The cats that live in our homes are truly interesting predators. These pets have a normal feeding frequency of 7-20 times per 24 hour period. They are also unique in how poorly their body handles being off this frequent schedule, even within hours of the first meal missed. And yes, barn cats that do not have people feeding them still feed with this frequency. When feeding this species, daily variety and multiple feeding locations are also the most natural plan. We should incorporate these principles into feeding our pet cats.
Many chronic inflammatory disorders (possibly affecting skin, ears and their GI tracts) are often tied to a chronic exposure of a single diet source. It is less common that a sudden or recent exposure contributes to this inflammation. When we feed our cats multiple options in multiple locations throughout the home, we are doing what is more natural for them and putting them less at risk for chronic inflammation due to a poorly tolerated diet source. This variety and maximum opportunity can also benefit the geriatric kitties tremendously.
Another helpful hint is that cats NEVER like their food cold. A cat in it’s natural setting will never scavenge a kill. The coldest a meal should ever be in the cat world is room temperature. I tell my clients to never use the refrigerator to store food. I use the caps for the cans to retain moisture, but leave the food on the counter. If you have ever offered a cat food that has been in the fridge, you may have noticed their lack of interest. They also have very different digestive enzymes than we do, and may stash a big kill early in the day. As the day proceeds this kill could be the source of those frequent meals through the day, sometimes while that prey item is baking in the sun! I am comfortable with can food at room temp for as long as 48 hours. So the kitties have ask me to tell y’all “don’t EVER put my food in the fridge”.
Everyone in the know now recommends daily canned food for cats. Preferably multiple offerings during the day and night. It is interesting how much more challenging palatability can be with canned food versus dry food. Almost any dry food you buy will be eaten by most cats. Canned food does not follow that rule; and, we have all seen how at least 1/2 the canned foods out there are not palatable to the majority of cats long-term. And some cats will not eat canned food because they were not offered this option early in life. If they simply will not eat canned food, we may not be able to overcome that difficulty. But we should definitely try really hard! And if you have a kitten, find a canned food he or she likes immediately. Especially if your cat will not eat canned food, remember that cats never drink and eat at the same time. Their water should be offered in a separate location from their food bowl, or hopefully food bowls. And there is no better way to properly hydrate a kitty than feeding a highly palatable canned food.