You Want What’s Best
Is Free Feeding Your Pet a Good Idea?
So you’re going away for a few days. It can be tempting to simply leave a self feeder full of kibble out for your cat or dog, but it’s not always the best idea. Consider the following before you begin free feeding your pet while you’re out of town.
What is Free Feeding?
Free feeding, also known as grazing, is when you set out a large, unmeasured quantity of food for your pet. It’s different from meal feeding because your pet has the opportunity to eat throughout the day instead of at predictable intervals.
Unlike when you measure a portion of kibble that your pet can nibble until the next scheduled serving, free feeding doesn’t have any means of portion control. You would keep topping it off every time it gets low and rely on your pet to determine how much to consume.
What are the Advantages?
Of course, the biggest advantage to free feeding is the convenience. Once you set out the food, you wouldn’t have to do much monitoring other than keeping it full. Some animals benefit from free feeding, particularly elderly or sick pets who need help keeping their weight on. Pets who are prone to anxiety from food insecurity may have to be free fed as well.
What are the Disadvantages?
However, free feeding kibble throughout the day has serious health drawbacks. Especially when you’re out of town, some cats and dogs will begin grazing on their kibble out of boredom. Then, their overeating could lead to obesity, diabetes, kidney disease, and urinary tract disease. For cats, a free fed diet can also lead them to be more sedentary, because they are naturally more active before meal time.
Dogs in particular have a harder time knowing when to stop eating. Dogs’ wild ancestors, wolves, instinctively gorge themselves on large prey animals, and then go days without eating while they digest. Today’s dogs express that wild instinct by eating as much food as there is in front of them. Since the kibble expands in their stomachs, some dogs will eat to the point of becoming nauseated.
What Are Some Alternatives to Free Feeding?
If you’re only going to be gone for just one evening, you might want to invest in a timed feeder. Timed feeders come in a variety of configurations. Some have a reservoir on top and a mechanism on the bottom that turns to measure an amount of kibble. Others pop open to reveal a pre-measured amount of food, which is particularly useful for wet food.
However, if you’re going out of town for an extended period of time, the best thing you can do is hire a pet sitter. A pet sitter can monitor your cat or dog’s eating levels to make sure that they have a healthful appetite. Our professional pet sitters also have emergency plans in place, so you don’t have to worry about your pet ever missing a meal.