Did you know that cats usually prefer to eat their meals at dawn and dusk? Being the only domesticated members of their family Felidae, a group that hunts and catches prey usually in the dark, they are wired to eat at these times. This is a great fact to keep in mind when you plan feeding schedules for your feline friend. But that doesn’t mean you obsess about the timing of the feeds. Whenever your cat became hungry, it will certainly find a way to let you know. Pet parents also worry about whether to opt for free feeding or meal feeding and how to figure out the best option that works with your own schedule.
Before we delve into the specifics, let’s take a quick recce of interesting facts about cats.
The Domestic Cat
There are more than 60 different cat breeds in existence today, and these are recognized by various registries, similar to kennel clubs for dogs. Statistics gathered in 2021 reveal that about 220 million owned and 480 million stray cats in the world. Of these, 95 million live in the US, where they are deemed the second most popular pet.
Archaeological evidence shows that the African wild cat was domesticated in about 7500 BCE, and the earliest known proof of pet cats dates back to 1200 BCE in Ancient Greece.
Across the millennia, the species has undergone only a minor transformation in anatomy and behavior and is not incapable of surviving in the wild. Adaptive features in their domestication account only for their small size, body language, love of play, social behavior, and higher levels of intelligence.
Here are some interesting facts about cats:
- Cats are solitary hunters and feeders, and lions are the only members of the cat family who hunt and eat in groups.
- Unlike domesticated felines, in the wild, cats may eat up to 10 small meals a day.
- Cats have superior night vision and need just 1/6th of the light that humans need to see in the dark.
- The slit pupils in its eye help to focus on bright light without color changes.
- They have relatively poor color vision and are more sensitive to yellowish-green and blue rather than red.
- Their hearing is better than a dog’s
- They have socio-spatial cognitive abilities that allow them to mentally map their owner’s location based on voice.
- Cats have an acute sense of smell.
- Taste buds are fewer than humans, and they cannot taste the sweetness.
- They have temperature preferences for food and like their food to be in the range of 100°F, which signifies freshly-caught prey.
- Their digestive system is simple like that of humans.
- They are most active at night, hunting small rodents and birds.
- Territories range between 17-69 acres
- They conserve energy as they grow older by sleeping more.
- The human owner functions as a surrogate for the cat mother
- Social bonding is enabled through scent rubbing against the object or person.
- Both feral and house-cats need several small meals a day.
- Play is a representation of hunting behavior.
- Some cats live in their 30s, but their average life span is around 15 years.
- There are lots of superstitions about cats in almost every culture, with some seeing them as objects of worship and others as bringers of bad luck.
Right Feeding Facts When Cat Became Hungry
Here’s the lowdown on diet, feeding, and nutritional requirements of cats.
The average cat depending on age, size and breed, requires about 200 calories a day. The problem is that, like most pet animals, they are not the best judges of how much is enough. Cats would love to graze and nibble all day long if they’re allowed to.
If food is ever-present in their bowls, they would certainly not mew “No!” Pet parents tend to indulge and overfeed them, which causes a range of problems such as obesity, kidney, heart and joint disease, and diabetes.
Though your vet would recommend specific meal times, some cats are picky about how much and what they will eat. In such cases, leaving certain types of food on their plates gives them choices about time and quantity of feeding. Restricting food too much can make them aggressive.
The other big question is about treats. All cats love them, and we love to watch them enjoy these special tidbits. However, vets opine that treats should be monitored carefully and not constitute more than 5-10% of the daily calorie requirements.
Is Vegetarian or Vegan Suitable When My Cat Became Hungry?
The short answer is no! They may be OK for you or perhaps even your dog, but your cat’s diet has to include certain essential vitamins, minerals, and proteins that are available only in meats.
Cats are “obligate carnivores,” which means they need amino acids and proteins in their diets that come only from meat-based diets.
Certain proteins such as taurine are not produced in the cat’s physiology and must be ingested from their food. Beef, chicken, and fish are particularly rich sources of taurine, without which cats become vulnerable to potentially fatal heart diseases. Cats may also have difficulties processing excessive carbohydrates.
Dilated Cardiomyopathy is one of the risks that cats can be vulnerable to if they’re deprived of protein-rich diets. The heart muscles become weak and unable to pump blood to the rest of the body.
Some specialty cat-food companies offer taurine-enriched vegan food, but it’s generally wiser to avoid vegetarian and vegan foods for your kitty.
Whatever your own personal food choices, organizations such as the ASPCA recommend that you ensure a cat-specific feeding program for the health, growth, wellness, and longevity of your furry friend.
Foods To Avoid When Cat Became Hungry
Stay far away from these foods because they can be toxic or at least uncomfortable and upsetting to your cat. You may be surprised to find some of the items on this list, but experts warn about these:
- Paracetamol and ibuprofen
- Flowers such as lilies
- Grapes and raisins
- Fat trimmings
- Raw meat, fish, and eggs
- Tea, coffee, and sodas
- Unbaked bread dough
- Citrus fruits
- Coconut and coconut water
- Turkey or chicken bones
- Salt in large amounts
Canned, Wet Foods and Dry Foods When Cat Became Hungry
Cat experts recommend a combination of both wet and dry foods for cats. Most commercially available packaged foods are nutritionally balanced, well preserved, and free of toxic ingredients. They are specifically categorized according to the age, the health status of your cat.
The main difference between dry food and wet food is:
- Moisture level where dry food contains 10% water and 90% dry ingredients
- Canned food contains 70% water
- Canned foods are made from cooking fresh/frozen meats in combination with certain grain-based proteins and vitamins
- They are more expensive and need to be refrigerated once the can is opened
- The shelf-life is 24 hours, so don’t leave it on the plate if your cat hasn’t eaten it completely
- Dry foods contain the same ingredients but under very high temperatures and pressure so that they dry out
- Dry foods contain more carbs
- They are less expensive, easy to store, and can be left out on the plate for a longer time
- Dry foods can be dispensed in automatic feeders or puzzle toys
Best Combination To Solve Problems
For best results, a judicious combination of wet and dry food is the right way to go. Just make sure that you choose a reputed brand. Ensure that the can/package contains an AAFCO statement or approval. Read the ingredient list carefully and pick the right type based on your cat’s age and health status.
As a rule, avoid home-cooked food unless your vet has given you the right recipe options. Pay attention to your furry friend’s individual preferences.
If you notice changes in feeding habits, it could be because of several reasons. Stress can play a major role in the food habits of all living beings. Perhaps you’ve got a new pet or a new baby, house-guests, or perhaps you’re planning to travel, and you’ve started packing.
Perhaps someone died, or there’s conflict in the family. You may have changed the bowl or the brand of food. Your kitty has an amazing ability to sense changes in their little world, and the responses are usually behavior or food-related.
Unless your cat is a picky and finicky eater, changes in behavior could be relatfed to external factors. Once you identify them and make the necessary adjustments, kitty will be back to eating normally. If not, talk to your vet.
What’s Best When Cat Became Hungry? Meal Feeding vs Free Feeding
Some parents prefer to set down specific feeding times, known as “meal feeding.” This routine is similar to what humans have in terms of a breakfast-lunch-dinner schedule. The biggest plus point is that you can monitor the intake accurately and judge whether there have been any changes in feeding behavior.
If you have several cats, set mealtimes to ensure that all of them get an equal amount without dominant ones hogging the lion’s share. However, be prepared for your kitties to be needing the occasional between-meal snacks and treats.
Kittens need three complete meals a day, while grown cats need two. Let them have their own food and water stations in quiet places that don’t get crowded. Cats are solitary eaters and also prefer to use the litter when no one’s around.
On the other hand, many vets advocate free-feeding. This is a good option if you’re out of the house over extended periods and allows the cat to eat on its own schedule and pace. However, only dry food should be left on the plate and not for more than a day, leading to over-eating. If you have several cats, you may not be able to tell which cat is eating too much or too little.
When Your Cat Became Hungry: Tips and Tricks
- Consult your vet for advice on type, brand, amount of food, and scheduling.
- Avoid foods with buzzword marketing labels such as ancestral, primitive, native, wild, etc.
- Cats must be fed according to life stage: kitten, adult, or senior.
- Their nutritional needs change with age, time, and health condition.
- Cat food should be low on carbs and high on meat proteins. Otherwise, it can cause malnutrition, GI tract and organ issues, or obesity.
- If your cat begs for human food, ensure that it’s safe for them to eat, such as baked fish or meat without butter, spices or salt, cooked egg, etc., after consulting your vet.
- Separate sleeping, eating, and kitty-litter areas into distinct places.
- Cats love to watch their surroundings while eating to keep an eye out for predators or enemies, but it should be a quiet and safe place.
- Odor plays a major role in feeding – it’s best to use ceramic or glass dishes that don’t absorb and retain stale odors.
- Provide a regular fill of fresh water in a water bowl, or check if they love to drink from a fountain or faucet.
- Your cat may not like their whiskers slopping into the food, so adjust the shape and size of the bowl.
- Clean the water and food bowls thoroughly.
- Provide treats in toys or puzzles that give enough intellectual stimulation.
- A combination of meal-feeding and free-feeding works well, so you don’t have to stick exclusively to one type.
- Cats may need between 20-30 minutes to finish a meal.
- If you need to change the feeding schedule for some reason, try to introduce changes gradually.
- If you plan to offer a new food, try offering it in the regular food bowl.
- Keep a keen eye for changes in food habits.
- If your cat loves to graze, measure out the day’s quota of food and then serve it out in small portions throughout the day.
- Use measuring cups or scales to get the quantity right.
- Invest in good quality wet food and use dry food as treats or additional supplements.
Cat Became Hungry but Needed To Be Healthy
Once you observe and analyze your cat’s behavior, needs and preferences, it’s easy to adapt your feeding schedules to them. Keep a few useful tips and tricks to ensure that they’re getting the right quality and quantity of food, based on their unique requirements. 14th October is celebrated throughout the country as National Pet Obesity Awareness Day. It reminds us that we need to keep our kitties trim and at the ideal weight because overweight felines risk several lifestyle and chronic diseases.