Free feeding is filling a bowl with pet food and leaving it out for dogs or cats to graze all day. Some pet parents add more food as soon as the bowl starts getting low, while others ration their pet’s required daily amount at the same time each day and the dog or cat can choose to eat the food as they wish throughout the day. While these free feeding practices are easy and convenient for us pet parents, it’s not healthy for our beloved pets. Most Veterinarians and pet professionals agree that serving meals, rather than free feeding is the better option. Here are 6 reasons not to free feed:
- Rancidity. Oxygen causes kibble to become rancid. Most pet parents don’t throw away the few leftover bits and then add “fresh” kibble and mix in the old pieces with the new. Ick!
- Pests. Kibble setting all day attracts bugs, especially in warm climates where bugs are a year-round concern, like in Florida.
- Obesity. Free feeding can lead to obesity and The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention estimates that over 50% of both cats and dogs are obese. Obesity in pets has become an epidemic. Check out more about Pet Weight here: Pet Weight
- Routine. Serving meals rather than free-feeding helps to create a routine for your pet. Just like human children fare better in environments with routines, so do cats and dogs.
- Appetite. If you serve meals, you will immediately be able to tell when something is wrong with your pet’s appetite. Pets who don’t eat, especially when the meals are gently cooked real food handcrafted in small batches from Our Pets’ Kitchen, is a sign of a health concern. When you free feed, it may take days to notice there’s a health concern.
- Manners. Multi-pet households can sometimes have pets who eat more than their fare share. If you free feed, it’s impossible to know how much each pet is eating. Supervised meals are a better option so you can keep track of each pet’s consumption.
Tips for Transitioning to Meals
- Establish the amount to feed. Make sure you know how much food your pet needs each day. All pet foods have different feeding guidelines based on the calories for that particular brand. Make sure you’re using the guidelines for the brand you’re feeding, keeping in mind that these are guidelines only. It’s helpful to monitor how much you feed and keep track of your pet’s weight to know exactly how much you should serve each day and each meal.
- Determine Meal times. Pick set meal times for when you will serve your pet’s meals. We believe at least 2 meals per day is best for most pets. Try to have a 30 minute window in the morning and evening for when you will serve your pet’s meals. Leave the bowl available for your pets to eat for up to 1 hour. If your pet doesn’t eat the food within about 30 minutes to 1 hour you should pick up the food and store it for next time. If it’s Our Pets’ Kitchen gently cooked real food for pets, it probably will only take a few seconds for your pet to finish the meal. If it’s canned food you will want to cover the food and refrigerate. For kibble, discard it or cover it and try to use it one more time at the next meal. If your pet didn’t eat their meal and is a puppy/kitten or senior pet or an underweight pet, try to serve the food again in about an hour. Try not to give in and leave the food sitting. Remember you are trying to transition your pet to meals, rather than free feeding.
- Patience and perseverance. Most pets will make the transition to meals within just a few short days. Some pets may take a little longer. It’s worth all your efforts to embrace this much healthier feeding routine.
Serving meals and supervising your pet’s while they eat can be a bonding time for you and your pets. Your pets won’t miss the grazing and will benefit from an established routine of meal time. As always don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions about your pet’s nutrition.