In the previous blog, “The Need to Hunt,” we learned the following:
Frequency of feeding is a risk factor associated with cats being overweight or obese
Indoor cats receive food with minimal effort, becoming overweight from eating too much and consuming too many calories
Indoor cats that are fed twice a day are four times more likely to be overweight or obese
Now let’s consider cats that live outdoors in nature. They must persistently hunt, catch, play with and kill to avoid starvation. Numerous hunting attempts may be necessary for every successful kill. Prey mostly consists of small animals or birds and a cat may hunt many times each day to meet its caloric requirements (10-20 small prey). Sounds exhausting! Hunting is not only a very physically active activity, it is also intellectually stimulating for the cat.
To gain some insight into the activity patterns, movements, hunting behavior and feeding habits of cats that live outdoors let’s examine a study of five free-ranging female farm cats in Cornwall, England. With more than 360 hours of observation, the study found that over two 24-hour periods, on average, the cats:
Spent 3.6 hours hunting per day
Their success rate was only 1.2 prey per cat (This is considerably less than the daily caloric requirement of 10-20 small prey!)
They travelled/moved 519 m (1/2 km) for their hunting
They pounced 3.6 times per vertebrate prey
They spend 15% of their time hunting, 2% of their time eating, and 3% of their time travelling
If you never realized how hard outdoor cats have to work to survive, you should now! Here’s an interesting fact for you….Did you know that one mouse equals approximately 10 pieces of dry cat food? Even eating an extra 10 pieces per day can result in a 10% weight gain over the course of a year. Considering that indoor cats receive food with minimal effort AND tend to overeat, it’s no wonder that more than half of indoor cats in the United States are overweight or obese! Cats with free access to food usually prefer to eat several small meals per day as opposed to one or two large meals. However, free access to food removes any opportunity for cats to express their natural predatory instincts, and most cats will hunt for prey when given the option. Failure to provide opportunities for predatory behavior may deprive cats of mental and physical activity, which may contribute to development of obesity and other health problems. There are multiple reasons why cats need to hunt. I can’t stress this enough!
The great news is that you can easily accommodate your indoor cats’ natural eating habits AND increase their daily activity simply by enhancing the physical complexity of their environment. All dry food should be offered in devices designed specifically to release dry food or treats when physically manipulated by your cat, not from heaping bowls. And actively searching for food around the house can remedy the problem of cat obesity as well as keep the cat’s interest. Afterall, what do you think would be more fun, eating out of a bowl or hunting for and playing with your food? Find out first-hand from your cat. Order The NoBowl Feeding System for your cat today! http://nobowlcat.com/shop
Courcier EA, O’Higgins R, Mellor DJ et al. Prevalence and risk factors for feline obesity in a first opinion practice in Glasgow, Scotland. J Feline Med Surg. 2010;12:746-753. http://www.2ndchance.info/fatpets-Courcier2010.pdf
Scherk M. Optimizing an indoor lifestyle for cats. Veterinary Focus. 2016;26(2):1-9. http://www.fvah.ca/files/2016/08/vf-26-2-en-1-1.pdf
Panaman R. Behaviour and ecology of free-ranging female farm cats (Felis catus L.). Zeitschrift für Tierpsychologie. 1981;56(1):59-73. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1439-0310.1981.tb01284.x/abstract
Herron ME, Buffington CA. Environmental Enrichment for Indoor Cats in: Compendium: Continuing Education for Veterinarians. 2010(Dec);E1-E5. https://indoorpet.osu.edu/sites/indoorpet/files/assets/documents/Herron10_EE_for_Indoor_Cats.pdf
Amat M, Camps T, Manteca X. Stress in owned cats: behavioural changes and welfare implications. J Feline Med Surg. 2015:1098612X15590867. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/279308884_Stress_in_owned_cats_behavioural_changes_and_welfare_implications
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