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.
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.
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!