Why is it important to have scheduled mealtimes for cats? It is essential to have scheduled mealtimes for your cats not only for you to control their weight and the amount they eat but also to control their energy levels. Cats are creatures of habit, and by controlling when they eat, cat owners are better able to control their activity levels throughout the day.
The Importance of Scheduled Mealtimes for Cats
Many believe that you can’t control a cat or get them to do what you want. However, maintain their food and environment, you’re able to control their behaviors indirectly. In conjunction with play therapy, we owners can manage our cat’s activity levels to match our activity levels and lifestyle.
This might not seem like a big deal at first, but when your cats start playing in the middle of the night, it might become a big deal. Or, if your cat becomes lazy and overweight, their health becomes a big point of concern.
In my small studio apartment, this matters a lot. There is no way to separate me and my cats. Meaning if sleep was important to me, I had to figure out a way to control their activity levels at night time. I mean, I love having active cats, but I want them to be active when I am active and not when I’m sleeping.
Why Have Scheduled Mealtime For Cats?
So why does having a scheduled feeding routine help with their energy levels? It comes back to instincts and a cat’s natural behavior. Cats in the wild will hunt or forage for themselves whenever they need to eat. As such, the act of eating is very much linked to energy levels. When cats finish catching and eating their prey, they’re super exhausted.
What does anybody do when they’re exhausted and full? They sleep. Cats do this to conserve energy for their next hunt. Domestic or housecats obviously don’t hunt for their food, but those instincts are still there. After cats eat and groom themselves, they’re likely to go into a low-energy state or be quite lethargic.
Now to go a step further, if you combine both play and mealtime after a play session, this effect is even more substantial. So, when a cat eats a big meal, you can expect them to follow it up with a nice nap. Like a real wild cat, they complete the whole process of hunting, catching, and then eating indoors.
What Are The Effects of Scheduled Meal Times?
The most direct effect will be a controlled diet. They won’t be continuously eating throughout the day, which will likely positively impact their weight (if you’re looking for your cat to lose weight). A cat not eating all the time is a busy cat.
So how will this newfound knowledge help you influence your cat’s behaviors?
- Feed them right before a time that you need downtime or silence. They will become lethargic and probably be down for the count especially if you have played with them beforehand (the effect is much more pronounced if you have played with them for at least 15-30 minutes!).
- Another great benefit of scheduled feeding is the positive associations created during mealtime. As most cats are highly food motivated, with each mealtime, you strengthen the bond between you and your cats. Also, they can also strengthen the bond between their cat roommates too!
- It’s a powerful tool that I have consistently used for introducing any new kitten or cat. It’s what has allowed me to introduce them without having a long insolation process.
How Much Should I Feed My Cats?
Each bag of food or brand will have a label that appropriately gives cat owners a good first reference guide on how much to portion for your cats. Check your cat’s weight and try your best to get as close as possible to the recommended guidelines.
- Start with the recommended portion and observe how fast your cats finishes the food (a clean plate).
- In general, they should finish their food completely before their next mealtimes. If there’s still food in the bowl when it’s their next mealtime, slowly start to decrease it until they do.
- According to Petmd.com, Every one or two weeks, assess or reasess your cat’s body and readjust their portions accordingly (it’s always a good idea to have a record of your cat’s weight).
I always give my cats enough food so that once an hour or two has passed, they will finish the whole bowl or plate. As a result, by the next mealtime, they’re hungry enough for the next portion.
If your cats are not finishing the food in time, leave it until they finish and give them their next meal a couple of hours later (maybe after a play session). That way, they’re expecting food and begin to cultivate the habit.
When Is The Most Optimal Feeding Times For Cats?
Two main feeding schedules are most commonly employed by cat owners that have jobs (which is most people):
- Three medium sized meals a day
- Two large meals a day
These are by no means the only two feeding regimens. Create the schedule that best fits your schedule and the ways that your cats like to eat! The key is to stay consistent so that your cat(s) has time to adapt and change its inner clock.
Cat Feeding Schedule 1: Three Medium Sized Meals a Day
This is the feeding schedule that I use for my cats right now, and it’s been working well for their daily routine. I am a regular person, meaning I go to work in the morning and come home in the evening. So my schedule is likely to be similar to most people as well.
First Meal: Morning (Before Work)
Mornings are pretty chilled for cats, and they tend to lounge around. So to make sure they have enough food before I go to work, I give them a little more food for their first mealtime as the gap between breakfast and the next mealtime is quite large.
They’re all so used to it by now, as the moment I step out of the bathroom is when they’ll start meowing at me to give them their breakfast! Since I’ll be away for quite a while because of work, I’ll take out some of their favorite toys for them to expend some energy in the daytime.
Second Meal: Evening (After Work)
Cats will start to get hungry after this time. Giving them a smaller meal is recommended to tide them over until dinner. This is the time when their energy picks up because I’m at home. They’ll be wanting a lot of my attention. Therefore, I leave most of their toys and cat stuff out, so the cats can still play around.
Third Meal: Night (Before Bed)
Before their last meal, I give the cats a bit of interactive playtime for them to expend the last of their energy and be ready for the final feast of the day. After that, I put away their toys, loose items, and anything they might be wanting to play with so that they’re all ready for a long night’s rest.
Cat Feeding Schedule 2: Two Large Meals a Day
Cats engage in intermittent fasting all the time in the wild. Therefore, there are periods in which they don’t have any food. This is the schedule likely for people working longer hours and can’t be home often to feed their cats. It’s still an effective feeding schedule as it caters to the cat’s natural being.
First Meal: Morning (Before Work)
Nothing is changed here except portions. Because you’re going to feed them less frequently, portion out more food to last them until their second big meal. This means that instead of having them finish a meal within one to two hours. Try to give them enough to finish their meals within two to three hours after being put out.
Second Meal: Night (Before Bed)
Providing another large meal before you go to bed will allow cats to feel full and satisfied to recoup their energy for the next day. Again, put away the stuff you don’t want the cats to interact with at night to reinforce further that nighttime is a time for rest and not play.
What Happens If I Allow My Cats To Free Feed?
The dangers of free-feeding are pretty well-documented, from obesity to urinary problems or even worse. This is because every time a cat eats, its insulin level spikes, and the cat’s body cannot handle that for an extended period. Most of the time, this develops into diabetes.
If you’re free-feeding a cat, it is also challenging to discover problems or health issues that your cat might have. For example, if you have mealtimes, you can see clearly who is eating and who is not. A healthy cat is a cat that eats well (at the proper time), but if you’re free-feeding, how do you know if a cat isn’t eating or is overeating? It isn’t easy to tell.
Another reason you might not want to free feed is, in a multi-cat home, if one cat eats at a different rate than the others. One cat could eat most of it at first, and then when a different cat gets hungry, maybe there’s only a little bit of the food left. By having a specific feeding time, cat owners can make sure all cats eat simultaneously and in similar amounts.
What Do I Feed My Cats?
Cats are, of course, obligate carnivores. Obligate carnivores mean that they must eat meat. The higher the amount of protein that is in their food, the better. In the wild, cats would catch their food and eat it raw, cartilage, organs, and all. The closer we can get to this origin, the better for our cats.
I wholeheartedly believe that raw is best for our cats; however, feeding them raw is usually difficult, depending on your situation. Sometimes, I will take a trip on the weekend to the butcher’s and ask for some of the cheap raw trimmings for my cats. They love it, but it’s not an everyday type of thing. However, it’s something that I want to improve in the future.
Day-to-day, however, I opt for high protein content, grain-free dry food. It’s easy to portion and measure and highly convenient because it’s preparation-free. My Bengal cat is quite sensitive and will have diarrhea if his food is not grain-free.
I try to do the best I can for my cats within my means. Your situation might be different.
Scheduled Feeding Times For Cats: Conclusion
Having a scheduled time in which cats feed is one of the most important decisions you can make for your cat(s). For benefits beyond just weight and health, cats can benefit a lot from positive and consistent habits.