Experts at the charity International Cat Care have recently developed a feeding plan, based on scientific evidence, to help mimic the way cats eat in the wild and so provide both physical and mental stimulation for cats. The plan encourages cats to hunt, explore, climb and play – activities which boost cats’ positive behaviour and wellbeing.
Developed by scientists Dr. Sarah Ellis and Dr. Lizzie Rowe at International Cat Care, the plan also helps to prevent overeating and promote a balance between energy intake and energy output, in order to avoid weight gain, as well as encouraging weight loss in overweight cats.
It is estimated that there are 10 million pet cats in the UK, and current scientific data suggests that 39 – 52% of these cats are overweight or obese. This is a problem because being overweight or obese is a major health and welfare issue, and can ultimately lead to an early death in cats.
Research shows that current feeding practices are contributing to this obesity epidemic, with a number of factors associated with a cat’s modern lifestyle leading to overeating. For example, most cats need little or no exertion to obtain their food, making it more likely that the calories they take in through eating will outweigh the calories they use up through exercise (leading to weight gain). Furthermore, the way we feed our cats generally does not match the lifestyle they were designed for, resulting in a lack of mental stimulation and reduced opportunity to express natural, instinctive hunting behaviours. This can lead to boredom, apathy, anxiety, frustration and stress in cats, resulting in reduced wellbeing and potentially the development of problem behaviours.
Dr. Sarah Ellis, Feline Behaviour Specialist, said: ‘By making a few simple changes to the way we feed our cats, we can help them to live longer, healthier and happier lives.’
Cat owner, Tim Lloyd, 35, from Surrey, who tried out the feeding plan, commented: ‘I’ve had my cat Colin on the plan for three weeks now and he is definitely more lively, inquisitive and healthy.’
The plan recommends:
- Giving cats five or more small portions of food a day (rather than feeding fewer, bigger portions)
- Using puzzle feeders
- Changing food location regularly
- Spreading feeding across the 24-hour period (using timed feeders and puzzle feeders)
- Monitoring cats’ behaviour and weight
A detailed version of the feeding plan, along with the full report behind the development of the plan, can be found on International Cat Care’s website: https://icatcare.org/advice/general-care/keeping-your-cat-healthy/feeding-your-cat-or- kitten