Cats and
those early
food requests
Working with early morning food requests
copyright (c) 2021 Frania Shelley-Grielen.  All rights reserved.

With daylight savings time making our fall days start even later this is the time of
year when I hear from cat owners that kitty complaining has reached new heights,
for food that is. People tell me those plaintive meows are making them crazy, well
how do you think kitty feels about all of this? Daylight savings time affects more
than just our personal routines it affects the routines of the pets in our lives as well.

There are a number of things to pay attention to here, with the number one being
the issue of choice and control. As much as we love our companion animals we
most definitely deprive them of much of the choice and control over the resources
in their lives; when to eat, what to eat, where to eliminate, in what, when it’s
cleaned, when to go out, when not to, what to do, what not to do and with what,
what to play with and who, where to sleep and on what and who, the list goes on
and on. Being deprived of choice and control is inherently stressful for all animals
and is more apparent in a species more recently domesticated such as a cat.

With a resource so integral to survival such as food, the stress is greatly amplified.
The  cat cannot fulfill the desire to eat, the need to eat, or a method to procure their
own nourishment and is entirely dependent on the "when", "what", "where" and
"how" of the owner. Foraging and/or hunting account for a significant portion of
how wild animals spend their time, leaving our pets with a whole lot of free time
with little to fill it save for what we provide. To offset boredom and provide for the
opportunity for your cat to indulge those natural hunting behaviors, feeding either
the morning or evening meal with a puzzle feeder can be intrinsically satisfying
and add to your cat's overall well being.  Along with puzzle feeders, keeping routine
times to feed pets, especially when those times are complimentary with what the
animals might choose for themselves, offering the best possible food will help to
lessen the stresses surrounding feeding times. For cats this means looking at their
crepuscular nature, being most active before dusk and dawn (probably when the
best hunting is). Cats are “obligate carnivores” so feed the best possible meat based
diet, no vegetarian formulas and do feed early in the morning and early in the
evening to translate to the best feeding times for feline natures.

All animals have internal or biological clocks and are subject to circadian rhythms
which relate to light and dark cycles in their environment and impact behavioral,
cognitive and physical changes in the animal. Our pets do adapt to our waking and
sleeping patterns if we maintain them in our environments. A 2013 study which
compared nighttime behaviors of cats housed indoors with cats let out for the
evening (9 pm - 8 am) found that the indoor cats had established activity patterns
of rest and sleep which were in concert with their humans, the outdoor cats were,
you guessed it—mainly  active at night. Another note on circadian rhythms worth
mentioning is that they are not a strict 24 hour time span; this rhythm ranges with
species and individuals from 23.5 hours to 24.5 hours more or less. Mechanical time
clocks which measure out an exact span of hours may not be keeping time with an
actual day set by circadian and biological time keeping. Along with the anticipation
of looking forward to the event, (which is also a documented factor influencing the
cat’s behavior) this time discrepancy may help us in understanding why some of
our pets may always be on the “earlier” side when it comes to reminding us of
mealtimes. It certainly goes to explaining why daylight savings time (which just
passed and may have occasioned my friends’ notice of disrupted mealtime
complaining) is a huge interruption in schedules.

Reset incompatible feeding expectations by keeping mealtimes the same time each
and every single day and for each feeding, this is paramount to stress reduction.
Begin now to alter changed or erratic schedules through a span of 15 minute
adjustment periods over the course of a week. For example, with this month’s
autumn daylight savings change all activities were set back one hour including
cat feeding times which meant that a cat fed at 7AM was now being fed a full hour
later. Allow for adapting to the change by feeding 45 minutes earlier for the first
two days, then 30 minutes earlier for the third and fourth day and 15 minutes
earlier for the fifth and sixth day to recalibrate timing. (You can change the
increments to shorter time spans than 15 minutes just know that doing so will
call for a longer span of days to fit the adjustment period into.)

Offset the stresses of schedule changes by providing for more interactive play time
in the evenings. A minimum of three to five minutes of play with a fishing wand
toy (experiment to determine preference and remember to draw objects away from
and across your cat’s line of vision) will really do wonders.

Domestic cats are descended from the African wild cat. This species is more
territorial compared to the Scottish or European wild cats which made the African
wild cat the more likely candidate for domestication. Francis Galton, writing about
domestication in 1865, noted that the domestic cat was not necessarily gregarious
or easy to take care of but “retained by its extraordinary adhesion of the house in
which it is reared.” This extreme attachment to place comes with attachment to
what occurs in that place. The cat’s welfare is directly and forcefully impacted by
routine and environmental events.  A ground breaking study done in 2011 found
that disruption to routine resulted in sickness behaviors in healthy cats and that
providing an enriched environment to sick cats resulted in a significant decrease
in the number of sickness behaviors and/or symptoms exhibited. The study found
that keeping the time the same every single day for each feeding was paramount
to stress reduction. Other factors were providing for the same caregiver, playing
classical music (no rap or heavy metal please) offering playtime including the
interactive kind, keeping clean litter boxes in the same locations and avoiding
manual restraint.

Putting together a recipe for cat contentedness includes providing an
environment  for your feline companion with consistency and routine. To get
there make sure your home offers cat perches like window seats or cat towers,
enough cat scratchers, classical music, puzzle feeders, toys to play with and
human interaction—make time for cat play and petting time and pay attention
to what time kitty gets to eat to make everyone in the family happy.

Stella, J.L., Lord, L.K., Buffington, C.A.T. (2011).  Sickness behaviors in response to unusual external
events in healthy cats and cats with feline interstitial cystitis.  
Journal of the American Veterinary
Medical Association
, 238, 1, 67-73

Piccione, G., Marafioti, S., Giannetto, Panzera, M., Fazio, F. (2013) Daily rythm of total activity
patterns in domestic cats (Felis silvestris catus) maintained in two different housing conditions.
Journal of  Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research.  Published online January 7, 2013.

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Cats sleep for up to 18 hours a day to conserve calories for hunting
copyright Frania Shelley-Grielen
"Along with puzzle feeders,
keeping routine times to feed
pets complimentary with
what the animals might choose
for themselves along with
offering the best possible food
will lessen the stresses
surrounding feeding times.
For cats this means looking at
their crepuscular nature, being
most active before dusk and
dawn (probably when the best
hunting is)."
Providing you cat with puzzle feeders can address a cat's need to hunt
Schedule an individual consultation
Copyright Frania Shelley-Grielen
212-722-2509 / 646-228-7813

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