Disclaimer: I am not a veterinarian or a vet tech. Only an elder with the experiences of 60 years and approximately 75 cats in my care. And about a dozen dogs. Plus, this is more for cats in general good health.
Every once in a while I read a post on Facebook about a cat owner concerned with how much food and what kind to feed their cat. All responses cover the entire spectrum of “take the cat to the vet” to “read the instructions on the label”. The following words are merely my own thoughts on feeding our pets.
Of how some cats “bolt down” their food, only to throw it back up again. To another cat who is “finicky as heck” and will only eat one thing or another, and then change their mind the next day.
An animal who has known severe hunger will eat until they are sick, because they are unsure as to when their next meal will be. Another animal who is finicky has trained their care-giver to offer all kinds of brands and substitutions of a good and proper nutritious meal.
Guess what folks, the answers to both are simple: Feed them what you can afford. OK, that’s too simple and incomplete.
I once fostered a dog who would eat so fast that it all came up just as fast. The vet had given him a clean bill of health, so it was obvious that the dog knew what extreme hunger was. The answer to this problem was easy, it’s called “free feeding”. Where dry dog food is available 24/7. Once he realized that the bowl was never completely empty, the old eating pattern was replaced with a more normal activity.
I have been free-feeding all my cats and dogs “forever” and never once did any of them get fat. They self-regulate: Imagine that. When the weather gets hot they eat less. When winter arrives, they eat more.
A dog will happily eat the same food every day of its life. Cats won’t. But a cat will eat when it gets hungry enough. Yeah, it’s not a good idea to leave an open can of wet cat food out for hours at a time. But dry cat food? Not a problem in the long run.
At a kennel I once worked at, we had one small dog who had his owner totally trained as to what he would eat. So much so that we had to do some pretty crazy things. Like go to a particular fast-food restaurant and buy a supply of “animal burgers” and freeze them. Just simple meat on a bun, nothing else. We would then take one out 3 times a day, put them in the microwave to heat them up, and feed him. Nothing healthy about that.
For myself, it’s free-feed all day every day and night. With 12 cats, indoor and outside in the catio. The “bowls” are actually plastic bins that most people would use in their kitchen sinks to wash dishes. One is in the kitchen by the back door, the outside one is on a table. I have to refill the outside one at least every other day, and the inside one maybe every 3 days. Most of the cats prefer to be outside, and I think there’s a visiting opossum that eats there too once in a while. They also get some canned food in the morning. Not as a meal to fill them up, more as a supplement. It’s a way for me to ensure that they are getting all the nutrition they need. Besides, eating dry food, no matter how many flavors there are, has got to be boring considering their ancestral wild-cat histories. Plus, it lets me do a head-count every morning to know if they are all present to be counted.
Yes, we all know how important fresh water is. If I had my druthers, I’d have a fish pond out there with a fountain, but the price puts that completely out of the question. So large stainless steel dog bowls instead. Where I live there’s no chance of the water getting frozen, so I don’t need a heater for the bowls. But, it does get hot, very hot. So, either ice cubes or frozen ice packs go into the bowls, and the bowls stay in the shade. Another trick that works for me is this: A 50/50 mix of cold water and lactose-free milk as a treat in the heat of the day. As kittens grow into adulthood most of them become “lactose intolerant”. So lactose-free to the rescue. There are some expensive products on the market “just for cats” (cat milk) that sells well but is in my opinion a rip-off. The cats get plenty of Taurine in their regular cat foods, no matter what brand and style you feed them.
Oh, one more thing: Treats are something else, and I’ll write about them later.