The best feeding method for your cat

Have you ever wondered if you’re feeding your cat the ‘right’ way? We identify three of the main ways of feeding felines...

Is the method you’re using to feed your kitty the best for them? We explore various feeding methods and the pros and cons of each.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that feeding your cat would be a straightforward task. You put out some food. They eat. Done. But, like the complicated, multi-faceted creatures that cats are, there’s a little more to the feeding of felines.

Cats evolved to be ferocious hunters. In the wild, they would spend most of their waking hours pouncing on prey. Which brings us to the first feeding method: free feeding.

Free feeding

Using this method, you make food available to your cat 24/7. It’s there for them to munch on at their leisure. This method does come with its drawbacks, however. You can only use dry food, as wet food shouldn’t be left out for too long.

A bigger drawback, however, relates to your pet's health. Cats have a very low thirst drive, so they’re more likely to become dehydrated if they can snack on kibble all day. This all-day snacking can also lead to cats gaining more weight than is healthy, which could lead to further health issues down the track.

If you are going to free feed, the best tactic is to measure out how much food they would need for each day and not top up their bowl once it’s empty. This helps prevent them from over-eating and also allows you to keep better track of how much your cat is munching.

Meal feeding

The (almost) opposite of free feeding is meal feeding. This is where you feed your cat a couple of times per day at set times. This is a good approach for several reasons:

  • It lets you keep a close eye on their food intake and makes it easy to notice if they have a change in appetite.
  • It allows you to give your cat both dry and wet food.
  • If you have a multi-cat household, your cats are more likely to get their fair share of food, rather than having one dominant kitty gobble it all down.

The downside? Your cats may beg for food during the day and, if they get used to when their mealtimes are and you’re even a micro-second late – you’ll hear about it!

Combination feeding

There’s also the option to experience the best (or worst) of both worlds with combination feeding. Using this method, you feed your cat wet food at set times each day and have dry food available for them to snack on throughout the day.

Like mealtime feeding, this method makes it easier to monitor their appetite but, like free feeding, uninhibited access to food can lead to weight gain and other health issues.

So, which feeding method do you choose?

This will come down largely to your lifestyle and preferences. The most important thing to keep in mind is that whether you’re free-feeding, mealtime feeding, or combination feeding, the number of calories available to your cat shouldn’t be more than what’s needed to keep them healthy.

You should also take into account the type of food you’re feeding your cat, as wet food shouldn’t be left out for long periods. And, if in doubt, have a chat with your vet. They’ll be able to advise a method that suits both you and your cat.