In my job as a veterinary technician, owners often tell me  “I can’t train my cat – food does not motivate my cat ”. ” My cat won’t eat his medication in a treat – he doesn’t like treats”.

Like people, cats are individuals – some are grazers and others will eat at any time. BUT… all domestic cats share common ancestry -Felis Libyca, the African Wildcat – and they have inherited a certain physiology.

The Behavior of Feeding



Cat on the Prowl
Marley looks for critters in the bushes


  • Cats have small stomachs and a short GI tract designed to digest meat.
  • They cannot wait until they get hungry to hunt – they will starve if they do.
  • Their lifestyle is one of being on the prowl most of their waking hours, looking for food

The free-roaming cat eats up to 8-10 meals daily.  The number of meals depends on the size of the meal – it will take a bit longer to digest a rabbit than a few bugs!

You say “Food does not motivate my cat”? What if we try to mimic the prowling feeding style of the wild cat?

Feeding 4+ Meals a Day

How much to feed?

Daily meals for a cat
A cat’s daily food ration – 2 meals of canned food with two puzzle feeder meals of dry food.


What your cat will eat in one sitting.

  • watch your cat – pick up and measure the food eaten when he leaves the bowl -OR-
  • offer a “2 mouse” meal of about 50 kcal

Feeding 4+ meals if you are not home during the day

  1. AM: meal feed: canned or dry food
  2. DAY: (2) food puzzles  with dry food
  3. PM meal feed: canned or dry food
  4. Snack at bedtime: Treats for training or play

How to Do It:

Use puzzle feeders/timed feeders

  • each puzzle has a “two mouse” meal
  • timed feeders with “two mouse” meals
  • some feeders can hold ice packs for canned food
  • “timed” puzzle feeders


Avoid leaving large amounts of food out.  While it is convenient just to top up the bowl, you don’t know how much your cat is eating.  Boredom can lead to self-soothing behaviors such as over-eating and over-grooming.

Food Security in Multi-Pet Households

My dog will eat the food puzzles

  • Food puzzles in boxes
  • Food puzzles in closets
  • Feed on counter or high places

My other cat will eat all the food 

  • Use a microchip feeder  Surefeeder
  • Feeding on different levels
  • Isolate cats when not at home
Move the puzzles and feeders around when you can. Once your cat is prowling to dine, he will be more interested in training treats and treats for medications.  Train and medicate BEFORE meals.  Find the treats he values or use his regular food as treats.

A timed puzzle feeder…

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