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Is meal feeding right for your cat?

Maybe we have a snack here and there, but for the most part, we tend to sit down and eat in meals. It’s practically human nature, but should our feline friends eat in meals, too? Let’s take a closer look to figure out if meal feeding is best for your cat.

How is meal feeding different from free feeding?

“Meal feeding,” as its name suggests, is when you feed your cat in portioned, timed quantities throughout the day. Meal feeding usually works best with a wet food diet because such foods cannot be left out for prolonged periods without spoiling, but any type of food can be meal fed.

“Free feeding” is when your kitty has access to food throughout the day. It may or may not be in a measured portion. Free feeding is also sometimes referred to as “grazing.” Usually, dry food works best for this method, but some cats will come back to nibble on wet food throughout the day.

What are the benefits of meal feeding?

One of the biggest advantages of meal feeding is the ability to portion control your kitty’s food. You would also be able to better control how quickly and frequently he or she eats. This can be helpful for kitties who are overweight or will overeat to the point of making themselves sick. Some cats are thought to graze out of boredom, which can lead to obesity and diabetes.

Meal feeding is also aligns more closely to the diet of your cat’s wild ancestors, which is thought to consist of three small animals per day. Cats are known to be most active just before they eat, so you can use this to your advantage by playing with your kitty just before meal time. Not only will your play session end with a satisfying payoff for your cat, but kitty will also sleep more soundly having burned off the excess energy.

What are the drawbacks?

While on the one hand, meal feeding is ideal for kitties who need to lose weight, on the other hand, it may not be appropriate for cats who need to gain weight. There other other medical conditions that respond better to being fed throughout the day, so always check with your vet when planning the diet that’s best for your individual kitty’s needs.

What’s more, if your cat eats two or three times a day, there may also be a concern that while you’re out of town, your cat’s feeding schedule can be interrupted. If this is the case, hiring a pet sitter to come multiple times a day can easily remedy this problem.

However, if you’d like your pet sitter to only come once a day, you can also opt for an automatic feeder to provide additional meals. Then, your pet sitter would wash, replenish, and reset the feeder for the next interval. High tech, completely autonomous feeders are also available, but they vary in reliability. Be sure to thoroughly read the reviews.

Speaking of reviews, did you know that our pet sitters come highly reviewed on Yelp? Take a peek at what our clients have to say about our services, and then give us a call to be paired with a pet sitter today!


Candace Elise Hoes is a pet sitter and blogger at Katie’s Kitty. She is a graduate of the MFA Writing Program at California College of the Arts.

Photo by sweetlouise on flickr.

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