Free feeding kitten to mealtimes

ZukoCat

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Hello! I’m a first time cat owner, and we have been free feeding our kitten Zuko since we got him! We were told you can’t overfeed a kitten and that free feeding is best to make sure they’re getting everything they need while growing!

My question, I guess, is when do we stop? Or is it necessary? Is it a case by case situation what works for different cats? Do we continue unless we notice weight gain or increased/excessive food refills? Is it at 1 year old? 6 months? Just curious about other owners experiences.

We’ve had dogs we can leave food out for and they will eat only whenever they’re hungry and are perfectly fine, but we’ve also had dogs that required mealtimes, as they would overeat and were at risk of weight gain.
 

maggie101

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Free feeding is more likely to cause weight gain. How old is your kitten? My cats are fed wet 3x a day. Feeding dry it will be harder to switch to wet. As they get older having moisture is very important. If you work all day you may have no choice except to leave a timed feeder out for wet or dry. Also helpful, to use when your sleeping
 
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ZukoCat

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Free feeding is more likely to cause weight gain. How old is your kitten? My cats are fed wet 3x a day. Feeding dry it will be harder to switch to wet. As they get older having moisture is very important. If you work all day you may have no choice except to leave a timed feeder out for wet or dry. Also helpful, to use when your sleeping
He’s 7.5 months old right now. We’ve given him wet food in the past, but he is on dry only now. He does drink lots of water, although I know that dehydration is something to watch for with cats. He was on a/d wet food when we first got him and then transitioned to dry. We gave him wet food after his eye surgery too, because I was worried about him getting enough water (especially with his cone) and I didn’t want chewing dry food to make his incision hurt (I know I’m probably crazy but 🤷🏼‍♀️). Although we still left the dry out and he ate both. Then we went back to dry only again.
 

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I think it depends on the cat - some will wolf down as much food as they are given, others will eat as much as they need. Do you have a sense of where your kitten falls in terms of the way he eats? It also may depend on the way your cat eats - some are grazers, others will eat everything at once.

I've been told to give kittens as much food as they need to eat until they are 1 year old - after that, you want to feed at scheduled times, take food away after a set amount of time passes, and keep track of their weight.

My kitten isn't very food-driven and he is a "grazer" when it comes to feeding - he eats a few bites at a time over a few hours. I feed raw/wet twice a day and I just leave each serving out until he finishes it unless it's a hot day - I can judge if I gave too much (there is leftover food by the next feeding) or too little (he finishes everything within 30 mins to 1 hr) and adjust accordingly.
 

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Then we went back to dry only again.
Can I ask why?

Kittens' growth continues until they're about a year old, and for big breed cats (Maine Coon et al) it will be for longer. They need plenty of nutrition to fuel that growth. All Life Stages food, wet and dry, can be used.
 
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ZukoCat

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Can I ask why?

Kittens' growth continues until they're about a year old, and for big breed cats (Maine Coon et al) it will be for longer. They need plenty of nutrition to fuel that growth. All Life Stages food, wet and dry, can be used.
Honestly, I had just run out of the wet I bought and he eats the dry ok and drinks tons of water, so I just returned to only dry. Even when the wet food was available he’d eat the dry too, so I just didn’t really think it was a big deal. We had talked about leaving dry out all the time and continuing to do wet food in addition as a dinner the same time we fed our dog, but we just didn’t continue to buy more. It wasn’t necessarily a purposeful decision more than a lazy one 🙃

He’s a mutt so I’m not sure how big he’ll get, but I do feel like he seems big to me (again not super familiar with cats and their growth stages) but as a 7m/o I feel like he already looks fully grown and he’s always had big paws. Plus, once he was healthy, he was heavier than the “projected weight” for his age, but never overweight for his size. So I assume that means he must generally be big for his age? Don’t know how that translates to his adult size though; If that means he’ll be big/grow for longer. Or if he will be med/had an early growth spurt and is close to done 🤷🏼‍♀️🤷🏼‍♀️

But probably til at least a year old continue with the free feeding and add wet food is your recommendation?

Here are some pics of him BTW plus with our fully grown golden for size reference
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ZukoCat

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I think it depends on the cat - some will wolf down as much food as they are given, others will eat as much as they need. Do you have a sense of where your kitten falls in terms of the way he eats? It also may depend on the way your cat eats - some are grazers, others will eat everything at once.

I've been told to give kittens as much food as they need to eat until they are 1 year old - after that, you want to feed at scheduled times, take food away after a set amount of time passes, and keep track of their weight.

My kitten isn't very food-driven and he is a "grazer" when it comes to feeding - he eats a few bites at a time over a few hours. I feed raw/wet twice a day and I just leave each serving out until he finishes it unless it's a hot day - I can judge if I gave too much (there is leftover food by the next feeding) or too little (he finishes everything within 30 mins to 1 hr) and adjust accordingly.
Zuko has never been food driven. He just grazes. We usually put about 1/2 cup of food in the morning and add 1/2 cup at night. Most of the time there is still some left when we add more. He will just pop in and grab a few bites throughout the day and night. He doesn’t even particularly like treats. We’ve tried to give them to him and half the time he doesn’t even eat them. He will just carry it around for a while and then leave it somewhere. And with our food he wants to get close and sniff/check it out when we have a plate but then he leaves us alone and doesn’t try to get our food either. He loves toys but treats and food he could care less.

Even when we did wet food, he wouldn’t eat that all at once either but would go back and forth over time and switch between wet and dry. I often had to throw out leftover wet food once it started to get dried out/been out too long. 🤷🏼‍♀️
 

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til at least a year old continue with the free feeding and add wet food is your recommendation?
Yes, exactly :)

go back and forth over time and switch between wet and dry.
This is totally normal and typical cat eating behavior.

They are both completely gorgeous!! 😍
 
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ZukoCat

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Yes, exactly :)


This is totally normal and typical cat eating behavior.

They are both completely gorgeous!! 😍
Thank you so much!! That’s very helpful! I’ll get back to giving him wet food too! 😊😊

(Side note: I love his fluffy coat, but it does kind of hide his body shape, any tips for keeping an eye on weight for a longhair? Just make sure when I pet, I feel a good figure?)

And thanks 🥰🥰 I think they’re pretty cute but I’m biased 😂
 
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ZukoCat

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Luvyna

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Oh my goodness, Zuko is adorable!! (So is the dog!) His fur looks so soft ❤ They are so sweet sleeping together! Also, Zuko is a great name for him 🔥

Zuko sounds like my cat Zephyr, he also loves toys and affection but doesn't care much about food or treats. Zephyr hops onto my lap when I eat and I initially thought it was to get at my food, but then I realized he wasn't interested in the food and just wanted my attention while I was eating!

I agree with the recommendation to add wet food back into his diet - in the wild, cats get most of their hydration from their food. Having some wet food in the diet will help prevent issues like urinary crystals. Also recommend adding a bit of water to the food if your cat tolerates it, whether it's dry or wet. The more water a cat gets, the better!
 
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ZukoCat

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Oh my goodness, Zuko is adorable!! (So is the dog!) His fur looks so soft ❤ They are so sweet sleeping together! Also, Zuko is a great name for him 🔥

Zuko sounds like my cat Zephyr, he also loves toys and affection but doesn't care much about food or treats. Zephyr hops onto my lap when I eat and I initially thought it was to get at my food, but then I realized he wasn't interested in the food and just wanted my attention while I was eating!

I agree with the recommendation to add wet food back into his diet - in the wild, cats get most of their hydration from their food. Having some wet food in the diet will help prevent issues like urinary crystals. Also recommend adding a bit of water to the food if your cat tolerates it, whether it's dry or wet. The more water a cat gets, the better!
He is probably the softest thing I’ve ever felt! Zuko always loved Brady, and she was jelly at first, but has definitely warmed up to him! They’re always snuggling now! And thanks!! Besides the eye, he has all the drama and need for love Zuko had too 😂

Here’s when we first got him and he had serious Zuko looks. 🔥🔥
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Yeah our golden loves food! She will snatch any little crumb she can get if we aren’t looking! So when Zuko first got up in our lap while eating, we were like oh no! Not another one! We tried to move him/keep him back from our plates, but it’s harder with a cat that can jump up! But then once he finally had a good look and sniff to see what the new stuff was, he would just go sit or lay down and that was it. So now we just let him have a look and get it over with before we eat 😂😂

But yeah that makes sense! I knew that dehydration was a big thing for cats and that some don’t drink water well or enough, but Zuko always seemed to drink a ton so I never really thought it was an issue. I thought it was more like, if cats didn’t really drink from their water bowl or if you noticed an issue with their bladder they might need wet food to make sure they got enough moisture. That makes sense it’s just an all cat thing that wet food is needed because that’s what they do in the wild.
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Thanks! Maybe one day I’ll get this cat stuff down!! 😂
 

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Two of mine were fed kitten only food until turning 1 year . They are regular domestic. My ragdoll he is on a all stages at 15 months and going. I think he is actually hummingbird, I swear he eats in 15 minutes intervals,lol. No, he is fine and yes,he is see vet on a weekly basis. (I’m very lucky that friend,a vet , recently moved back to town :D ) he is still growing. One th I know it’s less convenient but cat should be on a wet food only at all times. Especially males who tend to have problems with urethra. If you must feed dry mix it with liquid half an hour before. Do not rely on seeing him drink enough water. :) Zuko is a beautiful boy wit most beautiful eye that I ever seen.
 
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ZukoCat

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Two of mine were fed kitten only food until turning 1 year . They are regular domestic. My ragdoll he is on a all stages at 15 months and going. I think he is actually hummingbird, I swear he eats in 15 minutes intervals,lol. No, he is fine and yes,he is see vet on a weekly basis. (I’m very lucky that friend,a vet , recently moved back to town :D ) he is still growing. One th I know it’s less convenient but cat should be on a wet food only at all times. Especially males who tend to have problems with urethra. If you must feed dry mix it with liquid half an hour before. Do not rely on seeing him drink enough water. :) Zuko is a beautiful boy wit most beautiful eye that I ever seen.
Thank you!! I will start mixing water into his dry food! He has a 2 bowl stand so I can do dry with water in one and wet food in the other! (We have a separate water bowl too)

How big was you ragdoll compared to your other 2? Was he bigger as a kitten? What made you decide to wait until 15 months to switch him instead of a year like the others?

I’ve seen you post your beautiful babies too! I love all three! If I could get a second cat I would get a solid black. They look so sleek! (But my husband would kill me if I came home with another 😂) I am partial to your ragdoll though; they remind me of Zuko 😊😊😊
 

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Thank you!! I will start mixing water into his dry food! He has a 2 bowl stand so I can do dry with water in one and wet food in the other! (We have a separate water bowl too)

How big was you ragdoll compared to your other 2? Was he bigger as a kitten? What made you decide to wait until 15 months to switch him instead of a year like the others?

I’ve seen you post your beautiful babies too! I love all three! If I could get a second cat I would get a solid black. They look so sleek! (But my husband would kill me if I came home with another 😂) I am partial to your ragdoll though; they remind me of Zuko 😊😊😊
Hi, let me start from the bottom :) Two of mine were “planed ‘. ;) and black was an ‘accident’ (DH was not fast enough, ups!!!!) :D .
Uggy is almost 15lbs at 2 years and 4 months , for comparison. Bash (raggy) was always at least 1. 5 lbs heavier then Uggy at the same age. For a full two years we did weakly weigh ins on all 3. The reason is that difference in there age spans over 1year. I would stop weighing at one year but felt bad for older ones to be left out . We made it a special occasion that everyone wanted to do.
I’m lucky that all of mine react very well to treat and competition.
Right now, Bash is 1 year 3 months and 16.5lbs and still going. He still feeds 4 to 5 times a day compared 2 to 3 for other two. The girl is 9lbs and at that only one who could loose a pound but you try telling that to her:) everyone else is healthy weight. Bash is not switched of kitten food, certain meals he shares with the gang and his extra servings are kitten And he gets them on his demand . I know but, but he is a baby. He is still gaining around 30 to 50g a week, soooo. Instead mixing water you can use broth (chicken, beef …) make sure there is no onions in it . Pet store caries it or you can make your own.
Fun facts:) Uggy we got at 6 weeks and 1.5lbs. Bash at 14 weeks and 4.80lbs and Nera the queen arrived with whopping 350g!!!
Your Zuko is beautiful boy and also reminds me of Bash, love Zuko. And for Bash he is literally a German shepherd smushed into cats body. The level of intelligence and stubbornness is astonishing he actually studies and opens things that no cat should be able to do.
The other two follow close behind acting as a spotters while he does his magic and benefit from proceedings :D
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ZukoCat

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Hi, let me start from the bottom :) Two of mine were “planed ‘. ;) and black was an ‘accident’ (DH was not fast enough, ups!!!!) :D .
Uggy is almost 15lbs at 2 years and 4 months , for comparison. Bash (raggy) was always at least 1. 5 lbs heavier then Uggy at the same age. For a full two years we did weakly weigh ins on all 3. The reason is that difference in there age spans over 1year. I would stop weighing at one year but felt bad for older ones to be left out . We made it a special occasion that everyone wanted to do.
I’m lucky that all of mine react very well to treat and competition.
Right now, Bash is 1 year 3 months and 16.5lbs and still going. He still feeds 4 to 5 times a day compared 2 to 3 for other two. The girl is 9lbs and at that only one who could loose a pound but you try telling that to her:) everyone else is healthy weight. Bash is not switched of kitten food, certain meals he shares with the gang and his extra servings are kitten And he gets them on his demand . I know but, but he is a baby. He is still gaining around 30 to 50g a week, soooo. Instead mixing water you can use broth (chicken, beef …) make sure there is no onions in it . Pet store caries it or you can make your own.
Fun facts:) Uggy we got at 6 weeks and 1.5lbs. Bash at 14 weeks and 4.80lbs and Nera the queen arrived with whopping 350g!!!
Your Zuko is beautiful boy and also reminds me of Bash, love Zuko. And for Bash he is literally a German shepherd smushed into cats body. The level of intelligence and stubbornness is astonishing he actually studies and opens things that no cat should be able to do.
The other two follow close behind acting as a spotters while he does his magic and benefit from proceedings :DView attachment 425288
I love Bash’s turquoise eyes 😍😍
Hahaha!! Zuko and Brady work together too! Sometimes Brady will open doors for them to get into room they aren’t supposed to go in and Zuko will knock things off the counter for Brady!! 🤦🏼‍♀️🤦🏼‍♀️ He definitely acts more dog than cat it seems! We joke he spent too long with a golden retriever growing up and doesn’t know he’s a cat 😂. When we first got him he was very sick so only .5 lb and 4 weeks old, but since then he’s been about 1.5 lbs heavier than what we expected for his age! I asked the vet one time (he had weekly visits for a while since he had been so sick) if he was overweight, but they assured me he was a healthy! They wondered if he had some ragdoll ancestry! Now he doesn’t have vet visits anymore but I think I’m going to start weighing him weekly or biweekly so I can keep track!
This was him at 1 month.
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2 months
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Now!!
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One thing to consider is exposing the kitten to a variety of brands, textures, and flavors when you do reintroduce wet food. I've read, and others can correct me, this can help prevent pickiness later in life.

And with covid supply chains...having more options on what your cat will eat is better. For perspective when my girl got wet food i found exactly one brand and flavor she liked but they changed it and it's not the same. She wouldn't really eat any other wet food. This is partly why she's back on an all kibble diet...it's just easier on me than fighting her to eat.
 
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ZukoCat

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One thing to consider is exposing the kitten to a variety of brands, textures, and flavors when you do reintroduce wet food. I've read, and others can correct me, this can help prevent pickiness later in life.

And with covid supply chains...having more options on what your cat will eat is better. For perspective when my girl got wet food i found exactly one brand and flavor she liked but they changed it and it's not the same. She wouldn't really eat any other wet food. This is partly why she's back on an all kibble diet...it's just easier on me than fighting her to eat.
That makes sense! I may get a few flavors and switch day to day!
 
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