How often should you feed your cat?

Obesity is a major problem in modern pet cats, leading to the inevitable problem of figuring out how much to a feed your cat and when. Unlike dogs, cats’ bodies and digestive systems have changed very little from their wild ancestors, the African and European Wildcats. A wild cat or a feral cat eats 10-15 times a day, mini-meals consisting of as little as a few insects or as much as a rabbit. Small cats are superb predators, and successfully make a kill in 60% of their attempts! Large cats, like lions and tigers, are very different than small cats – they hunt large prey that is difficult to catch, so they gorge and fast. Since small cats are designed to eat small amounts frequently, their bodies handle fueling very differently than a human being’s does, or even a dog’s does.

Gluconeogenesis is the process by which food is converted into glucose (which is actually what fuels the brain and kidneys, among other important organs). In most animals (human beings and dogs included), this process takes place after we have eaten, digested, and absorbed the nutrients in our food. However, since cats are designed to eat many small meals, they are in a constant state of gluconeogenesis, much like a cow or other ruminant who also eats many times per day. That way, their bodies are ready to speed nutrients to the brain whenever they eat.

Since cats are always ready to create glucose, they use more base energy than species that can turn this process on and off. Fasting is dangerous to cats because their livers (where the enzymes for gluconeogenesis are created and stored) can go haywire when not supplied with food, causing things like hepatic lipidosis (a disease where fat is deposited on the liver when it should not be) to happen. Dogs and humans, both species that turn gluconeogenesis on and off, do not have this response to fasting – we utilize our fat reserves very efficiently and only turn to muscle mass when we have no fat left. Cats, on the other hand, begin breaking their bodies down very quickly when fasting.

Therefore, the ‘ideal’ feeding method for small cats is 12-15 tiny meals – not exactly ideal for the human side of the equation. So, we need to begin to compromise. Once you know how about how many calories your cat needs per day (around 30 calories per pound of healthy body weight) you can do multiple feedings of canned or raw food (either using a timed feeder or if you happen to be home) or you can do a morning and evening ‘main meal’ of canned

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