There are two basic ways you can feed your dog or cat: “free choice” or regular scheduled mealtimes. While there is no right or wrong way to feet your pet, there are benefits to feeding your dog or cat at a regular scheduled time rather than allowing them to graze on food all day long.
The free-feeding method is where you leave a full bowl of pet food out for your pet to eat whenever they choose. The benefit to this method is that it is convenient – you only have to make sure the bowl is full, but do not have to be home for scheduled meal times. For some pets, knowing that food will always be available works well and may lessen food aggression. This type of feeding is best for pets that are able to self-regulate and only eat when hungry. However, many pets with food available around the clock tend to overeat, leading to obesity. Additionally, it may take longer to notice that your pet is not feeling well and has stopped eating.
There are several benefits to feeding your pet at regular, scheduled meal times. You control how much your pet eats, and you can easily monitor how much each pet is eating and adjust accordingly; consequently, you will notice much earlier if your pet stops eating. Your pet learns to anticipate and look forward to mealtimes. On the downside, you may inadvertently feed your pet too little.
If you select scheduled mealtimes, you should pick up any uneaten food within about 30 minutes. Watch how much and how quickly your pet eats: if you pet consistently leaves food in the bowl, you can reduce the amount you feed. If your pet seems ravenous and finishes his food quickly, increase the amount you feed.
I feed both of my cats on a regular schedule with a feeding in the morning and in the evening, and enjoy watching them eat with gusto. I also have a baby scale and weigh both cats about once a month to make sure they are not gaining or losing weight. The bottom line is to choose the feeding method that works best for your pet and your household.
What feeding method do you use with your pet?