If you were looking this up in Google, or happened to stumble on this article somewhere on social media, chances are you clicked through looking to find a definitive answer to the question of what number of times a day you should be feeding your cat.
Is there a right or wrong way to go about the quantity of mealtimes you have for your feline friend in a day? Is there one magic number that should be used under all circumstances?
The answer is almost certainly: no. You may not like the sound of this, but quite honestly, there doesn’t seem to be a right answer, only advantages and disadvantages for feeding your cat specific numbers of times that you may or may not personally care to take advantage of.
It’s completely up to you how many times a day you feed your cat: so long as you and your cat are both happy, and your cat is perfectly healthy. If these two conditions are met, it doesn’t matter if you’re feeding your cat once a day or five times a day.
But I said there were advantages and disadvantages to feeding your cat specific numbers of times a day.
Let’s get into those advantages and disadvantages so that you can weigh out you’re options. We’ll start at the beginning: feeding kitty just once a day.
Feeding Your Cat Once a Day
I used to feed Avery his meals once a day for years. He thrived. Was always extremely happy, extremely healthy. I’d feed him treats and snacks throughout the day (using kibble as snacks since I didn’t want him to be eating unhealthy cat treats), every so often some of my own food (some cooked pork or cooked chicken when we had it for dinners for instance), and he’d be fine and dandy holding out until his dinner time rolled around at 10:00 PM. This once-a-day feeding worked out extremely well for us for a number of reasons:
1. Reduced whining.
Avery’s been a particularly vocal cat when he’s expecting mealtime, and so this reduced the amount of time he’d spend beggin’ for a feedin’ to just once a day instead of multiple times a day or all day long (depending on how many times I’d feed him – he really was the kind of cat who’d beg and whine for food all day long).
2. Won’t wake you up in the mornings.
Avery used to wake me up when I fed him in the mornings, so feeding him once in the evening and stopping feeding him mealtimes in the morning fixed this issue for me immediately. I did try other methods to make him not wake me up in the morning, but this is the only one that stuck. You may find other ways to make your kitty not waking you up stick, but with Avery, this had to be done.
3. Easy to keep a schedule.
Back when I used to feed Avery once a day, I could make sure to absolutely always be home by 10 PM; wasn’t true about many other times in the evening. I wasn’t happy feeding Avery at a different time each day, as I know cats are creatures of habit and like consistency in their lives (can’t blame them there; so am I!) so I picked one time of day that I would for sure be able make it for every evening and stuck to it. The stable schedule really helped keep Avery happy.
4. Easy to keep track of how much kitty is eating (which helps prevent overeating).
Avery never overate. If you’re feeding your cat multiple times per day, it can become really easy to overfeed him or her: especially if you dole out snacks (who can resist?) on top of multiple mealtimes. Why? It’s seriously not the easiest task to make sure portions are right when you’re feeding your cat large numbers of times in any given day. On the other hand, keeping consistent quantities for one major meal a day is very easy to do.
5. Can still give snacks and treats without throwing portions out of whack.
I could give Avery small snacks and treats whenever I wanted and never feel guilty about him overeating, as while I didn’t keep much track of snack time, his evening meals were so consistently sized that he didn’t gain weight. He would not be expecting snacks (though would of course always be delighted to receive them – as he still is on his now on his two-times-a-day schedule), so he wouldn’t whine for snacks like he would for mealtime.
6. Training becomes easier.
It was easiest to train Avery when I was feeding him once a day. I taught him to do a number of things thanks to the use of treats. Things like being comfortable in a walking harness or vest, sitting quietly on a chair next to us while we had dinner, and to be quite a bit more snuggly. Not complicated things, but simple ones that made both our lives better. Training him would have been a lot harder if he wasn’t so excited about getting treats during the day, which would’ve been true if he’d just eaten a meal prior. Even now when we’re feeding him twice a day, he won’t co-operate with training much after his meals, so I have to wait until before the next meal to train him.
The only downside to feeding Avery meals one a day came about a few months ago. I don’t know if it’s because of the new food we’ve been feeding him this past year, or if it’s for some other reason, but Avery has developed a problem where he’ll throw up if his stomach is empty for too long. So I’ve knocked up his feeding times to twice a day and presto! Problem gone. He doesn’t throw up anymore.
If Avery didn’t develop a vomiting problem, I would never have changed his feeding schedule. If your cat vomits on an empty stomach like mine when you feed him or her once a day – increase feeding times for sure so that it doesn’t happen anymore (and go to a vet if increasing feeding time does not make him or her get better!). Vomiting on a regular basis (even once every week or two) is no good, as it means that there’s likely something there that needs to be fixed so that the vomiting can be prevented. Don’t ignore regular vomiting, and do talk to your vet about options to see if it could be something worse than simply the problem Avery had.
If your cat, however, doesn’t have any problem eating meals just once a day, like Avery used to; if there’s no vomiting or sign that your pet is unhealthy or unhappy, go right ahead and feed your cat once a day if you like that option. Do it if it works best for you & kitty.
Cats are used to eating big meals – after all, if they’re in the wild, they’ll often catch a mouse or a bird and that’s their feast for the day. Maybe snack on bugs in between mealtime. As long as your pet is happy and healthy (if you have doubts about your pet’s health, take him or her to a vet for a check up), and as long as it’s working for you, keep it up.
Catit Design Senses Food Maze – Amazon / Chewy
Feeding Your Cat Twice a Day
If you’re not comfortable feeding your cat a meal just once a day, or if your cat has the same vomiting-on-an-empty-stomach problem that Avery developed, consider feeding kitty twice a day.
The benefits of feeding your cat twice a day are much the same as the benefits for feeding your cat once:
1. Reduced whining.
Begging and whining for meals only happen twice a day in this case. Doesn’t take up your whole day, which can be the case if you feed too many times. Cats may not even understand that they have meals if you feed them way too often, and may end up begging for food all day long thinking they can get it whenever they want. Of course cats are not all the same, and so many can be fed many more meals than two a day without any such whining taking place, but in my experience, if you want the whining to go down, the frequency of feeding also has to be taken down as well.
2. Easy to keep a schedule.
It’s not very difficult to make sure you can be home at a specific time every morning and evening, so keeping two consistent feeding times for your cat’s happiness and love of routine is possible.
3. Easy to keep track of how much kitty is eating (which helps prevent overeating).
It’s not the hardest job to keep your cat from becoming overweight since portions are not the most difficult to keep track of when you’re feeding twice daily. An overweight cat is at risk for so many health problems, so this is important.
4. Can still give snacks and treats without throwing portions out of whack.
You can still give treats without worrying too much about it. Though I’d be more careful about delving out a great number of snacks throughout the day than if I was simply feeding my cat one big meal daily. I’ve had some issues with giving Avery too many snacks when feeding him twice a day before, but if I’m careful and make sure to pay attention to how many snacks I’m delving out, it’s fine.
I honestly don’t really see any downsides to this method, unless again, your cat has a vomiting-on-an-empty-stomach problem, but unlike with mine, feeding twice daily isn’t enough to keep him or her from vomiting. Otherwise, twice daily is a perfectly good feeding schedule to keep.
A great option if you can’t or don’t like the idea of only feeding your cat once a day, and yet want to reap the benefits of feeding your cat a low number of times daily. Probably the number of times I’d most strongly recommend feeding your cat.
Feeding Your Cat Three or More Times a Day
1. You don’t feel like you’re holding out on your cat.
Sometimes, we just love to spoil our kitties, and that includes feeding them many times per day, since it’s usually (let’s be honest) exactly what they want. It’s fine to spoil your kitties so long as there are no downsides – I see no point in refraining from giving them what they want as long as it’s being done in a healthy way!
2. Some believe tiny meals throughout the day is healthier for kitties than a few big ones.
I don’t know that has been proven to be true or false, but if it’s what you feel is right, feeding your cat many small meals throughout the day is certainly a benefit.
It can be really tricky to make sure you’re giving the right portions each and every time when you’re giving out three or more meals a day. The higher the number of feeding times the more difficult it will be to give out the right portions, the more difficult it will be to always be home at the right time to maintain a schedule your cat can depend on, and the less likely your cat will understand that there are specific mealtimes at all (instead assuming that food time is all the time and potentially whining constantly to make that happen sooner).f
The best way to combat these downsides: a timed pet feeder. If whining happens, with one of these, meowing is more likely to take place at the machine than it is at you (since the pet feeder is what “gives away” the food). If you regularly go out at different points of the day, it will help your cat stick to an eating schedule even when your own schedule is unpredictable, and if you prefer to feed your cat while you’re away at work – using a pet feeder is effortless. Timed pet feeders may also help your cat stop eating so quickly, since feeding multiple times per day means your cat is likely to be less hungry between meals, though if you have that problem you can also easily solve it with a slow feeder pet bowl instead.
A free method to help combat most of the downsides of 3+ feedings per day? This technique that will help combat over-feeding. It won’t help in the begging for food department, but when it comes to health and maintaining the perfect weight, it works like a charm.
For the sake of your cat maintaining a healthy weight, I would recommend against using this method unless you need to, or unless you have a system in place (like the use of a timed feeder or this free and simple technique) to make sure weight gain by over-eating isn’t likely.
However, again, if your cat is happy and healthy and feeding this many times a day is working out great for you, don’t change a thing about what you’re doing.
Picture from post Feeding the Neighbourhood Cats I: Martha
How Many Times a Day Do You Feed Your Cat?
Let me know how many times a day you feed your cat in the comments section! How long have you been feeding your cat that many times, and have you noticed any benefits/downsides to feeding your cat that number of times that I haven’t included in the pros/cons lists above?
Have you ever switched the number of times a day you’ve fed your cat? Why did you make the change? How did it work out for you and kitty?
Leave a comment down below to help other pet owners make the most informed decision they can!
Hello, dear Cat Mama,
Thank you for your beautifully written article.
I used to feed my two cats morning and evening but somehow (through constant meowing, pretending they ‘never had any food, ever’, I landed at ‘caving’ to feeding in between. Not a good idea. So, I was looking for some other opinions.
I was, honestly, very astounded to read about your 1x daily feeding routine, because I had heard/read to not let your cat go longer than 12 hours without food, because then their tummy develops strong acid that makes them feel intensely nauseous, which explains the “vomiting-on-an-empty-stomach problem” as you called it. So, I wasn’t surprised when I came to that section of your article.
He may have been fine longer, because you fed snacks and treats and sometimes some of your dinner, so his belly did have something to work on, most of the time, I assume, but over the long run, that might well be the explanation. Of course, I’m not a vet and this isn’t a ‘diagnosis’, but it’s what I was told in my prior research by some of the vets online (and their videos or articles) as to why at least 2x/day is recommended.
Too bad, because I was looking forward to the ‘not waking me up in the mornings’ option when feeding only at night. So, that’s out the window, then 🙂
Your article helped me understand why my cats recently have become so beggar-ish and whiny all day. That’s because I caved and gave them in-between food, even if half-sachets.
Also, I read that that’s not a great thing to do, because it messes with their digestive process and can make their consistency too fluid, if you know what I mean :D. It’s because in the middle of the digestive process there’s a ‘starting over’ with the new intake while the other portions are still ‘working’.
That’s why someone had written in some other article ‘You can feed them as often as you like… as long as there are 12 hours in-between’ LOL
Again, thank you so much for the time and care you put into writing your article, it did bring me value. And I hope that my comment helps understand your feline snuggle-bug’s ‘problem’. The good side: IF that’s all it was, then you can probably stop worrying about what it may have been, since you likely have had him examined back when 🙂
Have a most wonderful day,
All the best to you and all your cat lover readers,
Big smiles and many blessings,
Tanya with Teddy and Mocha (cat brothers)
Rachel Brogunier says
I just adopted a new cat who’s overweight. We (my husband and I) already have 2 cats who are normal weight. They’ve been on free feed. I switched everyone to a set schedule. Before reading this article…I looked up the feeding requirements based on weight and judged that for a 10 pound cat 3/4 cup a day would be required. I felt 10 pounds would be a good weight for everyone. I have a scoop that came with a container that is 2 tablespoons. I’m not the best at math, so my calculations might be wrong but at 2 scoops a feeding , which in this case is 4 tablespoons, served 4 times a day would equal 3/4 cups a day. I read online you put the food down for 15 min. Then I put any leftover food back in the container and wash their bowls. So, I’ve been doing the 3 or more times a day method of scheduled feeding. What I don’t get though, is none of the cats eat all 4 tablespoons worth at a time. They all just want to eat very small portions. So, how in the world does anyone feed their cat two or even one meal for a whole 24 hr time frame? How are you getting your cat to eat such a large amount of food in one sitting each day?
Elise Xavier says
I think every cat is different. I have some cats who don’t eat more than a few nibbles at a time, and yet my first cat Avery, and my second cat, Bjorn would both hover up as much food as they physically could (maybe even up to the point of vomiting) if I gave them free-for-all food. Some definitely don’t eat larger portions, others do.
That being said, sometimes when you switch to meals, they automatically adjust to eating more (and enough for them). Testing is the only thing that will help you figure out what will work for you and your cats.
Rachel Brogunier says
That’s a good point. It’s just a matter of trial and error. When I first looked it up, the internet said leave food down for 15 min. But then, just the other day, I read somewhere online, to leave the food down for an hr. Either way, I prefer scheduled meals to free feeding. Right now, I have to, cause my new cat is overweight but I’ve noticed other benefits…the cats aren’t smelling food all the time triggering their digestion to work nonstop and food stays fresher. I got a little lax yesterday and the food was left out and one of my cats wanted me to fill up the bowl…topping it off…the reason? The food doesn’t stay fresh when it sits out. So when you have to keep refilling the bowl anyway to make it more full, it just makes to stop free feeding altogether and keep the cats on a schedule. An added unrelated benefit… it helps me keep up with hand washing dishes (we don’t have a dishwasher). Yea, I feed the cats currently 4 times a day. And while their eating their food I wash dishes and then I pick up their food and wash their bowls too. Thus completing a full round of dishes. And since humans eat about 3 to 4 times a day this helps me complete all the rounds of dishes for the day and no het backed out with a mound of dirty dishes. Works for me!!! 😀
Sharon D Bassett says
I have a female Munchkin cat who weighs 6 pounds
I feed her breakfast lunch dinner and before bed (7 or 7:30)
She only gets a small spoon of food each time sometimes just a little extra at supper. She is very healthy and I don’t want to change her schedule
Elise Xavier says
Stick to it! If it’s working for both of you, that’s what’s important 🙂
I adopted a stray cat who was living in a storage shed with her 4 kittens in -30 degree weather! She went through the TNRM program and when she was recovering at the foster home it was discovered she was not feral so I adopted her from the cat rescue who helped me trap her. She gained 1lb in 2 months ,I am sure her being spayed had a little bit to do with it. I also had a problem with her meowing at 2 am. I took away the dry food completely and feed her 3 times, wet food only. Her last feeding is at around 10 pm after I play with her. I leave a couple of freeze dried beef liver snacks in her puzzle ball for the night. She stopped the 2 am meowing and usually starts at 4:30 am on and off until around 6:30 am. Feeding her 3 times has helped tremendously because coming from a place of never knowing where her next meal was coming from caused her always wanting food.
Elise Xavier says
Thank you so much for sharing your story! It took Avery (who was also a stray when we took him in) around a year before he figured out food would never be sparse for him again. Used to scarf down any food we gave him as quickly as possible, no matter how many times a day or how many snacks we fed him. Now he takes his time with every meal and even every snack. I do think the Catit Food Maze helped him a lot with the speed adjustment; he initially had to slow down to eat the kibble we put into the toy, but over time he’s slowed down way more than necessary, and now takes a considerable amount of time to eat just because he can. It’s really nice to see him enjoy his food for as long as possible, especially knowing what he was like when we first got him.
Strays definitely come with their own set of eating-related challenges to overcome. I remember one time, maybe a month into us adopting Avery, he went through our trash bin and ate a couple hot peppers whole out of there – we had no idea he’d eaten them until we found them in his litter box! Obviously, this behaviour was rooted in just what you pointed out – being used to not knowing where his next meal would come from and when it would come.
Avery also used to do the whole meow-to-wake-us-up she-bang as well, for months and months and we couldn’t figure out what to do – but making sure we stopped feeding him first thing in the morning helped us fix that issue. I think cats are quite honestly masters of human psychology – if they know you’ll feed them as soon as you wake up, they quickly figure out waking you up will mean food right away! Too clever for their own good (or ours), honestly. 😉
my cat lily, was a stray my mom and i rescued her when she was 6 months old, she was 6 pounds and then she got pregnant, we had to get her fixed now shes very fluffy in her belly but also now very round in the waist area we noticed in the last couple months she gained weight, she’s a domestic shorthair tabby/calico bengal she needs to be between 8-10 pounds and i think she’s 11 pounds i used to feed her 2x a day now i just feed her 1x a day give her 1/2 cup a day and that seems to last her the entire day. she’s 14 months old i want her to live for another 25 years.
Elise Xavier says
Good on you for doing your best to keep your cat at a healthy weight. I hope she hits that 25 years for you, she sounds like a wonderful cat 🙂
If she’s healthy and happy, is satisfied and is a great weight, then that’s all that really matters!
Helen Taharan says
I feed my cat 3 times a day and she is not overweight and has not shown any downsides of the feeding.I have a Maine coon cat who loves food so i feed her 3 times a day to fufill the meals
I recently purchased one of those Catit Design Senses Food Maze like you show in the picture stops them from pigging out but gives them food whenever they want it providing they paw for it and in the am and pm they get wet food seem to be happy with this
Elise Xavier says
Using one of those for free-feeding kibble on the side is pretty genius! Glad it’s working out 🙂
Michael Q. Rudnin says
I feed my cat on demand, basically a dozen times per day. Meowing, tapping on the bowls, leg rub then walk over to the kitchen, otherwise getting my attention ~ it’s all behaviors I encourage. My cat has a normal weight, yet I’m getting worried remarks from family about overfeeding. Requesting advice.
PS, for fastest reply, look me up on Facebook.
Elise Xavier says
Honestly, if you and your cat are both happy, feed 100 times a day to your heart’s content – it doesn’t matter if you feed her very frequently so long as you’re both happy and he remains a healthy weight.
If you are at all worried your relatives may be right and this may cause her to gain weight – say because you think you may accidentally overfeed her a little each day because honestly it gets a little hard to keep track at quantities of food given out when you’re feeding a cat more than twice a day – this is what you should do: https://kittyclysm.com/prevent-overfeeding-multiple-meals/
TLDR for that article: put all her food for the day into one container and just feed her from that container as regularly as you want until it’s empty. You can’t overfeed her at all if you measure out the right amount for the entire day and don’t go over.
Hope that advice helped!
Michael Q. Rudnin says
Thanks for your quick reply. It’s not the overfeeding that I’m concerned with, but the amount of times he goes #2 to the bathroom. I probably should have mentioned that part. Should I be worried?
Elise Xavier says
It would make sense he goes to the bathroom more often since he’s not getting all his food at once. And it wouldn’t make much sense to me that this would be a problem. I’d call up your vet and ask quickly over the phone to confirm it’s a non-issue (i.e. “Hi, my cat goes to the bathroom to do #2s this many times a day, is that an issue?”), if the answer is no as I’d suspect, you’re groovy and definitely shouldn’t be worried.
Johnny Salib says
We keep having to change Beau’s eating schedules since we can’t seem to find one that works. (Especially now that he’s a kitty who’s on a “Healthy Weight” Diet)
We’re feeding him twice a day now, but only at 5PM & 10PM. Even though there’s not that much time between the two feedings, Beau has stopped whining and hasn’t been chewing any more! Hopefully this is the thing that works the best for him.
Elise Xavier says
Glad he stopped chewing. Let’s hope it sticks!
Kitty Cat Chronicles says
I started out feeding my cats twice a day, but they always seemed to get hungry in between. I switched to smaller meals three times a day, and that has worked really well for us. People always think I spoil my cats because they get breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but whatever. lol. They are happy and healthy, so I am too! 🙂
Elise Xavier says
You are spoiling them, but what’s the big deal – there’s nothing wrong with spoiling your cats! 🙂 So long as you are all happy & healthy, that’s all that matters.
We don’t take care of them just to make sure they stay alive – we do it cause we love ’em, & I do believe showing that requires at least some spoiling 😉
Gizmos himan says
Great blog post! Gizmo was poorly with pancreatitis recently, so vet has put him on a prescription diet, and insists that he is fed at least 4 times per day. Eating smaller meals puts less strain on the stomach and pancreas apparently. Another good reason for eating more meals, little and often!
Elise Xavier says
Poor Gizmo :(. I hope he’s feeling better on the new diet. What were his symptoms before you took him to visit the vet?
Definitely a good reason for eating more meals, little & often! I’ve actually found a work-around for not overfeeding even if you’re giving out multiple meals, snacks, & treats a day. Been using it for the past little while and been working like a charm. Going to write a post about it for next week.
Edit: Published the post; it’s here: https://kittyclysm.com/prevent-overfeeding-multiple-meals/