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Do Cats Know When To Stop Eating?

If you have a cat that likes to eat a lot you may be wondering if it knows when it should stop…

Do cats know when to stop eating?

Well, yes and no. Technically, your cat knows when they are full, but just like humans do, cats will not necessarily stop eating just because they’re full. If they like the food enough and it’s available, some cats are perfectly happy to gobble up as much as they can and so you must watch their calories.

On average, an adult 10-pound cat needs 260 calories daily to maintain its current weight. It may be a little more or less if your cat is very active or very much the opposite, but 260 calories is a good average number for what they need to eat daily.

Cats that tend to overeat won’t stop themselves and so the risk of feline obesity and the slew of health problems that comes with it is a very real possibility. So, if your cat tends to overeat, then now is the time to start taking charge of its diet.

What should I do if my cat keeps overeating?

A brown cat eating from a white food bowl.

A brown cat eating from a white food bowl.

If your cat tends to overeat whenever they can, then you certainly have a few options at your disposal to help to reduce this behavior and help them to maintain a healthy weight. Let’s take a look at some effective ways that you can do this!

Ration the food

Assuming that your 10-pound cat needs 260 calories a day and that 1 cup of food is around 300, then you can easily shave a little food off of the cup and divide it into two portions to serve to your cat in the morning and the evening.

A good example schedule would be to feed your cat at 8 am and 6 pm. This puts 10 hours in between feedings and keeps things simple. Whatever schedule you choose, just make sure that it’s no more than 12 hours between feedings, with 11 being a better number.

At 12 hours, your cat’s tummy will start producing excess acids and this can make them feel nauseous or even lead to further health complications.

You can also just use an automatic feeder, which uses a timer to release pre-prepared portions for your kitty on a schedule. The advantage of these is that the feedings are always on time and once your cat learns this, usually waits by the feeder instead of giving you an earful of meows when it’s time for dinner.

Use a slow feeder

Slow feeders, can force your kitty to slow down when they are eating and this, in turn, can help them to eat less. Cats and humans have a problem when eating in the fact that it takes a little time for the brain to register that we’ve eaten enough.

This makes quick eating a problem, as it’s easy to overeat when you still feel hungry, and with cats eating too quickly can also lead to vomiting! If you don’t want to get a slow feeder, there’s a home hack that you can use and all you need is a tennis ball.

The slow feeder solves this problem by grooves in the bowl that your cat eats around, which forces them to slow down at dinnertime instead of gobbling up everything in an instant.

Simply put the ball in the middle of the bowl (whole or cut in half for smaller bowls), and then pour the food inside the bowl around it. Your cat has to eat around the tennis ball and it slows them down nicely.

Switch from all-day feeding to a schedule

Some owners like ‘free feeding’ their cats, which simply means leaving their dry food bowl constantly full using frequent refills or by using ‘gravity bowls’, which are essentially overturned containers that allow food to fall back in the bowl as it is diminished.

If your cat overeats, then this feeding style simply will not work where your kitty’s health is concerned, so you’ll have to put away the gravity bowl or stop refilling the bowl multiple times a day – your cat will need a strict feeding schedule.

What can happen if my cat keeps overeating?

Feline obesity is the danger that your cat is courting if they are allowed to overeat. This opens them up to several health issues and can seriously reduce their quality of life. Below are a few examples of feline obesity-related conditions:

  • Diabetes
  • Pancreatitis
  • Urinary issues
  • Liver disease
  • Arthritis
  • Gastrointestinal diseases
  • Skin conditions

These are just provided as examples from what is a very long list, folks, so it’s best to be proactive when it comes to your cat’s diet. Your cat might be a bit vocal with you about it, but they’ll adjust, and live a longer, healthier life for it.

Do cats know what not to eat?

Most often, yes, cats will have a pretty good idea of what is safe to eat and what isn’t, but it’s not foolproof. Cats rely on instincts to achieve some of this little superpowered behavior but also on the 200 million olfactory sensors that they have at their disposal.

To put it simply, your cat can smell things 14 times better than you can.

This is handy, because lots of things in life that are poisonous, tend to smell that way if you’ve got a nose that is up to the task. So, the best answer for ‘do cats know what not to eat’ would be ‘yes, most of the time, and certainly more often than humans do!’.

Why do my cats act like they’re starving?

A white cat eating food outdoors from the pavement.

A white cat eating food outdoors from the pavement.

Cats do this most commonly for one of two reasons. The first reason is simply that it works – your cat did this once, you came running to feed them, and they are simply going with a tactic that they know will work with you.

The second reason, however, is the worrying possibility of a parasite. Worms and other parasites leech nutrients from the foods that your cat is eating and this may result in your cat overeating and always feeling hungry – because they’re feeding those worms!

Bring your kitty into the vet if the ‘starving’ behavior is new just to rule parasites out and make sure that your adult cat is getting dewormed every 3 months for good measure (or even monthly if they spend a lot of time outside!).

Do cats remember you feed them?

Certainly! Cats know and remember that you love them and that you feed them. It’s not uncommon to have friends over and for your cat to walk right up to you and give you a ‘hint’ meow at dinnertime.

They are well aware that you provide for them and it’s certainly not something they’ll soon forget.

Is it OK to feed cats twice a day?

Yes, twice-a-day feedings are a good practice to get into and they are optimal for a cat once they reach 6 months of age. When they are kittens, however, then 3 or even 4 times a day is better, as they will need additional calories while they develop into the beautiful adult cats that they’re going to be.

For kittens, try to target between 250 and 280 calories a day, depending on how active they are. The easiest way to do this is to note the calorie count per serving of your kitten food and to measure the entire amount in the morning, separating that mass into 3 or 4 equal piles to store away for later.

How do I know if my cat is hungry or begging?

There are 2 ways to go about this. The first is simply to measure their calories and memorize their feeding schedule. Cats are creatures of habit, and if you are even a few minutes late, they can be a bit more vocal as a response to this and make it sound as if they are starving.

If you know that they are getting the right amount of calories, based on their body weight and age, or your vet’s advice, then any vocal protests lobbed your way are probably begging and may be safely ignored.

The second way to know is by simple experience. Your cat’s body language is something that you will quickly get to know if you watch, and if they look more frantic than usual, it generally means that they are very hungry.

Knowing their body language will also help you to know when a parasite might be at play, so it pays to get to know your cat’s body language. That said if their body language is relaxed, but they’re being a bit whiny regularly and you’ve ruled out worms, then it’s probably begging.

Lindsey Browlingdon