You’re Feeding Your Cat All Wrong!

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The first thing Jackson would tell you if you asked about your cat's odd behavior? Stop free feeding! Learn how you should be using food as a tool with your cat rather than an all-you-can-eat buffet in this episode.

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81 comments

  1. Grabbed a couple shelter cats to hunt mice in my shop. Now 1 week later I’ve ended up on this channel. what happened to me?

    1. you contracted toxoplasmosis from the cats and now you’re their slave. And I’m only half joking.

  2. What if your cat free-feeds himself? You give him, say half a cup of food and he makes it last up to 6 hours at a time? He’s grazing on his own of his own accord without having large amounts of food left out for him.

    1. Lynsie Fike looking at the ingredients for Iams chicken dry food:

      Chicken <— not bad meat based protein chicken by-product meal <— inferior ingredient as it contains the unused parts of a chicken that has little nutritional value to the cat. Corn meal <— plant based protein that cats cannot utilize and has been linked to cancer, diabetes, inflamed intestinal tract and stones in the bladder. Brewer’s rice <— plant based filler Dried beet pulp <— plant based filler high in sugar Natural Flavor <— artificial flavoring Poultry by-product meal <— unidentifiable additive means it has come from a rendering plant Dried egg <— not bad meat based protein Brewer’s yeast <— helps with digestion (due to the plant based ingredients inflaming the intestinal tract) 4 different preservatives 14 different synthetic vitamins and minerals

    2. Lynsie Fike look at the ingredient panel of Orijen or Instinct. They are the leading cat foods in USA and Canada currently.

    3. Cheryl Ann Armstrong you are better off feeding a high quality wet food then dry. IAMS unfortunately is not a brand I would suggest to feed. Orijen or instinct is far superior ingredient list wise.

      The optimal diet for cats is raw as it has a high moisture content, biologically appropriate as far as vitamins, minerals and teeth cleaning properties. Muscle meat (dark), bone and organs should always be included in the balanced raw diet. Additives can be egg, fish oil or dried kelp.

      Cats cannot process plant based nutrition because they are obligate carnivores. Obligate carnivore means they get their nutrients from the animals they eat. Calcium comes from bones, vitamins come from the heart, kidneys, liver and taurine (essential to cats) comes from muscle meat.

  3. I leave a bowl of kibble out for my cat to eat, but I also feed a half can of wet food once every other day and bring home a cricket or two every once in a while for her to hunt. I leave the kibble out because I work a graveyard shift, work all night and sleep all day. Is it still bad to leave out the kibble? It’s a personal thing but I caught my cat when she was an emaciated feral kitten and we went through a lot together to get her back to health. I know she could care less what I say, but I sort of made a promise to her that she would never go hungry again.

    1. +AnnoyingSquib While I agree with Jackson that cats do better with getting separate meals a few hours apart, I also think that it’s okay to free feed. Like your circumstance, or mine – I have health issues. I have to sleep when I’m tired, so I can’t keep a steady schedule. I leave a bowl of kibble out all the time. BUT I give canned food and raw meat treats every day at random times, just to keep them mentally stimulated about guessing when they’re going to get something new and fresh.
      And if you want to get extreme with how cats are supposed to eat naturally, they shouldn’t even have kibble or canned food anyway. They need REAL, raw meat! Some people go to great effort only to give their cats properly thawed (in a bowl of warm water, NOT the microwave) raw stuff such as chicken, quail, rabbit, mice, and sometimes bigger stuff like lamb and beef.

    2. I have checked out feeding her raw meat that I get from my local pet food store (They give out free samples of raw chicken) I am unsure of whether to buy her a full tub. I would have to thaw it out in the fridge and she would only eat a tiny bit of it at a time. unless I manage to thaw it, ration it and then freeze it again, it would probably go bad before she would finish the stuff. She loves the free samples though, and I feed her the best grain-free food I can afford. So at least she gets raw chicken once a week or so, canned food every other day and dry kibble to nibble on the rest of the time. I’m lucky my cat doesn’t eat all the time and only chooses to eat in the evening and early morning. Otherwise, I would be a bit more strict on feeding her. Sheesh typing this makes me realize she eats way better than me lol. 

    3. @AnnoyingSquib I think when it comes to cats – each one cat be entirely different from the next.
      I’ve tried the frozen/raw rabbit that you can buy in pet stores – my cat barely ate any. I’ve tried raw chicken wings or hearts, again – barely touched it. It would be great if she’d try that more often as no doubt it’s the best thing for their teeth that dry or canned wet food can’t provide.

    1. Diego87… I guess you didn’t pay attention here.. Free feeding cats usually doesn’t make them fat, as they will just eat a few bites at a time, and leave the rest for later. It just makes it harder to train them do certain things. I always free feeded all my cats, everyone is thin, cats aren’t like dogs who will usually eat everything you put in front of them.

    2. @Diego87 I free feed my cats for many years and they are not fat. Just put out a set amount of food twice a day and so they cannot over eat. They only eat a few bits at a time. I found cats are more prone to vomiting when forced to have feeding times. Its seems harder for them to digest all that food at once.

  4. There’s a balance between free feeding and this method, and it works very well. I feed my cat a 3oz can first thing in the morning and then add another half a can to her bowl when I leave for work. She’s not a wolfer so that usually keeps her happy until I get home and can give her another can. Food’s not out 24/7 but it’s out when she needs it. This way she can eat several smaller meals instead of being forced to pack it all in in a very short time.

    1. Because your sitting on a chair that is closer to the ground and you have easy access to pet them from way down their.. plus your closer to the ground so they can jump on your lap and they have all you attention because your not reading or watching TV, or knitting

    1. This is what I was doing but they’re becoming hugely fat so I started lowering the amount of kibble I put only half a bowl instead of a Whole Bowl. But now they think the bowl is empty when it’s only half full, you should see the dirty looks I got. But I’m sticking with it. I have 3 rescues in the one that’s the more alpha will go and eat the food out of the other ones bowls to save hers. I would like to start picking up the kibble and not letting them free graze. This won’t go over big

    1. +miaserafina – hey there, thank you VERY much for this thought! I had wondered about the softness connection and some pain potentially from being declawed improperly – or at ALL – but I hadn’t considered arthritis, and I wasn’t sure what to do about it. A fine litter is such an obvious – but brilliant – idea, I’m so glad you suggested it as it just hadn’t occurred to me that that might help. I wonder now if perhaps a pee pad – nice and soft – with just a little bit of fine litter for the feeling of burying it – would help! It would make clean up easier for sure. Also, we have to keep his litter raised up on a small table (dogs), I wonder if perhaps the location is awkward if he’s potentially got arthritis pain, or the doorway (it’s one of those covered kinds with a little door). You’ve given me lots to think about, thank you for that!!!

    2. +miaserafina I’ve also noticed, re: seasonal: he gets crazy around spring, wants to go outside, tries to get amorous with our chi (she doesn’t know what’s going on, just that she gets a nice head bath and then kicks him off before he can get into the “right position” 😂). He was abused, terrified of people, and 3lbs when we adopted him from the Humane Society (at 6yrs old & fully grown; it was a horrifying, sad sight). About 3 weeks before we got him (if that) he had been neutered. He is a Bengal and is beautiful though, and he even came with his original lineage paperwork and all that. So for 6 years, he was part of a kitten-mill being used as a stud, again being badly mistreated / abused. Now he’s been with us for about 4.5 years, and he finally knows what being spoiled & even just what being petted feels like. 11lbs, healthy & happy otherwise, still shy but not scared anymore. So now, seasonally, he still gets the instincts to do his thing, but can’t… Poor kitty, LOL.

    3. My males were neutered when the vet recommended, but that doesn’t prevent them from trying. The girls, also spayed, just say no! in no understated manner. The boys then play fight together. 4 of them are litter mates (4 yrs old), but the oldest of the 5 is one of my original 4 going on 18 yrs.

  5. I free feed my cats and don’t have issues with the litter box they freak out if they can’t free feed I think it’s because they were on the street and abandoned so they just like children who were starved eat as fast as possible and then end up regurgitating it and then become aggressive about food but when I free feed its like they know it’s ok I have access to food at all times

    1. One of my cats has this problem too. She used to cry everytime she saw the bow go empty. To this day in the morning when I put out food she cries all the time until the bow is in front of her. In the beggining she ate very fast and she was so thin I was afraid she was not going to make it. Fortunately I was wrong. But she still mantain some of those behaviors of a kitty that went hungry for too long. When she eats she headbuts other cats out of their way to eat where they are eating. It is adorable, but also a sign that she is still afraid of not getting enough food. None of my other cats act like this.

    2. It’s food aggression, usually happens with stray animals who are used to fighting and being protective of their food. Animals who experience hunger all the time tend to be more aggressive when they have more food to eat. Even in an domestic situation.

      I have a cat who I’ve always fed and he never had any problems. I can even pat and brush him while he’s eating without him showing issues. On the other hand, there was a lab on a show that bit a dog trainer severely because the owners literally trained the dog to only eat on command and weren’t home enough for her to eat during the day to not stop her from being protective of her food.

    3. +Sara Nightfire I have a shy kitty. I want to just grab her in a blanket and hold her til she isn’t frightened anymore. I kinda think that would be a disastrous move but I need some advice on better options

    4. Hi I have a stray cat who is a lovely cat but he goes mental for food I don’t free feed him and mows like mad for food

    5. Same with my kitty. Her original owner fed her cheap adult wet food as a kitten, I don’t know how much. She was left alone outside all night at as young as 5 months and was thin 🙁 long story short we legally adopted her at 10months and she eats her food so quick like her life depends on it. I used to free feed until I realised she scoffs it all and was putting on weight pretty quick. She is slowly getting better 💛

  6. I free feed my cat her whole life. She has been maintaining her weight for 7 years. No behavior problems.
    I guess I just got lucky lol

    1. @Penny OBriant I was talking about the size of the meat & bones & not where you buy your stuff.
      So you poke with some metal tools in your cats mouths etc. For that you need to forcefully hold the cats head very still (& quite long depending on how much there is going on), which is highly stressful for cats. That I thought you give them anesthesia isn’t such a “weird” idea…since that’s how vets always do that. Except there is only one drop of tartar which can be poked out with 1 try.
      My cats only needed their first cleaning after 9 years. Of course it sounds like your cats teeth go bad quickly, when you need to clean them every 2 years.
      And if you think somebody misunderstood you, then be more specific while writing, instead of yelling. Don’t be surprised if people fill in the blanks themselves, if you say things with such extreme lack of information.

    2. @Traveler’s Garden – Der Garten der Reisenden I didn’t yell…THIS IS YELLING. Obviously we totally do not understand each other and for that Im sorry. My kitty’s do not mind having their teeth cleaned..shrugging❤

    3. My cat is free fed dry food and gets wet food once a day and is under weight but he is healthy and eats alot

    4. Traveler’s Garden – Der Garten der Reisenden I feed a 85% meat dry food with no grain or sugar

    5. Traveler’s Garden – Der Garten der Reisenden

      You may know a lot of information about cats, but you communicate it with a pompous self righteous attitude. Just relay the information. It will be much more effective in helping others learn.

  7. I have never had an issue with free feeding. Never did treats freely, but always kept a food bowl and water bowl full at all times and never had behavioral issues or weight issues with my cat.

    1. Well good for you! But just because your cats doesn’t over eat does not mean other cats won’t – if all cats could be free fed then we wouldn’t have the issue of obese cats in the first place! Some cats are more obsessed with food than others. Fortunately, my cat is not obsessed with food and does well with meal times and has NEVER woken me up for food (I can sleep until 1 pm if I want without him waking me up). If I free feed my cat, my cat will eat more than what is recommended for a cat, not excessively but it will make him overweight. In the end of the day, it all depends on the personality of that cat. Then there are a whole wide range of other issues, such as older cats with a slower metabolism, indoor cats that dont get the same amount of excessize as an outdoor cat, and many other factors. It’s not so black and white as you put it.

    2. Some cats, like ginger tabbies, are genetically predisposed to obesity and should not be free fed. Ginger tabbies are also 30% more likely than other cats to become diabetic if they are obese.

    3. Karina Hernandez if you don’t leave kibble out you should definitely be giving them meals like 4 times a day, not just twice… I’d assume they would be underweight but either way 12 hours in between meals is a very long yime

  8. I free feed my cat and she’s pretty chill. First time I got her, I did this ‘small meals’ control thing and she would just throw up whatever she ate. At least when I just leave the food out for her, she just kinda portions herself instead of snarfing it all down like her life depends on it. She doesn’t vomit as much anymore.

    1. I also have no problem with my cat. He free feeds and we have no behavioral problems. He just eats a little bit all day. I am gone for 10 hours almost every day and free feeding helps me make sure he gets fed. He is a pretty cuddly chill cat and he doesn’t throw up or is obese or anything like that

    2. Marilyn Newman I know this is old but I just wanted to point out, having a kitten at 4 weeks old is very different. That’s roughly right before they even begin weaning, they need to be fed every 4-5 hours. Even if you start weening, growing kittens need as much food as possible, and thus SHOULD be free fed, since they grow so fast it’s almost impossible to eat “too much”.

      So the portioned amount may‘ve been too little, or it may’ve been that the kitten wasn’t prepared for solid foods. Usually they’d start out on watered down “gruel.” It may even have been an issue of not getting enough food in the past. I’m not sure what the circumstances were, but ideally, kittens should usually be kept with their mothers until they’re 8-10 weeks old, minimum, when they’re fully weaned and ready to live independently.

    3. @Garrett White here on youtube is a video about a cat that had to go on a diet. what they did was take a bottle, put holes in it, fill it with food so that when he rolled it around, food came out, basically combine activity with feeding = foraging

    4. @Afternoon Cats Try the Iams purfect porttions. My little girl was scarfing down dry food, and throwing it up, also throwing up wet food, that i would leave out maybe 3 hour’s after refrigerator portions 6oz can. Had to go to the vet she was throwing up bile losing weight etc.. Smaller portions about 4 times daily , no more puking and she put on a few pound’s. She’s 8 and playing like she’s 5 again

  9. Many comments show Free Feeding can work fine for many cats. People need to understand, the reason why Jackson Galaxy is saying this is it is harder to use the methods to train your cat like the clicker method, if you free feed your cats.. he thinks it’s not inductive to his training methods which He does teach on this channel.. it all has to work together. I’ve had two cats live to 20 years with free feeding. Now i’m learning different methods because i’m having to introduce young cats to older cats which I never had to do before. He’s suggesting it because he needs the cats hungry to train them, he’s not saying it’s always wrong to free feed your cat.

    1. I don’t agree with using food to treat/train a cat. or any animal. Yes, use a favourite of whatever they like as a treat, but feed them. Many animals do great with praise. it shows they trust and appreciate you. My Houdini taught himself to pick up his swizzle stick and run in circles chasing it when I would come home from work so tired that I didn’t have the energy to do it myself. He was a very intelligent cat. All are intelligent, but he was very close to me. For a long time he was my only cat. I have since had 8 at one time and now have 5. Some are close, others are a little aloof.

    2. He proposes having them on a scheduled, daily cycle to train them, not making any cat go hungry. The meal should satiate them, just after they go through the cycle of playing and expending energy.

    3. Some cats, ginger tabbies in particular, are genetically predisposed to obesity and obesity-related disease, such as type 1 diabetes. My gingers do not free feed at all. They get fed homemade raw meat cat food on a 12-hour schedule. Every day the two of them combined go through 10 ounces of raw rabbit, chicken, or beef, including organs and bone, fortified with raw egg yolk, taurine, fish oil, vitamin B complex, vitamin E, iodized lite salt, and just a little bit of water.

    1. Jackson Galaxy your right I am at fault.

      And in these trying times he is trying my nerves with the hole knocking over the trash can all the time.

      This is why he (Shadow) my kitty is going to learn.

      I dont want hem yo get diabetes.

      He is getting really fat at this time so I’m going to have to trick hem into exercise as well.

    2. Hey Jackson,
      I need some help/advice. My 2 yr. old cat has started overeating, he’s never done it even when living in a shelter environment. And when I brought him home he still had a normal eating behavior eating small amounts at a time. Now he will eat all the food that is there in one sit-in and the other cat’s food as well. My parents don’t see it as a problem that he’s getting a belly but hes loosing his cat figure. I’m trying a diet by controlling when and the amount he eats but it’s hard getting my parent to do the same. Any advice on getting them to listen and do the same?

    3. i free feed my cats i will start tomorrow with the transition . can you please talk about recomendations of which food is more convenient for male cats to prevent crystals in urine i heard dry food is bad for them i feed them both and they always have access to fresh clean water my females too they all drink lots of water .

    4. Jackson my cat eats the proportions she must eat 2 times in a day and she always meows when i have food and its my turn to eat

  10. I cat gets half a cup for the WHOLE DAY he’s a bubbler so it helps he eats throughout the day zero problems

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