By Tony Buffington, DVM, PhD
The American Association of Feline Practitioners has just released a consensus statement (not evidence-based guidelines) entitled, “Feline Feeding Programs: Addressing Behavioral Needs to Improve Feline Health and Wellbeing,” and an accompanying client brochure entitled “How to feed a Cat – Addressing Behavioral Needs.”
The new materials offer useful and actionable recommendations for this important aspect of environmental management to promote feline health and wellbeing, particularly for confined cats, and are welcome additions to the topic for veterinary caregivers and cat owners alike.
The articles state the following purposes:
- To advise veterinary professionals and cat owners about natural cat feeding behaviors
- Make recommendations on how to feed cats to meet behavioral needs and reduce stress
- Recommend including play and predation in feeding
- Ensure that feline nutritional and health requirements are met
As with all species, food-gathering and eating are fundamental activities. The consensus statement describes normal feline feeding behavior and some problems such as urinary tract infections and obesity that can occur when normal food-related behaviors cannot be expressed; for instance, cats confined indoors, particularly in multi-cat households. The authors then recommend feeding programs customized for each cat in the household, which provide for cats’ needs for play, predation, and consumption of food and water in locations where they feel safe.
The statement emphasizes the use of foraging options, including food puzzles whenever possible, and refers readers to the website www.foodpuzzlesforcats.com for information about different types of puzzle feeders and how to introduce them into feline feeding programs. The statement also recommends that cats be fed enough food to maintain a moderate body condition score (2.5 or 3 out of 5 or 4 to 5 out of 9).
In addition to the statement, client-focused information is provided both on the AAFP website and at its consumer site, Cat Friendly Homes. The four-page client brochure is well-written, at an appropriate level for ease of reading by clients. It is available in four formats: downloadable for electronic viewing, as a print-ready booklet in color or black and white, and as a printed packet that can be ordered from AAFP.
This article was reviewed/edited by board-certified veterinary behaviorist Dr. Kenneth Martin and/or veterinary technician specialist in behavior Debbie Martin, LVT.