A natural diet would require hunting for several hours a day and the consumption of as many as a dozen small rodents. How many cats living naturally eat twice a day from a predictable source? Cats spend up to six hours a day hunting, foraging, stalking, catching and consuming prey. The availability of food twice a day, or even “ad lib,” in a food bowl in the kitchen, does not represent any kind of challenge whatsoever. The normal feeding regime for the average pet cat potentially leaves a void of five hours and fifty minutes that it needs to fill with other activities. The time is often filled with sleep in an otherwise static and uninteresting environment. Exciting and stimulating challenges utilizing moist or wet food is going to be difficult since I wouldn’t suggest for one moment that you secrete a bowl of canned food in the bottom of your wardrobe for your cat to “hunt.” The possibilities, however, are endless if you are feeding a dry preparation. The idea of “food foraging” works on the principle that obtaining smaller amounts of food more frequently in a variety of locations represents a more natural way of feeding for a top of the food chain predator like Tiddles, Felix and company.
It would not be unreasonable to expect our cats to work a little harder for the food they obtain throughout the day. After all, it wouldn’t come easily in the natural life of a predator. They should be able to obtain food in locations throughout the house, both on high and ground level. When you first endeavor to secrete the biscuits in various hiding places your cat will probably follow you around and gobble up the stash in the usual five minutes. This is not the object of the game despite its being another example of how incredibly opportunistic cats are at conserving energy. It is always difficult to be one step ahead of even the average cat but, in this instance, it may be necessary to shut your cat away or have airtight containers in various locations rather than one place where food is always stored. …
If you are utilizing the dry-diet food-foraging approach it is essential that there is every opportunity for your cat to drink. While most commercial wet foods contain 85 percent moisture, the dry formulations require extra drinking to maintain a good hydration balance and unrinary tract health. The majority of owners (me included until a few uears ago) always provide water in the same location as the food bowl. We like to have a glass of water with our meal so why wouldn’t Tigger? It doesn’t work that way for cats, who naturally hunt for food and search for water on separate occasions to satisfy either hunger or thirst. The presence of water near the food can actually deter some cats from drinking sufficient fluid and this could be dangerous on a dry diet. Finding water elsewhere can be extremely rewarding: how many times has your cat drunk from the glass by your bedside table? There should be at least “one water container per cat in the household plus one” in varius locations completely away from the food. Some cats object to the chemical smell from tap water so filtered or boiled water can be used.
—Vicky Halls, How to Be a Cat Detective: Solving the Mystery of Your Cat’s Behavior, Gotham Books 2005
Some thoughts about this book:
- Who knew about the water bowl? Those of you had heard me talk about the Mystery of the Water Bowl in the Master Bathroom—the cats prefer this one above all others, even though it’s a hike through the house to get to it—will see why I believe I’ve solved that puzzle.
- We have three middle-aged cats (two males and a female) who are individually delightful and good-natured. However, once we were two, and when I rescued the third, I upset the feline applecart. I have always had multiple cats, though, and while things are significantly better than they were in the beginning, I still spend too much time picking up apples. When I mentioned this to a visiting friend, she recommended this book. It’s been eye-opening.
- It’s also reassuring to know I’ve been doing a lot of things right (instinctively—after years of owning cats—and from previous study and research), and that I was on an appropriate path to solving much of my own problem. I know who my troublesome cat is. (Boy, is he mad at me.) That said, I’ve learned many more tips and tricks and am implementing them.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”