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How to Best Feed your Cat

The American Association of Feline Practitioners recently released its Consensus Statement, ‘Feline Feeding Programs: Addressing Behavioural Needs to Improve Feline Health and Wellbeing’, and accompanying client brochure to the veterinary community.

The Consensus Statement, published in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery, explores the medical, social, and emotional problems that can result from the manner in which most cats are currently fed.

The statement identifies normal feeding behaviours in cats and provides strategies to allow these normal feline feeding behaviours, such as hunting and foraging 
in a solitary fashion, and eating frequent small meals using appropriate puzzle feeders (see foodpuzzlesforcats.com) and multiple food and water stations, to occur in the home environment.

Allowing cats to exhibit these normal feeding behaviours regularly can help alleviate or prevent stress-related issues such as cystitis, and/or obesity-related problems such as inactivity and overeating. 
Modern pet food is highly palatable and easy to eat rapidly, due to its small chunks and kibble formulation. These factors can contribute to overeating and weight gain.

Weight and body condition need to be monitored regularly, especially in cats that are aged or debilitated, or have chronic illnesses or particular needs.
Reducing stress with appropriate feeding programs can also help anxious cats, who in an attempt to avoid other pets in the household, may not access their food frequently enough and lose weight.

“Currently, most pet cats are fed in one location ad libitum or receive one or two large and usually quite palatable meals daily,” Consensus Statement chair Tammy Sadek said.


Feeding plans should include multiple feeding stations that are visually separated.
[6,12]Feeding station placement should consider the agility of each cat (to utilise elevated spaces such as shelves or tables) and dietary needs. Meals can be offered through programmable feeders, some of which utilise individual microchips. Feeding areas can also be separated by baby gates, or by using size-limiting entrances to access the food.[5,24Cats should be fed in locations where they feel safe.[6,12Additionally, feeding stations should not be close to litter boxes[.6,12]

“In addition, many indoor cats have little environmental stimulation, and eating can become an activity in and of itself.

“This current type of feeding process does not address the behavioural needs of cats. Appropriate feeding programs need to be customised for each household and should incorporate the needs of all cats for play, predation, and a location to eat and drink where they feel safe.”


References

5. Buffington, CT, Westropp, JL, Chew, DJ. From FUS to Pandora syndrome: where are we, how did we get here, and where to now? J Feline Med Surg 2014; 16: 385-394.
Google Scholar | SAGE Journals
6. Ellis, S, Rodan, I, Carney, HC. AAFP and ISFM feline environmental needs guidelines. J Feline Med Surg 2013; 15:219-230.
Google Scholar | SAGE Journals | ISI
12. Desforges, EJ, Moesta, A, Farnworth, MJ. Effect of a shelf-furnished screen on space utilisation and social behaviour of indoor group-housed cats (Felis silvestris catus). Appl Anim Behav Sci 2016; 178: 60-68.
Google Scholar | Crossref
24. Ellis, S, Rowe, E. Five-a-Day Felix. A report into improving the health and welfare of the UK’s domestic cats. http://bit.ly/Five-A-DayFelix (2017, accessed January 15, 2018).

OCTOBER 2018
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