Pet professionals and cat owners alike take cat health very seriously. After all, we want our meowing mates to enjoy a happy and healthy life.
Yet, when it comes to cat feeding regimens, these can vary. Some people like to feed their cat one meal a day, while others may feed their kitty several smaller meals throughout the day. There’s also the free feeding and combination feeding method.
Certainly, up until now, the feeding method of choice is really dependent on several factors. This includes whether you want to feed your purring pal wet or dry food; free feeding only really works if you wish to feed your cat dry food. There’s also the question of whether multiple cats live in the same household and if your cat is likely to overeat (i.e. if he or she is a greedy kitty!).
However, new research has emerged that supports meal feeding. But that’s not all; the study implies that if you have a hungry cat it’s better to feed them less rather than more.
Benefits of once-a-day feeds for cats
So, in what way does feeding indoor felines just once a day improve their health? Well, amongst the more common cat health and feline behaviour issues are obesity and begging for food through constant meowing. According to the research, cats that ate only one meal daily were more satisfied, which could result in fewer instances of food-begging behaviour.
Furthermore, it is suggested that by reducing the frequency of feeding owners can better control their cat’s appetite and decrease the risk of obesity.
Study co-author Professor Adronie Verbrugghe, a veterinarian with Ontario Veterinary College’s (OVC) Department of Clinical Studies says, “These findings may surprise the veterinary community and many cat owners who have been told their animals need several small meals a day.”
Indeed, for cat owners who are weighing up which feeding method is best for their fur pal this new research may help them to make an informed decision. Certainly, it appears there are several cat health benefits to the once-daily feeding approach.
How the research was conducted
Given the lack of data to support the several-meals-a-day feeding approach, the researchers wanted some hard evidence to put behind the current regimens in use.
Eight indoor cats of a healthy weight and aged under five years participated in the study. Both feeding regimens were trialled by all eight cats for a total of three weeks each. The same ingredients and an equal amount of food was offered in the once-daily regimens as in the four-meals-daily regimen.
Researchers found that physical activity was higher in the cats fed multiple times a day but overall energy expenditure was very similar between the two groups of cats.
Assessment of the cats’ appetite-regulating hormones indicated that those fed just once a day were more satisfied. They were also found to burn more of their fat stores and have more blood amino acids. These two factors are important for cat health as they are essential for keeping a lean body mass and building muscle.
The overarching message
Some people choose to feed their cat one meal a day simply because it’s easier. However, now it appears that once-daily feeding brings with it cat health benefits. Just like in humans, intermittent fasting can bring positive health outcomes and is more closely linked to how we would eat as hunter-gatherers or how wild cats would feed.
While further studies are needed, this latest research may be useful for vets who are managing a cat’s weight or discussing feeding options with cat-owning clients.
- University of Guelph. Feeding indoor cats just once a day could improve health. ScienceDaily, 23 September 2020. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/09/200923135117.htm
- Camara A et al. The daytime feeding frequency affects appetite-regulating hormones, amino acids, physical activity, and respiratory quotient, but not energy expenditure, in adult cats fed regimens for 21 days. PLOS ONE, 2020; 15 (9)