BARKS from the Guild January 2021

Page 46

f e l i n e

Eat, PURR, Love Andrea Carne investigates how feeding regimes can help meet feline behavioral needs, particularly those of indoor cats, while deliberating the findings of a recent study on the same topic


ead the next sentence very carefully (and with a large pinch of salt): Feeding your cat one meal a day might be best. I can almost hear the gasps from cat guardians across the world! “Feed my cat once a day? Are you crazy?” I hear you say. “What do I do when I get the 5 a.m. ‘wake up and feed me’ paw in the face? Calmly explain that there’ll be no food until 6 p.m.?” And I can also imagine what feline behavior specialists may have to say too. For example, Dr. Liz Bales of the PPG Cat Com­ mittee wrote recently in BARKS: “Cats are ex­ quisite hunters. They need to be. One cat needs to hunt, catch, kill, and eat 8­12 mice every single day to stay alive. It takes about 80% of a cat’s waking hours to accomplish this. Nature gave cats a strong innate drive to hunt to ensure they stay alive, even if there is plenti­ ful food (iCatCare, 2019). A cat’s stomach is only the size of a ping­pong ball, just right for a mouse­sized meal, one at a time.” (see Cats: In Crisis, BARKS from the Guild, September 2020). © Can Stock Photo / nataly0288 And yet, a new study suggests just that — Cats have adapted well to domestication but still have an innate need to hunt, scratch, and maintain by claiming that some cats may benefit from territory, among other things being fed just one meal a day. The paper, by Ca­ After all, our domesticated cats of today are not that far removed mara et al. (2020) at the University of Guelph, Canada, was based on a (genetically speaking) from their wild cat forbearers and still carry with study involving a small group of eight healthy adult cats who were fed a them a range of behavioral “tics” that hearken back to that wild ances­ regime of commercial adult maintenance canned cat food either once try. Yes, they have adapted very well to our human­centric worlds, but or four times daily. Subsequent tests were carried out over a 21­day pe­ they still have an innate need to (among other things) hunt, scratch, riod, including monitoring of appetite­regulating hormones, insulin, glu­ maintain territory – and to eat – in ways which resemble how they cose, etc. as well as observation of physical activity levels. would act in the wild. In the end, the study concluded that “feeding once a day may be a In terms of eating, that innate behavior leans towards a preference beneficial feeding management strategy for indoor cats to promote sati­ to eat little and often. Out in the wild, without the luxury of a human ation and lean body mass.” (Camara et al., 2020). feeding them at will, cats rely on their hunting abilities for food. Their Well, that’s all very well but, biological and physiological needs prey is often small – birds, mice etc. – and so they must successfully aside, as a professional cat behavior consultant, I find this study rather capture several of these small items a day to fulfil their appetite, as so troubling in terms of meeting the behavioral needs of cats, particularly eloquently explained by Dr. Bales. This transfers to many of our domes­ those with an indoor­only lifestyle. Apart from the fact that it involved a ticated cats who, when given the choice, will eat small amounts of food very small group of cats who were studied over a relatively short space at several points in time throughout the day, rather than devouring a of time, it, unfortunately, pays no attention to whether the behavioral huge meal all at once. needs of the cats were being met in terms of the feeding regimes.

By providing feeding through things such as puzzle feeders and treasure hunts, you are not only providing your cat with the opportunity to eat little and often, but you are also engaging other important cat behaviors in the form of seeking out food and using their brains to solve problems.


BARKS from the Guild/January 2021

Frequent Feeding Atkinson (2018, p.52) states that “[m]any cats prefer to eat ad­lib or lit­ tle and often, which mimics the natural feeding patterns of wild and feral cats that are most likely to kill and eat several small prey animals at varying intervals throughout the day and night.” But, despite this, the Camara study makes the following conclusion: “Overall, feeding cats once per day presents several promising out­ comes to improve the quality of life of indoor cats, as feeding regimen could reduce the incidence of obesity in cats, by controlling appetite

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Articles inside

BARKS features Sheila S. Blanchette of Heart of Feathers

pages 61-64

investigations into dogs’ experiences at the veterinary clinic

pages 46-49

positive outlook for dog trainers in this new year

pages 59-60

physical, psychological and social needs

page 58

mutual bond

pages 54-57


pages 50-53

remain calm and make good choices

pages 41-45

Trade, webinars, podcasts, and more

pages 14-21

world of training possibilities

pages 38-40

she had ever had, was also her greatest teacher

pages 36-37

allergies and the potential impact on behavior

pages 26-28


pages 8-13

levels and improving overall well-being

pages 22-25


pages 32-33

perfect puppy” not to bark at other dogs

pages 34-35
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