Cats are true carnivores but some cat foods do not contain a lot of meat, and some use ingredients such as fat to encourage the cats to eat more food. A cat fed a good quality cat food will need to eat less food than one fed a poor quality cat food but knowing how often to feed a cat is still a confusing matter for many cat owners.
Cats are natural grazers. This does not mean they get grass (although some will when they have a hairball), it means they like to nibble their food several times a day rather than having one or two big meals. In other words it is more natural for a cat to have its food left out all day so it can take a few bites here and there.
Some people restrict their cat’s food because their cat is getting fat. Obesity, however, is often the result of a thyroid problem or being fed a poor quality food, one which contains poor nutrition and uses fat to add flavor. Cats on a poor quality food (one that does not contain a lot of meat) must eat more just to meet their basic nutrition needs.
Dry Cat Food
Leaving dry cat food out free choice is really the most natural thing for a cat. At the very least, if you are a person who feels the need to restrict your cat’s diet, the cat should be fed four meals a day. If the cat feels its food is being restricted too much it may over eat at each meal.
Canned Cat Food
Canned food should not be left out more than 20 minutes or it gets rotten and bacteria will grow in it. Most healthy adult cats only need one helping of canned food a day. Canned food can be mixed with a bit of water to make a soup to keep the cat’s urinary tract healthy. If you give this later in the day it can be better, as feeding canned food in the morning may result in your cat trying to wake you up early for breakfast.
Feeding Kittens, Pregnant Cats, and Nursing Cats
Kittens, pregnant cats, and nursing cats, should never have their food restricted. They should always have free choice dry food available to them. Cats who are more than 40 days pregnant, and nursing cats, should be on kitten food. Kittens, pregnant cats, and nursing cats, should also be given a small helping of canned food 2-4 times a day.
Feeding Senior Cats
Older cats either tend to be chubby, or thin. A proper senior cat food should be selected according to your senior cat’s weight. If your cat is thin it should not be restricted on food and should have canned food two or three times a day. Note that if your cat has bad teeth it may not be able to eat dry cat food at all and should have more meals of canned food only.