Updated: Jan 4, 2022
Hey CatBosses! Did you know that teaching your cat to go to their crate can save their life? How? Through emergency preparation and diet monitoring!
Throughout history we have been taught to leave bowls of food down for our animals so that they can graze. Animals by nature are hunters and it goes against their built-in instincts and can ofter lead to problems like obesity and diabetes in the future when they are allowed to have unlimited access to food 24/7. When you are free feeding your cat it might be hard to tell if they are eating or not, and how much.This is true especially in a multiple animal households. One might get most of the food, causing obesity, while leaving little for others, leading to malnutrition. This can cause problems down the line because illnesses can develop without your knowledge. Spotting an illness quickly can be the difference between life and death. This is why our top cat hack is to crate feed and meal feed your cats in their crates everyday! Keep reading to find out why we dont recommend free feeding your cats.
So you might be asking what is meal feeding? Great question. Meal feeding is simply dividing your cats diet into 2 or 3 portions and giving it to them at meal time much like we do for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Typically adult cats do very well with just two meals a day. In the wild cats will only be successful twice a day for a small bird or mouse so keep that in mind when building a meal for your cat.
A "Meal" should consist of wet food for protein, fat and moisture and dry food. Wet food as often been associated with a treat for your cat but its quite the contrary. Wet food should be the staple in every cats diet to help keep the urinary tract healthy, muscles lean and it helps prevent obesity by providing the extra moisture your cat needs to stay fit. When building a meal for your cat you'll also want to figure in training treats as a part of their daily caloric intake. Youll want to measure those out just like the meal and if you are using dry treats to train with there are often guidelines on the back. We use moisture rich boiled chicken as training treats to provide extra protein for lean muscles and its a treat that the cats cant refuse. When you begin meal feeding your cat in their crate every day, keeping them separate from others, you're able to monitor how much they ate. You can take note of how much is gone and make the necessary adjustments to save food if they left some behind or if they didn't eat all you can keep a watchful eye on them.
Spotting issues quickly could be the saving grace for your cat. If you notice that they didn't eat their food and they typically gobble it up in 5 minutes, this may be a sign of a serious problem. Continue to monitor your cat to see if there are other tell tale signs of illness such as personality change, coat texture, lethargy, pupil dilation etc. Caution: Do not wait more than two or three days to alert your vet. It might be as simple as a diet change that is needed or your cat may have an illness requiring medication. Either way, you'll be able to get your cat eating again and back on the healthy track!
When you feed your cat in their crates everyday, You are building a positive associtation with the crate and your cat will learn to love their crate instead of running away from it. This is not only helpful for diet monitoring but can be helpful for vet trips AND when training your cat for an emergency. Which leads us to the next very important topic.
Cats typically want to hide during emergencies or when things aren’t quite right at home. They can sense tension, danger, or uncertainty and will go dashing under the bed. HOWEVER, if you teach your cat to love their crate, you can teach them how to go there when they need to...instead of running and hiding! If you turn your cats crate into their safe haven, that will be there go-to spot. You can also get them to run to it with a simple 'ring of the dinner bell'. This can come in handy when something goes wrong at home and you need to get your cats to another location fast or you just need to get your cat to the vet.
If the only time the crate comes out is for vet visits or other 'not so cool' situations, your cat will learn to run away when they see it come out. BUT if you start feeding them in it on a daily basis, they'll start running TO it every day. So next time you have to take Kitty to the vet for a routine checkup, you'll be able to just call her to her crate like you've been doing every day and she won't stress out like she typically would.
Less stress in her crate upfront means you'll have a better start to their vet visit! If your cats vet visit starts with getting pulled from under the bed and put in a scary crate they're not used to, its not going to be a pretty vet visit. But if your vet visit starts with a nice snack in their crate that they're used to being in every single day, you'll have a better vet visit to start off with!
Pro tip: go to a vet trip with a hungry cat, bring along treats and use their food motivation to your advantage by getting them comfortable on the table. Don't let them run and hide and don't let them rush back into their crate. Use that food and toys to get them out and comfortable. Do some tricks in the office and let them know that vet = "a place where I get snacks". You can also bring along their favorite wand toys or laser pointer to chase as well. Make it fun and your vet techs and vets will love you for it.
We'll talk a little more about vet visits in a later blog post so check back if you're interested in how to handle vet visits like a pro. Vet visits should be positive and if you have the tools and know how to make that happen, vet visits will be a breeze!