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Encouraging cats to hunt

Q: We keep the cat food bowl full, and our cats eat whenever they wish. The problem is they are fat. Should we instead feed them two meals per day?

A: Let’s back up and think about how cats like to eat.

Pet cats maintain many of their wild behaviors even as they deign to let us humans domesticate them. They still like to hunt and forage for food, eat small meals frequently, and dine alone somewhere they’re safe from other cats, dogs, humans and noise.

When pets have little environmental stimulation, eating becomes the day’s most exciting activity. It’s not surprising that many cats are overweight when you consider that their food is readily available, tasty and easy to eat.

Moreover, many cats are stressed when eating in the company of others, so they fill up fast. Others may gorge and vomit, or eat so little they are underweight.

I suggest you encourage your cats to hunt for their food. Offer them multiple small meals by hiding kibble around your home and frequently changing the locations. Put some food in puzzle feeders that require manipulation to get to the food. Look online for designs you can make or purchase.

All food stations should be away from litter boxes, children and noise. Place at least one on a counter with a chair adjacent to it. If these changes don’t help your cats lose weight, it’s time to consult your veterinarian.

Editor’s Note: Cat toys aren’t all for fun. Did you know cat toys can help stimulate a cat’s natural instincts and help them lose weight? Here are some everyday practical cat toy ideas.

Lee Pickett, V.M.D. practices companion animal medicine. Contact her at

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