It can be really hard to make sure your cat’s meal portions stay the right sizes when you’re feeding him or her multiple times a day. But sometimes many meals a day is what you and your cat are most comfortable with, and other times, it’s what needs to happen for health reasons.
Avery, for example, developed a problem where he threw up at times when his stomach got too empty, and so I could no longer feed him once a day with ample snacks, as I had been doing for years. What was best for him and us immediately changed to needing to feed him multiple times a day – luckily he was fine with just two meals, but this may not be true for your cat if they have the same problem or a different health problem – they may need to be fed more.
I didn’t have any issues for months feeding Avery meals twice daily, until I started being more free with how I doled out cat snacks during the day. At that point, Avery started to pudge out a little. I knew something had to be done, but I didn’t want to be more stingy about giving out treats, and I didn’t want to overfeed him either; obviously, I still couldn’t go back to feeding him once a day because I didn’t want his vomiting problem to start up again.
So I found a way around the problem. A method that meant that no matter how many times I feed him – how many meals, how many snacks – I would still not overfeed my kitty. It’s super easy, and really, I’m sure most of you will have guessed what I have to say already, but here it is –
The Simple Trick to Feeding Your Cat Multiple Times a Day Without Overfeeding
Okay so the trick is this:
Measure out the food you want to feed your cat for the entire day in the morning.
Put that food into a single container (or if you feed wet + dry, two containers).
Only feed your cat from that container for the day.
Sounds easy? Well it is, way easier than measuring out every meal separately, and then trying to maintain a consistent amount of snacks per day.
Feeding Kibble Only (Including Kibble as Cat Treats)
I feed Avery kibble only (and use kibble as a substitution for cat treats); here’s exactly what I do.
I found a jar that holds the exact same amount of cat food as I would feed him in the entire day. To do this, I just looked through my pantry for any random jar that was approximately the right size, then tested the jars that looked like they might be around right by filling a measuring cup full of the right amount of cat food for the day, and putting it in to see if it was just the right size.
Once I had that jar, everything was set.
Every morning now, I fill that jar up right before Avery’s breakfast. I use the cat food in the jar to make Avery exercise a little in the morning (I have him jump on a dresser to eat a bite, jump down to eat another, and back and forth until he’s gotten a bit of a workout), and then I give him some of the jars’ contents for breakfast. A pinch, a handful, whatever I feel like.
Then throughout the day, I’ll dole out as much kibble from the jar as I want as snacks and treats, using the cat food to reward good behaviour and to encourage him to come snuggle, spoil him for no reason, whatever I feel like. I do my best to leave around 1/3 of the jar so that he has a substantial dinner that will keep him full til the next morning, but no hard and fast rules.
Once dinner rolls around, I make him exercise for the cat food again, and then pour the remainder of the jar’s contents into the cat feeding toy or slow feed cat bowl I’m using to give him his dinner. I’m currently using the Catit Design Senses Food Maze as a feeding toy – have been for years though every once in a while I’ll change to try another toy – and it’s what I use for both his breakfast and dinner meals, so that he doesn’t eat too quickly and is at least a little stimulated during mealtimes. Take a look at my review of the Catit Food Maze if you’re interested.
All meals and snacks are provided using the same jar of cat food. And so Avery never overeats because it’s all measured out from the morning. I don’t have to stress or worry about overfeeding, and if I find he needs more or less food, I just find a different jar that will suit his needs better.
Okay so now what I’d do if I was feeding wet food…
Feeding Wet Food Only
Again, incredibly straightforward. I’d measure out exactly what I’d want for the day from the start of the day, then store the rest and only feed kitty from what I kept set aside for his daily meal.
If you’re feeding wet, however, you’re not likely to only be feeding wet. You’re likely doing a combination of wet food + kibble (open feeding the kibble potentially), or you’re feeding kitty wet food + cat treats for snacks, or wet food + kibble for snacks. No matter, what you’re looking for is the next section…
Feeding Wet Food + Kibble &/or Cat Treats
What I’d do in this case is measure out exactly how much wet food I’d want to be giving kitty for the entire day, and feed wet food only from this portion throughout the day.
If I was feeding kitty kibble on top, I’d measure out exactly how much kibble I’d want him/her to be eating throughout the day, and only give him/her the kibble that’s in that rationed amount.
And again – if I was feeding kitty cat treats on top, I’d measure out exactly how many cat treats I’d be happy with kitty eating throughout the day, and only give him or her the cat treats in that rationed amount.
Full stop – I’d measure out exactly what I’d want to feed kitty for the entire day, and then only give that amount to kitty; making dinner time a windfall of good feasting in case I didn’t happen to give out a lot of treats throughout the day.
Multiple Cats? Get a Jar for Each of Them
Yes, it definitely can get complicated if you’ve got a lot of cats, but if you have different jars for each cat, and colour code or add initials or something along those lines to the containers you’re keeping the daily rations of cat food in, it won’t be too tricky to keep track of.
The Only Downside: Too Many Treats May Train a Cat to Beg for Food
If each and every time your cat is craving some kibble, he or she meows at you and you delve over that oh-so-desirable grub, you may eventually accidentally train your cat to beg for food.
This may be a non-issue for you, but if things get to the point where your cat is begging for food all day long, or even waking you up earlier and earlier in the morning to be fed, you may want to try a different system to prevent your cat from over-eating.
That system? Using a timed pet feeder to dispense food throughout the day. Simply measure out the meals from the start of the day and leave the machine to do all the rest of the work. Why would this help with meowing? Your cat will begin to associate the automatic feeder with food, and instead of going to you to beg, is likely to sit by and wait at the feeder for the next scheduled meal.
This system works out especially well if you’re interested in feeding your cat while you’re at work. Cats often do little besides sleep when we’re out of the house; having a timed feeder dispense food when you’re gone is likely to encourage kitty to wake up, have a little nibble, if you’ve got home alone cat toys scattered around the house, maybe have a little play time by him or herself. It may not sound like much, but little things like this can really go a long way in fighting cat boredom.
Having an automatic timed feeder also works out especially well if your schedule makes it so that you’re not always home at the same time each day – as cats really do love consistency in their lives, and this is especially true of feeding times. Definitely worth a consideration!
If You’re Not Using This Trick But Your Cat Has Never Struggled With Overeating…
What the heck are you doing here? Go find another article to read, you’re doing just fine without this advice.
The only time there’s a solution to be had is when there’s a problem that exists in the first place. So don’t bother trying to “fix” something that isn’t an issue.
If you’re free feeding your cat and your cat has no behavioural, health, or weight issues, and you’re perfectly happy with the way things are – keep doing your thing!
If you’re able to keep track of how much you’ve give your cats each day mentally, and again, no behavioural, health, or weight issues exist for kitty – you’re obviously doing something right, so don’t change a thing!
But if you’re feeding your cat once + lots of snacks, or feeding kitty multiple times a day, or on multiple types of food and it’s hard for you to keep track AND kitty looks like he or she could use a bit of dieting – THEN this is a great technique to try. Not before there’s a problem. Don’t try fixin’ what ain’t broke. Just make sure you and kitty are happy and healthy – that’s what’s important.
What About You?
How many times a day do you feed kitty? Have you ever found it hard to keep track of how much you’re feeding your cat?
Ever tried this technique or something along these lines before? Will you give it a shot now?
Let me know in the comments!
A cat is an obligate carnivore and is not designed for the high carb diet in kibble. So many people I know have to give cats insulin shots for diabetes because of the stress on pancreas.
The comments made about the connection of kibble to renal disease is correct. Please do research on this from vets who are not bought out by pet food industry, read Dr Becker’s articles on Mercola website.
The number one animal prone to cancer on this planet is the dog. Unfortunately kibble fed cats are the second. Processed food lacks living enzymes and natural whole food vitamins, no water. Over baked pieces of cardboard.
My cats get fresh homemade vet prescribed diet and live to be in their 20s. Not hard to do.
According to several different vets I’ve seen (and countless articles), if you feed kibble only, you are setting your poor cat up for kidney disease. It is not a natural food for them. They are desert animals and they don’t drink a lot of water. Their ancester’s food was raw meat (they are obligate carnivores) which contain liquid in body fluids. Advising kibble may be the cheaper/easier way to feed your cat, but it’s not the healthy/loving way.
Elise Xavier says
I’ll look into this but I genuinely do believe it depends on the cat. Many cats struggle to drink enough, yes, but many others also tend to drink quite a lot so long as water is provided to them in ways they prefer (elevated bowls, fresh out of the tap, in ceramic or metal or whatever else they may prefer, etc.). I also feel like there are so many ways we as pet owners can make sure our cats are drinking even if they don’t like to drink – like providing them with catnip infused water daily – what cat’s going to refuse a drink like that?
It truly does come down to you making sure your pet drinks enough to be healthy – and with some cats, I don’t even think the water in wet food is enough. My mum’s cat, for example, needs water added to his wet food because it’s still not enough for him, while my cat, Avery, drinks a ridiculous amount (I can tell and keep track by how much he pees), and has never needed assistance in this department ever.
All about keeping an eye on things and lending a hand with hydration when it’s lacking, no matter what you happen to be feeding. That’s my 2c on the matter at least!
Cats are not able to drink enough to ensure the right fluids intake while eating dry food and it does not depend on the cat. Dry food id also not biologically apropriate for cat. Cats in the wild eat raw food and that’s what they should eat. Feeding the cat dry food means slowly killing it.
Elise Xavier says
I’ve never heard anyone claim that cats will always be dehydrated – no matter how much water they drink – if they’re fed kibble. Could you point me to the sources you’ve found that say this?
I also don’t believe just because cats eat raw food in the wild that that’s what they should ideally be eating. To be honest, I don’t feel cats should be eating raw at all. There are a slew of bacteria that exist in raw, uncooked foods that I’m not letting anywhere near my cat. It just takes one mistake made your raw food source and your cat will be sick. Even if I were to avoid kibble and regular store bought pet food in general, I would absolutely cook my cat’s food. Not letting them get sick when prevention could’ve been as simple as cooking their meal up prior to feeding them.
Patrick C says
First and foremost, I very much enjoy your blog and the professionalism and experience that goes into each post.
I have a few questions, just one I’ll ask here and the others under the appropriate topic. Next, the cat. We recently adopted her from a place called kittysave.org. She was living for about 5 months in a bankrupt mall in a pretty interesting store. She lived there with 26 other cats, free to roam, and apparently it was first come first eat with food – and with toys and litter boxes we have no other pets or children. She seemed ecstatic to have food, toys and litter box that was ALL hers. She was also ecstatic about having people that were all hers. For this question, I’ve adopted the method you’ve described about for daily feeding because in the two weeks she’s been with us, she’s gained nearly a pound. A vet check up said that she seemed to be getting over malnourishment. So, my question is silly. I know most cats are lactose intolerant. Is it safe or unhealthy to give her a treat of two tablespoons of lactose free whole milk? It’s never made her sick or have diarrhea, however I still would like to hear your opinion on the safety of this practice.
Elise Xavier says
If you’ve never seen her sick or have diarrhea from it, I think it’s likely just fine for her. I would definitely watch closely for symptoms, in case anything changes and she can no longer handle the lactose for some reason, but other than that, in my honest opinion (which is not a vet’s, and I’m certainly no expert), it’s probably just fine.
If she will drink it – what I used to do for Avery in the past is mix milk with a little bit of water, so he gets quite a bit of water (good for cats, who sometimes struggle to care to drink), and the milk is cut in a way that will help reduce symptoms. Just add a few drops, or roughly the same amount as the milk you put in. I can’t imagine her having any issues with that concoction.
Good luck with her, she sounds so much happier now that she’s with you 🙂
Jeannie Borsch says
Our cat is overweight and though I have cut back on her food, I still think she eats too much-or at least she is still chubby. Vet tried to get us to go to wet diet food, but it smelled so disgusting we gave it up. (She eats in our bathroom.) Vet says kibble has too many carbs. Who knows? I now feed her Perfect Weight from Hills/Science Diet.
Anyway, I am going to try your method. Our cat is anxious and doesn’t do well if the bowl is empty. She wears a calm down collar and has one calm down treat a day, but still poops or pees on our carpet when she gets anxious, so the idea is to eliminate anxiety. (And eventually get hardwood floors when we can afford them!) She also vomits if her stomach gets too empty. She was fine when younger but has developed these problems the last couple years–she is now 10 1/2.
Thanks for the suggestions. I’ll let you know how they work out.
Elise Xavier says
Kibble does have a lot of carbs, but some kibble is better than others. I’m no expert, but I essentially try to get kibble that’s got high protein & fat compared to the average. And that has plenty of good reviews + no significant complaints about pets getting sick after switching to it.
Right now, Avery’s on Royal Canin Sensible 33, which is 33% protein, 22% fat if I’m not mistaken. He loves it and it fills him quite well I find. We originally started him on it because he developed an issue last year where he was throwing up on an empty stomach. Not sure if it’s because he’s gotten older, because his diet changed (we moved countries and our old kibble is not easily available here), or for some other reason. Either way, after a week on this food – no issues thank heavens, as that really used to bother me (the throwing up on an empty stomach). That being said, it could be that his stomach is never really empty anymore considering I’m still using this method.
Please do let me know if this method works for her with regards to her anxiety and also with regards to her throwing up on an empty stomach. If that’s not enough, I’d honestly recommend my cat food, I think there’s something ideal about the acidity that doesn’t upset poor sensitive kitties’ stomachs. Also you might want to try giving lettuce as a snack if that’s something your cat will enjoy. Low calorie, high water content – perfect if you ask me! Wrote up an article about it here – https://kittyclysm.com/can-cats-eat-lettuce/
Good luck of course! And hope to hear from you again 🙂