Feeding management

Things to consider about feeding management include when, where, and how to feed pets.  Pet can be fed on many schedules, from once a day to continuously (ad libitum), based on lifestage, conditions and owner wishes.  Dogs naturally eat a smaller number of meals per day than do cats, who may kill and eat prey 10-20 times in 24 hours to meet their needs in the wild.  Basically, whatever frequency accommodates the owner’s schedule and permits the pet to remain in a moderate body condition can work.  One also can vary the amount of food offered at each meal.  For example, an owner can feed a smaller meal in the morning before leaving for work if the pet is to be kenneled to avoid kennel soiling, followed by a larger meal later in the day when the pet can be released to relieve itself.

Feeding location is another consideration, especially for cats. Domestic cats are a prey, as well as a predator, species, so they are at their most vulnerable when eating, drinking, or eliminating.  If frightened while engaged in these activities, they may avoid these resource locations later.  To avoid this, place food resources away from machinery that can start up unexpectedly or areas where the cat may be startled or trapped. 

While pets traditionally have been fed from bowls, the current “captive” or “zoo” animal status of the many pets confined to the indoors or restricted outdoor areas has led to consideration of using food puzzles.  A food puzzle is any object containing food that requires the pet to work to find a way to obtain the food.  Food puzzles are intrinsically rewarding objects that stimulate pets’ mental and physical activity, which can benefit both health and welfare.  Food puzzles can contain part or all of the pet’s daily food; either frozen canned food that slowly melts and becomes available or dry food may be used.  Another variation for dogs is to smear some peanut butter (which contains 100 Calories per tablespoon, so use mindfully) just inside the opening of a hollow chew toy.  There are many brands and types of food puzzles available; more information about their use for dogs is available here: http://www.animalbehavior.net/Library/AllPets/PPM/PetfoodPuzzles_BoardingDogCat.htm .

We also recommend following safe pet food and treat handling practices.