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The Good and Bad of Free Feeding Versus Scheduled Feeding of Cat Food

Many people prefer to make dry cat food available so that their cats can eat whenever they want to. Such free feeding works well for many cats and cat owners. For others, scheduled meals are more conducive to good health.

For one thing, some cats overeat when given an all you can eat buffet. Garfield is not the only fat cat around. If you have more than one cat, feeding individuals portions on a schedule will enable you to notice if one of them stops eating, which is often the first sign of illness or injury.

With your older cat, it is especially important to know that she is eating properly. If your cats eat different foods, schedules meals are the only way to control who gets what. If your cat is used to being free fed, she may not be amused if you switch to schedules meals.

But no matter what she may think, you are in charge, and she will adjust to eating on schedule in a few days. The night before the first day of the new feeding schedule, pick up your cat's food but leave the water.

The nest day at mealtime, put the food down for about half an hour. If your cat is used to snacking as she pleases all day, she may be hungry and gobble her food. Or she may turn up her nose and walk away, thinking that you made a mistake that has now been corrected.

Whether she eats or not, pick up the food after half an hour unless she is actively eating. Do not give her any more to eat until the next mealtime. If you have more than one cat, separate them during meals, or supervise so that everyone gets their fair share.

An elderly cat in particular may eat more slowly and have trouble keeping another cat from taking her food. It may take your cat a day or two to catch on, but she will. Schedules meals will soon be a normal part of daily life.

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