You've got a long day at work ahead, so you fill up kitty's bowl to the brim on your way out the door. Or perhaps you've invested in a large feeder, only needing to be refilled every few days. Leaving food out, or free feeding, is convenient, but may not be the best choice for kitty's waistline.
A cat who must hunt for his food has a very different diet than your furry pal. He may not know where his next meal is coming from, so he gorges on prey when he finds it. He then may go hours or possibly days without another meal. In contrast, your kitty needs only take a leisurely stroll into the kitchen to find a tasty meal waiting in his food dish. Kitty's digestive system is designed to have a little time to properly digest his meal. This time allows not only for complete digestion, but a chance for the body to eliminate any toxins.
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Since kitty doesn't have to work nearly as hard as his wild brethren for his next meal, he may eat much more than is healthy for him. Since his instinct is to gorge when food is available, if food is left out he may gorge several times a day, leading to a fat house cat. Not hunting also means he doesn't have to exercise if he doesn't want to. He may spend most of his time lounging in his comfy digs. Activity is vital to maintain a healthy weight, so make sure he gets plenty of play time. Chasing a catnip mouse may not be the same as chasing down a meal, but it will help keep kitty in shape.
Its best to only feed your feline twice a day, with at least an eight-hour break in between meals. His daily requirement of food is dependent on his size and activity level. A cat who spends all day chasing his tail is going to need more fuel than a kitty who snoozes the day away. Never be tempted to feed your kitty dog food. Cats require twice as much protein in their diets as dogs, and dog food doesn't supply kitty with taurine. Taurine is an amino acid vital for healthy vision, heart function and reproduction that kitty can only get through his diet. Speak with his vet to determine a diet that fits your kitty's specific lifestyle.
Dry food is healthier for kitty because it keeps his teeth free of tartar which can lead to dental problems. Additionally, the act of having to crunch and chew the kibble is good exercise for kitty's jaws. However, dry food doesn't supply all the moisture kitty needs, so fresh water should always be made available to him. Wet food should never be left out all day as it can spoil and attract flies. By feeding each kitty individually, you will be able to monitor any changes in eating habits that may go unnoticed if he's eating from a community bowl. Find a place he can eat undisturbed, and feed him at the same location and roughly the same time each day. Find a schedule that works for you and keeps your kitty healthy.
- Feline Nutrition Education Society: Free Feeding Food? Cats Are Not Cows!
- ASPCA: Feeding Your Adult Cat
- The Encyclopedia of The Cat; Michael Pollard