This article first appeared on iCatCare here.
Cats are pure hunters. The fashionable home cat (Felis catus) is probably going descended from a small North African wildcat (Felis sylvestris lybica) that selected to stay near people due to the abundance of rodents drawn to meals shops in settlements within the Middle East.
Wild dwelling cats spend about 70% of their each day actions on feeding-related behaviours. They’ll hunt irrespective of how well-fed they’re, as a result of lower than 50% of makes an attempt to catch prey are profitable. In order to make sure that they’ve sufficient energy to outlive and thrive, they should be opportunistic and might’t afford to attend till they’re hungry to hunt. Their pure prey is proscribed to what they’ll catch alone, which tends to be small rodents. Each small rodent usually supplies about 8% of their calorific wants, so that they eat small however frequent meals.
Modern home cats have hardly modified in look or behaviour from their early ancestors. They are tailored to a looking life-style and are obligate carnivores, that means that solely the vitamins present in animal tissue meet their particular wants. The method that some pet cats stay, and the way they receive and eat meals, isn’t consultant of how they might naturally accomplish that. Obtaining meals, the exercise that they’d usually dedicate a lot of their day to, is finished for them and brought out of their management, and this will negatively influence their welfare.
Fortunately, there are many ways in which feeding may be made extra participating and stimulating for pet cats, and as soon as we’ve checked out among the potential issues, we’ll take a look at some options.
Problems with feeding within the human world
- Confinement in small houses and gardens, or dwelling completely indoors, probably with different cats who could also be non-compatible, can take away their alternative and talent to eat meals in a pure method.
- It may be tough to establish when their wants aren’t met due to their impartial, solitary nature and the way they convey.
- Food chosen by house owners will not be wholly appropriate, e.g. unbalanced or much less nutritious home-prepared, uncooked or grain free diets and vegetarian or vegan regimes.
- Owners could method feeding from a human perspective. For instance, social consuming with different pets or human members of the family, they could not recognise the necessity for cats to really feel protected while consuming and have house and solitude, or they could overfeed them.
- Their supply of meals and water could also be in ‘double diners’, single bowls which have a division for every, that is perhaps too near toileting areas. When given the selection, cats will drink recent, clear water that’s separated from consuming or toileting areas.
- Obesity as a result of:
- Inappropriate diets
- Lack of exercise
- Lack of house or shops for pure behaviours
- Owners not preserving appropriate feeding routines
- Lack of information of regular weight and physique circumstances of pet cats.
All, or any, of this stuff could also be sources of misery, which might result in poor welfare, and probably to unwell well being.
An vital a part of feeding cats appropriately is offering the correct surroundings, so that they really feel snug while consuming. International Cat Care’s ‘5 pillars for a wholesome cat life-style’ present what is critical for a wholesome feeding surroundings.
- Provision of a protected place:
Cats ought to have quiet, calm areas, with out social strain the place they’ll eat out of sight of different cats.
- Provision of a number of and separated key environmental sources:
Cats must have alternative and management, with free and speedy entry to what they need or want. Ideally, there must be two or three feeding and watering areas for every cat within the residence. These must be away from toileting areas, entry factors to the house and significantly busy areas.
- Provision of alternative for play and predatory behaviour:
Cats want the psychological and bodily stimulation they might usually get by way of looking. This may be replicated in quite a lot of methods which might be mentioned in additional element beneath.
- Provision of optimistic, constant and predictable human-cat social interplay:
Cats have particular person preferences as to what kind of contact they’ve while feeding. Some could like firm or for play to be integrated, whereas others desire to be alone, or to independently forage. Being delicate to this helps cats to really feel extra snug and comfortable.
- Provision of an surroundings that respects the significance of the cat’s sense of odor:
Avoiding robust scents, for instance fragrance, round meals and feeding will helps cats to really feel extra relaxed while consuming. Creating appetising aromas by warming meals may help entice cats to eat who could in any other case have a decreased urge for food. Using plastic bowls for meals or water may put cats off consuming as they’ll retain the scent of washing up chemical substances or outdated meals.
Feeding cats creatively
Being fed in a bowl in the identical location on daily basis removes the psychological and bodily stimulation that cats would have while looking. A scarcity of alternative for cats to work together with the surroundings can result in boredom, which can become apathy or nervousness and might result in the event of drawback behaviour.
The method that cats play is just like how they hunt, and this can be utilized to assist them expend power, have enjoyable and be mentally stimulated when feeding. Playing with a wand toy in a ‘mouse-like’ method, or flicking a light-weight rolling toy or paper ball, after which ending the sport with a ‘kill’, comparable to a scatter feed or meals puzzle toy, may be enjoyable and supply train and psychological stimulation.
Puzzle feeders are an effective way to for cats to obtain meals in a method that promotes bodily exercise and drawback fixing. There are an enormous vary of various puzzle feeders that may be purchased or made at residence simply and cheaply. They may be so simple as a small quantity of dry meals wrapped up in a chunk of paper that the cat can work out how you can get into, or a easy hide-and-seek sport. Even probably the most primary of those give cats extra stimulation than consuming from a bowl. An important useful resource, together with some concepts for home-made puzzles, is the ‘meals puzzles for cats’ web site that may be accessed here
Puzzle feeders must be launched progressively, so the cat can get used to them and learn the way they work. Whilst they’re adapting to their use, a few of their each day meals allowance ought to nonetheless be given within the technique that they’re acquainted with, and putting some dry meals across the puzzle feeder helps to encourage curiosity and creates an affiliation between the feeder and meals.
More details about utilizing puzzle feeders may be present in our article here
Using selection in the place they’re fed and the way they’re fed permits cats to make use of completely different bodily and cognitive abilities. For instance, puzzles that encourage use of the nostril or paws, and to push, pull and rip, can mirror the number of abilities they should catch prey while looking. It’s vital to make sure that all strategies of feeding are inside every particular person cat’s capabilities they usually can take pleasure in them with out being scared or pissed off.
If there are a number of folks feeding a cat, it could typically be tough to maintain observe of when, or what number of occasions, they’ve been fed, and cats could point out that they need meals even when they could not want it. Using conveniently positioned markers that point out ‘fed’ or ‘feed’ may help keep away from overfeeding and overeating.
As talked about earlier, cats have naturally tailored to consuming little and sometimes and this must be mirrored within the feeding patterns of pet cats. Feline consultants in veterinary medication, behaviour and well being at International Cat Care have created a feeding plan that divides meals into 5 each day parts.
A brief model of this feeding plan may be discovered here
Technology may assist cats feed successfully. Automated feeding techniques may be set to a timer that dispense meals a number of occasions a day when an proprietor isn’t round to take action. There are additionally feeders accessible which have microchip entry and are related to apps that aid you to regulate their feeding habits.
Understanding the methods wherein home cats have tailored to feed naturally, and the way some generally accepted feeding practises are at odds with this, make it simpler to make changes that may profit pet cats. Many of the strategies involving artistic feeding are a possibility to work together along with your cat in a method that’s enjoyable for each events they usually may help cats to stay comfortable and wholesome.
Visit our Shop for top-quality cat toys and cat lover merchandise!
I’m the feline behaviour specialist at feline charity ‘International Cat Care’. We are about participating, educating and empowering folks all through the world to enhance the well being and welfare of cats by sharing recommendation, coaching and fervour.