Pet nutrition can be confusing. And now a new study about the best way to feed cats is turning feeding time on its head!
Years ago, most people fed cats and dogs once daily. Then we were taught that breaking up a pet’s meals throughout the day is best. Now, Canadian veterinary researchers at the University of Guelph say that the best way to feed cats is just like we did in the old days.
Cats who eat one daily meal are more satisfied
The cat feeding study was done by animal nutrition specialists at Ontario Veterinary College (OVC) and Ontario Agricultural College (OAC). Their research was just published in the veterinary journal PLOS One, and shows that once daily feedings for cats is best.
“These findings may surprise the veterinary community and many cat owners who have been told their animals need several small meals a day,” said study co-author Prof. Adronie Verbrugghe, a veterinarian with OVC’s Department of Clinical Studies, a companion animal nutrition specialist. “But these results suggest there are benefits to this approach.”
According to a Science Daily article, “Feeding Indoor Cats Just Once a Day Could Improve Health,” the study’s co-author Prof. Kate Shoveller, an expert in animal nutrition with U of G’s Department of Animal Biosciences says:
“Previous research has examined the effects of meal frequency on cat behaviour, but this study is the first to use a comprehensive approach analyzing effects on appetite-suppressing hormones, physical activity, energy expenditure and use of energy sources, said .
“There was no good research to back up the several-meals-a-day approach that many owners hear, and so we wanted to put some real data behind current feeding recommendations to be sure they were right for cats.”
During the study, researchers studied eight indoor cats with healthy weight. All were age five or younger and fed the exact same food and quantities. Some had one meal a day, some had four. Scientists then outfitted them with pet activity trackers to keep tabs on their activity throughout the day. Body weight, food intake and each cat’s metabolism was also studied. Here’s what they found:
Feeding Once Daily is the Best Way to Feed Cats Because it:
- Increases satiety (three key “satiety” hormones were higher in cats fed one daily meal)
- Fasting helps burn fat, which can prevent weight gain
- It also boosts protein synthesis, which maintains and builds muscle mass.
The protein and muscle-building boost is a bonus, especially for senior cats. That’s because aging cats (like humans) lose muscle mass in old age, a condition known as sarcopenia. The researchers also pointed out that feeding once daily meals can help reduce begging for food and even promote weight loss in cats who need to drop some pounds.
Of course, more studies need to be done before scientists can say for sure if once daily meals are best. But if that schedule works for your cat, then why not give it a try? Talk to your vet first, of course.
For a detailed explanation, read the entire Science Daily article. For the entire study see the PLOS One publication, “The daytime feeding frequency affects appetite-regulating hormones, amino acids, physical activity, and respiratory quotient, but not energy expenditure, in adult cats fed regimens for 21 days”
How often do you feed your cat? Will you change your cat’s feeding routine based on this study? Comment below, we would love to read your thoughts!