Dr. Edward Moser, a board certified veterinary nutritionist, weighs in on pet food nutrition.
Wondering if you should portion-feed your cat or just leave food out? Dr. Moser lends his insights
Free-choice feeding, sometimes referred to as “free-feeding,” typically refers to an owner making food available at all times to the cat, without time or portion constraints. If the cat chooses to eat only the amount of calories it needs per day and shows it by maintaining a lean body weight – this method is acceptable.
If an owner chooses to free-choice feed, but they notice their cat over-consumes, one way to avoid weight gain is to change their food from energy-dense diets, to high-fiber/low calorie formulas such as Healthy Weight or Indoor Health. The calories per cup would be less and cats would feel full, even though they haven’t consumed extra calories. (This is sometimes referred to as bulk-limiting.)
In most cases, with a palatable food and sedentary lifestyle, cats may need to have the amount they are invited to consume each day measured and limited in order to avoid excessive calorie intake and the resulting weight gain.
While this applies to both indoor and outdoor cats, it is important to keep in mind outdoor cats often eat additional things outside, unbeknownst to their owners. Their own version of free-choice feeding! Keep a close eye on your outdoor cat, regulating their weight if they are free-feeding with their kibble as well.
Keep in mind, overweight conditions put cats at increased risk for disease and probably decrease longevity. Be aware of your cat’s weight; body weight is easy to gain and challenging to lose.
The best way to tell if your cat is overweight is by checking the cat. Move your hands along the sides of the body and gently try to feel the ribs. If the cat is within range of its ideal weight, you should be able to easily count the ribs. The ribs should be covered with a layer of fat, but not to an extent that would make it difficult to feel them.
Dr. Edward Moser holds diplomate status with the American College of Veterinary Nutrition, and advanced degrees from the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine (where he is an adjunct assistant professor Veterinary Nutrition) and The Ohio State University.