I have a 2 year old long haired cat. Due to my hectic schedule with school and work, I leave her dry food down for her to eat all day. Also, she had an issue before where she wasn’t getting enough moist food in her diet and because she was long haired, she had trouble passing her stools. Because of that incident, I have been feeding her wet food everyday as well.
She definitely does not eat meals, as I watch her return to her dry food bowl at least every 1 hour to snack. I always leave her dry food out because I figure she is more of a snacker than a meal eater and I fear picking her food up and then when she returns to her bowl, she would have nothing to eat.
It is important to note that her wet food is not left out all day. I give her wet food around the same time every day, so she is already used to that.
What do you recommend? Is grazing bad for my cat? Should I get her accustomed to meals? If so, HOW?
Getting your cat on some sort of schedule is ideal. Since your schedule changes from day to day, figuring out some times you can stick to may be the hardest part of it. Feeding twice a day should be adequate, especially if you can keep those times close to 12 hours apart (10-14 hours is fine). I usually recommend feeding a little wet food twice a day (at least ¼ of a 5.5 oz can, ideally closer to ½ a can). Put out her daily allowance of dry food after the morning feeding of wet food. If you’re feeding ¼ can, offer up to ½ cup of dry, if you’re feeding ½ can, offer up to ¼ cup of dry. Obviously, keep an eye on her weight and adjust amounts accordingly, but that’s usually a good start for a healthy, average-sized cat. Keep in mind that cats are all about texture and wet food comes in pâtés, minces, morsels, stews, shreds, and flakes. Try them all to see if there’s a texture she prefers before deciding she isn’t motivated to eat a canned food! If you stick to the schedule, she will (eventually) adjust to it.
Making sure she has adequate play time before meals can inspire her to eat as well. “Hunt, eat, sleep” is the basic pattern of a cat’s natural cycle, so getting some good cardio in before meal times can help her get used to the new schedule. If you’re worried about her grazing, consider offering her dry food in a SlimCat Feeder Ball or a Doorway Dangli that dispenses kibble or treats as your cat plays with it. She can still “graze” but will have to work (hunt, catch, kill) for her food. If she isn’t toy motivated, you can also try placing small amounts of dry food in various areas around your home (on top of book shelves, window sills, etc.) so she has to at least hunt for her food. Enrichment, exercise and a healthy diet are huge parts of having a healthy cat and a healthy relationship with our cats. I hope these tips are helpful! If you ever find yourself near a Chuck & Don’s, stop on in to chat with an associate about the variety of food-dispensing and enrichment toys for cats!