January 22, 2019

AAFP Releases Consensus Statement on Feline Feeding

By American Veterinarian Staff
The American Assocation of Feline Pracitioners (AAFP) has released a consensus statement on feeding strategies that encourage natural behaviors and thus minimize the risk of issues related to stress or overeating in pet cats.

The Problem
Normal feline hunting and foraging behaviors are often impaired in the indoor envi­ronment, with a negative effect on pet welfare, according to the AAFP. Furthermore, pets in multicat households often receive either large meals or an ad libitum food supply, which encourages overeating. Highly palatable, nutritionally dense kibble requires little effort for a high caloric intake. Finally, compe­tition for food among family cats can lead to stress, territorial behavior, and aggression. In extreme cases, stress-related feeding behaviors can include gorging, which puts pets at risk for digestive upset and obesity-related disease.

Some Solutions
Place puzzle feeders around the home and at different elevations to increase activity and mental enrichment during feeding. Both commer­cial and DIY options work well, including placing kibble inside a plastic bottle or an empty cardboard egg carton.

The AAFP also recommends providing multiple small meals per day, with treats making up no more than 10% of daily caloric intake. Veterinarians should educate owners about feline nutrition, including individualized dietary recommendations to maintain optimal body condition. The statement also empha­sizes the importance of monitoring pet weight and behavior, as well as signs of illness or stress, during dietary changes.

Finally, owners of multiple cats should provide a separate feeding area for each cat, as well as multiple water bowls and litter boxes. A rule of thumb: Every cat should be able to eat in an area where it feels safe. 

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