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News Article

Feeding cats: how to meet behavioural needs

AAFP consensus statement provides strategies to allow normal feline feeding behaviours to occur in the home environment

The American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) has released a Consensus Statement, Feline Feeding Programs: Addressing Behavioral Needs to Improve Feline Health and Wellbeing, together with an accompanying client brochure. The Consensus Statement, published in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery, explores the medical, social, and emotional problems that can result from the manner in which cats are currently fed. According to the AAFP, how cats are fed is an often-overlooked aspect of feline health.

This Consensus Statement identifies normal feeding behaviours in cats. It provides strategies to allow these normal feline feeding behaviours, such as hunting and foraging, and eating frequent small meals in a solitary fashion, to occur in the home environment - even in a multi-pet home. Allowing cats to exhibit these normal feeding behaviours regularly, can help alleviate or prevent stress-related issues such as cystitis, and/or obesity-related problems such as inactivity and overeating. Reducing stress with appropriate feeding programmes can also help anxious cats, who in an attempt to avoid other pets in the household, may not access the food frequently enough and lose weight.

"Currently, most pet cats are fed in one location ad libitum, or receive one or two large and usually quite palatable meals daily. In addition, many indoor cats have little environmental stimulation, and eating can become an activity in and of itself," says the Consensus Statement's chair, Tammy Sadek. "This current type of feeding process does not address the behavioural needs of cats. Appropriate feeding programmes need to be customized for each household, and should incorporate the needs of all cats for play, predation, and a location to eat and drink where they feel safe."

The Consensus Statement offers useful strategies for cat caregivers to understand feeding preferences and provide the proper environment for feeding that makes cats happier and helps them avoid overfeeding or underfeeding. The Consensus Statement also highlights the importance of feeding programmes, which should be designed to consider whether they are indoor-only or have outdoor access, live in multi-pet households, or are aged or debilitated. These feeding programmes in many cases include offering frequent small meals using appropriate puzzle feeders, forage feeding (putting food in different locations), multiple food and water stations, and in some instances, automatic feeders.

Consensus Statement: Feline Feeding Programs: Addressing behavioral needs to improve feline health and wellbeing by Tammy Sadek (chair), Beth Hamper, Debra Horwitz, Ilona Rodan, Elizabeth Rowe and Eliza Sundahl, published in Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery, online 30 October 2018, doi: 10.1177/1098612X18791877

Article details

  • Date
  • 31 October 2018
  • Source
  • AAFP
  • Subject(s)
  • Dogs, Cats, and other Companion Animals