Does your pet have a little extra padding around their midsection? Has your vet used words like "overweight" or "diet food" when referencing your fur baby? It might be time to consider switching your pet from free feeding to a set feeding schedule.
Reasons To Feed Your Pet On A Schedule
Our pets like having a schedule. They know exactly when you're going to wake up, take them outside or play with them when you get home from work. Why wouldn't they like to know exactly when you're going to feed them?
Although free-feeding is convenient for us, it can prove troublesome for our dogs and cats. Free-feeding your dog or cat can lead to obesity, among other issues. Additionally, it is much harder to see if there's a problem with your pet's food (e.g., are they eating the right amount?) when you're free-feeding or feeding multiple pets at the same time.
When your pets are older, they may need medicine 2-3 times a day. If you're free feeding, administering medicine can be a chore. But with a set feeding schedule, slipping the pill into the food is easy and painless.
How To Decide Feeding Times
Most vets and pet food companies recommend feeding your adult cat or dog twice daily. Younger animals, like kittens and puppies, should be fed more frequently depending on their age, weight, and metabolism.
You should pick a time in the morning and in the evening for your set feeding schedule. For dogs, you should make sure that you will still be home or awake at least half an hour after they're done eating, so that you can take them outside. For both dogs and cats, you'll want to make sure their morning feed time is after you've been awake for a little while -- or you'll start being woken up by your animals instead of your alarm clock.
Transitioning Your Pet's Food Availability
When you're ready to start transitioning your pets to a schedule, you should reduce the amount of food available during the day. If you have gravity feeders, remove them and instead use normal sized bowls, or automatic programmable feeders.
Start by giving the recommended amount in the bowl at your set feeding time. Your pet may not notice for the first few days that you're only putting a certain amount of food down for them. Or, they may notice right away and become insistent. Patience is key. If you "give in" to adding more food to the dish, the process will take longer.
If you're transitioning multiple pets, be sure to keep them separate if there are potential food aggression issues. Different corners, rooms, or floors can all help keep the peace.
Your pet should adjust to their new feeding schedule in 1-2 weeks. After that, you'll be able to mix flavors, medicines, or add special treats into their food. Even better: you'll be seen as a hero every time you fill the food bowl.