same way. Cats will not tell you when they’re not feeling well. To them showing signs of being unwell, is showing weakness. You must remember, your cat may not be in the wild, but its instincts are. Before choosing to hide, which is usually the next sign they are unwell, their appetite will change in some way.
Training is easier when cats are hungry.
In my post Cat Training Treats – Get Your Cat Excited About Training, I explain the importance of treats. Mealtimes can be used as an opportunity to train your cat. Cats often will not do as asked unless incentivized. What better way to do that than asking them to do simple tasks in exchange for their meal? This may seem cruel to people who don’t understand my reasoning. Consider that a cat will have to spend hours tracking and hunting its prey in the wild. They do so with a high risk of injury to themselves. In the wild, a cat would need to earn their food. Why should it be any different in your home? Using feeding time to train them helps keep them stimulated and creates a deep bond around food.
Free feeding vs scheduled feeding cats
You have already read about the benefits of schedule feeding. Yet, you have likely heard that you should keep their food bowls topped up at all times. You may have even heard that cats are grazers and excellent at regulating their intake. While this may be true for some cats, it’s not valid for all.
Kittens are a good example. They will eat everything you put in front of them. Like human children, their developing bodies are hungry all the time. Over eating can lead to early obesity and adult obesity. It can also lead to an adult cat who hoards food and bullies other pets.
Remember in the introduction of this post when I mentioned you and your cat sleeping better? Let’s allow the Cat Daddy, Jackson Galaxy to explain,
“If we allow our cats to graze all day long, you’ll have no chance of affecting their behavior. Their bodies aren’t getting the time to process food in a natural way because they are constantly in an arch of digestion. This arch creates a state of unpredictable energy. So nix the free feed and welcome mealtime into their routine…”
Feeding your cat at predictable times, means their energy levels will be predictable. A good guideline to help your kitty sleep when you do is to feed them two hours or more before bed time.
How do I get my cat on a feeding schedule
Consistency is the key.
Just as you eat three meals a day you can do the same with your feline friend. Choose three times throughout the day and stick to them. Those times should be no more than 6-8 hours apart.
As your cats will get used to those times, they will let you know when meal time is getting close. Melody is very vocal about it. If your cat gets too persistent, ignore them. I know it’s hard; my boyfriend has trouble with this one
The best cat feeding schedule
There are all kinds of guidelines and templates for feeding your cats on a schedule. None of them are necessary.
My suggestion is to base your cat’s meal times around your own. Feed them right before you eat or start preparing your food. You may even notice that a cat who previously begged for food off your plate will stop. Being satisfied and full already your cat will take much less interest in what’s on your plate.
Feeding cats on a schedule, the best practice for training
I hope you have a better understanding and appreciation for feeding cats on a schedule. Whether or not you choose to put your cat on a feeding schedule is entirely up to you. However, if you’re truly serious about training them, this is one of the most important things for you to consider doing.
What do you think about feeding cats on a schedule? Do you currently have scheduled feeding times for your cat(s)? If so, what has been your experience. Comment below!