If there’s anything that we know about cats, it’s that they always seem to be eating. Our feline friends are also great at pretending like they’re always starving—even when we swore we just fed them, too. And, like the humble servants that we are, we typically oblige their demands. If you were to think about your cat’s feeding routine, how many times a day would you say that you feed your kitty? Are there set times, or do you feed them whenever they please? Well, one recently published study from the University of Guelph’s Ontario Veterinary College and Agricultural College suggests that we cat owners have it all wrong when it comes to feeding our cats.
So, how are we supposed to feed our cats?
Although the study was smaller, the findings were conclusive that feeding your cat once a day is beneficial to them for several reasons. For the purpose of this study, animal nutrition specialists evaluated the positive and negative effects of feeding a cat one large meal a day versus smaller meals. To track their data, the eight indoor cats were equipped with activity monitors. The cats were divided into test groups and given the same amount of food. One group was given the meal all at once; the other group was provided a fourth of that meal at four different times throughout the day.
The eight cats which were studied were all five years of age and younger and all were in a healthy weight range. The results of the study were released just yesterday, and it seems head-scratching for any cat owner to think that their cats would approve of this startling change to their daily food schedule.
Professor Kate Shoveller, an expert in animal nutrition with the University’s Department of Animal Biosciences, tells Science Daily that,
“There was no good research to back up the several-meals-a-day approach that many owners hear, and so we wanted to put some real data behind current feeding recommendations to be sure they were right for cats.”
Wait, don’t cats need to eat more often?
Did you know that your feline friend’s big cat cousins go days without eating sometimes? In fact, tigers will go days without eating after a successful hunt, gorging themselves on their kill with up to 100 lbs of meat. Obviously, your cat doesn’t have to worry about hunting their dinner. But your cat is an obligate carnivore just like their big cat cousins. Their bodies need an extremely high protein diet in order to function smoothly. So, regardless of how many times a day you’re going to feed them, you must always keep their diet restrictions/needs in mind. Frequency is nowhere near as important as quality protein when it comes to our cat’s daily diet.
So, what did the study find when those cats were only fed a single large meal a day for a period of 21 days? Well…
- Feeding only 1x a day resulted in decrease appetite over time
- Directly lowered their risk of obesity since none of those cats fed 1x per day put on weight
- Over time, there was less begging for food
- Each of the cats only given one meal per day weighed the same on Day 21 as they did Day 1
- There was also a boost in blood amino acid levels
“These findings may surprise the veterinary community and many cat owners who have been told their animals need several small meals a day. But these results suggest there are benefits to this approach.” — coauthor of the study, Professor Adronie Verbrugghe, a veterinarian with OVC’s Department of Clinical Studies
This feeding protocol which was provided to the cats is essentially intermittent fasting, which we know has proven successful in humans. So, if you want to commit to this one per day feeding schedule, it can benefit your cat’s health given the positive data provided. But, like I mentioned above, your cat might not be too thrilled about the sudden switch. We know that cats are not fans of change–especially when it comes to their food!
If you’d like to read this study in its entirety, you can do so here.