How We Trained Our Cats to Finish Meals in Under 10 Minutes
Updated: Jun 15
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When we adopted our first cat Mikita, we wanted to feed him differently than our pets growing up. We decided to create mealtimes, remove the all-you-can-eat buffet and only offer moisture rich food. We moved from canned to raw food and have been feeding fresh raw meals for years!
Raw food may not be attainable for everyone, but if you have the desire to incorporate a healthier food, there are options. Bottom line is, feed what you can afford and always incorporate moisture into their diet. The most important thing is your cat is loved and us as cat parents continue to learn about their needs so we can provide the best our budget allows.
If you are interested in creating mealtimes to better support your cat's metabolism, read on!
In addition to having our resident cats who are very used to mealtimes, we do bring in foster cats. These cats are typically used to having access to food all the time. Cats are natural hunters and obligate carnivores. Their bodies are designed to catch and consume moisture rich meat quickly. Unfortunately we've been sold convenience in the form of kibble and timed feeders. This eliminates the mealtime bond between cats and their humans. Kibble also puts cats into a constant mild state of dehydration. Even with water bowls, cats don't drink enough to make up for the water lost in their food. This is a huge reason we only feed meat based moisture rich foods. Many pet parents are going back to mealtimes and eliminating the all-you-can-eat buffets and timed feeders in an effort to have a better pulse on their cat's eating habits.
In my experience, it usually takes a few days to two weeks to get a cat fully acclimated to mealtimes. If your cat is over or underweight, take special precaution when deciding how much your cat needs to eat. Talk to your veterinarian to determine what they need in a day. Then, divide that into meals.
Remove the all-you-can-eat buffet. If we have a kibble addicted foster cat we'll portion out small kibble meals with the goal of eliminating it all together. This helps them get used to mealtimes. In the beginning, I prefer offering around 5 meals a day, or more. Unless we're in a special situation I'll remove any uneaten food after 20 minutes. This shows the cat that food is not available 24/7. A little hunger is good and helps encourage them to try new foods. Keep in mind that cats can develop Hepatic Lipidosis (fatty liver disease) if they go on a food strike. They can't go days without eating so we must always make sure they eat something. Since our goal is to move to a healthier moisture rich food, we move slow. Small meals help.
At the same time we'll introduce canned or raw food. We love Darwin's Pet Food because it's a pre-made raw cat food that we just defrost, scoop and serve! Interested in trying a fresh food for your cat? Darwin's 10 lb intro for $14.95. Use code: CHICAGO for a free gift. Free delivery straight to your door. Meat tubes (most cats seem to love Churu's) and different types of canned foods are helpful to make the process exciting and delicious for a cat. We'll use their favorites to our advantage as we go through the mealtime training process. If using canned food, my preference is always a high quality canned like Tiki Cat, Ziwi Peak, or any high quality meat focused canned food. Truthfully, during the process of transitioning to a healthier food and mealtimes, I will feed a cat just about anything. The most important thing is getting a cat onto meals that they'll finish. Quality of the food can always be improved later.
Once a cat is finishing their small meals, we'll decrease the amount of meals per day. From 5 to 4 to 3 and maybe even down to 2 meals a day. If you're home, many cats would love 3-5 small meals a day! If not, most cats do well on 2. If you are concerned about being gone for long hours during the day, consider hiding a couple snack filled toys for them to hunt. Another snack mouse here. Rather than putting nutrient deficient treats in them, consider a freeze dried balanced cat food , an air dried option or a high meat content kibble. Personally, if we're gone for 14 hours, we don't feed our cats during that time. They'll be fine. But, if I absolutely had to, I'd reach for a nutrient dense option over a cheap kibble or treats with fillers.
The best part about creating mealtimes is everyone always knows what to expect! We clean up when we're done and never have to worry about one cat over or under eating. This has been helpful when we have cat sitters and as our family has grown with fosters and a human baby.