When we first got Nelson we puzzled: how much and how often should we feed him. Turned out that I could not find a simple answer so I started collecting data. This came in the form of a log of their weight.
(Marie has joked that our weights should also be on there. I think that would be fine, provided we also had someone who determined the optimal food for us to eat then served it to us in the optimal portions and did the dishes.)
Our answer of how much and how often is two meals a day, each about 2.5 – 3.0 oz of canned food and very few treats.
We’ve since transitioned to mainly raw food. Several sources have told us that cat’s are unlikely to become overweight on raw food and that some of Nelson’s aggression may come from restricted diet so we have had a very free hand with Nelson and Jojo’s quantities. Looks like they are gaining weight and I’m not sure I believe that cat’s will self regulate. Maybe depends on how heavy you think a cat should be.
To get our cat’s to this point required several transitions. The largest was from free feeding to two meals a day. Luna and Nelson complained about this extensively. I found it a little difficult to deny them food. The weight log showing rising weights kept my confidence that their intake had to be regulated and that we were probably doing the right thing. We also followed some guidance from our vets about an appropriate weight for each cat.
The spike of weight in early April indicates the importance of actually measuring the quantities. After measuring for a month we got a little sloppy and thought we could eyeball it. The quantities are too small to accurately eyeball. The difference between feeding 2.5 oz per meal and 3 oz does not look dramatic but does have big effect over months. So we went back to measuring the quantities.
Jojo was an interesting transition. I believe he was used to grazing on kibbles in his previous house. By the time he joined our household two meals a day was well established. Jojo’s problem was that he could not stay focused on the food when it was available. He kept walking away. If we reminded him he would eat some more but often would not finish. After a 20-30 minutes we would take it away. Since he was physically robust (even verging on rotund) I didn’t worry (much) about some of the very small meals he was getting. The log showed a slow and necessary drop in his weight. As he reached a more appropriate weight he learned to finish his meals. Now (as in many other areas) he shows the most appropriate attitude toward food: good appetite but not overly focused.
The spike in Luna’s weight since September indicates the effect of treats. We’ve started to give more treats to encourage good behavior between Nelson and Jojo. We also learned that it is good to feed treats after a play session because that completes the simulated hunt with the satisfaction of eating the prey. As to why it is just Luna’s weight that went I’m, well, I think we may have had an especially open hand with her treats. The bad news for her is that it is time to scale back enough to get her onto a slow weight loss track again. She’s a little butterball right now.
Some cats are fussy eaters so the two meal a day regime may not work for them. However, for most cat (and dogs) overfeeding is far more common. The PAWS vet is strict about cat weight. Any cat with even some extra belly fat is noted as “slightly obese”. This is applied to about half the cats at PAWS. I think we project our food issues onto our pets and find it difficult to restrict their diet. I know I found it difficult. Keeping the weight log has provided an objective measure.
At vets I’ve seen a lot of posters about the problems with overweight cats. There seems to be a big push to prevent over feeding. Nestle Purina publishes a body condition chart which helps you judge your cat’s weight. That said, I think there may be some debate yet as to what is a healthy weight for a cat.