You may have heard about the study from the University of Guelph (Ontario, Canada). The researchers say that feeding your cat once a day with the same quantity of food that you would have given them over the entire 24 hours, improves their health. They suggest that a once-a-day feeding to some extent mimics a mild form of fasting and fasting improves health. This is a known benefit in people. So I think that this one meal a day suggestion is partly based upon the concept of intermittent fasting to improve health.
|Does once a day feeding mimic wild and feral cat feeding? I think not. |
Photo in public domain.
The researchers say that when you feed a domestic cat once-a-day they have higher levels of protein in their blood, leaner bodies and higher levels of hormones which are linked to appetite regulation. The regime allows cats to build more protein and improve muscle mass. The cats are more satisfied with their food and they are less likely to beg for food throughout the day.
The once-a-day feeding goes against the general consensus of all cat experts. The general feeling is that domestic should be fed several times a day with small amounts. The stomach is small and therefore small and frequent amounts is the better policy. I would suggest that the stomach size of cat is a barrier to feeding one large meal in 24 hours. A domestic cat's stomach is the size of a ping-pong ball approximately. How can you provide them with 24-hours of nutrients with a stomach that size?
I get the message about fasting and the improvements that it might bring but I think in practical terms and in the sense that it goes against the general consensus, this advice is probably a nonstarter. It may apply to certain cats and it certainly may help obese cats. We know that obesity is widespread amongst the domestic population in the West.
Another practical aspect of this advice is that the majority of cat owners, I would suggest, allow their cats to free feed on dry cat food. This is not good but it happens. It is convenient. To ask these cat owners to go to once-a-day feeding with wet cat food may be too big a call. The transference from dry to wet would benefit their cats, however. There are health negatives associated with dry cat food and health positives linked to wet cat food. Some of the current major feline health problems are arguably linked to their diet and obesity.
The study concerned 80 healthy cats. One group was fed four times a day for three weeks. A second group was fed just once a day with the same amount of food. For another three weeks the participants were switched over. The researchers monitored their health outcomes, metabolism, physical activity and body weight. The admit that their suggestion goes against the grain and say that the regime should be considered on an individual cat basis.