How to Nourish Your Cat: Free Feeding Versus Scheduled Feeding

Free Feeding vs. Scheduled Feeding

Feeding your cat is an essential part of pet care, but choosing the best feeding method can be confusing. Cats are often enthusiastic eaters, sometimes reminding us of their hunger at odd hours. Generally, pet owners settle on one of two primary feeding methods: free feeding or scheduled feeding. This article delves into the pros, cons, and tips for both methods to help you make an informed decision.

What is Free Feeding?

Free feeding grants your cat unrestricted access to food throughout the day. Generally, this involves placing dry food in a bowl and allowing your feline friend to eat whenever they please.


  • Ideal for cats who eat only when they’re genuinely hungry.
  • Offers flexibility around your work schedule.
  • Reduces issues related to food guarding.
  • Eliminates worry about your cat going hungry if you’re delayed.


  • Risk of weight gain for cats who can’t self-regulate their eating.
  • Challenges in monitoring your cat’s eating habits, especially in multi-cat households.
  • Possibility of one cat consuming the entire food bowl before others get a chance.


To make free feeding healthier, measure out a day’s portion of food in the morning and avoid refilling the bowl throughout the day. Refresh the bowl at the same time daily to establish a routine. It’s best to offer dry food since wet food can spoil more quickly.

Scheduled Feeding: The Preferred Method

Scheduled feeding involves giving your cat meals at predetermined times, typically two meals spaced 12 hours apart.


  • Instills a sense of routine, beneficial during times of change.
  • Facilitates dietary transitions and medication mixing.
  • Allows monitoring of eating habits for potential health concerns.
  • Accommodates multiple cats with varying eating styles through feeding in separate rooms.
  • Enhances bonding time.


  • Cats may beg for food between scheduled meals.
  • Could lead to rapid consumption of meals, fueled by anticipation.
  • Food guarding could become an issue when food isn’t consistently available.
  • Difficult to maintain for those with irregular schedules.


If you can’t consistently provide meals at the same time, consider using a timed feeder. Pre-measure the food before mealtime to manage portions. If transitioning from free feeding to scheduled feeding, initially put out the food bowl only when you are at home.

Choosing the right feeding method for your cat depends on various factors like your schedule, your cat’s eating habits, and any underlying health conditions. Both free feeding and scheduled feeding have their merits and drawbacks, but understanding them can help you tailor the best feeding routine for your furry companion.