How often should my cats be fed in a day? I have three cats. One is on a special diet for struvite crystals. My other two eat dry food. Ella is skinny, but Maisie is overweight as well as her brother, Binx. I don't leave their food out because Binx is not allowed their food at all, but I feel like Maisie is constantly wanting her food so I'm always putting it out for her to eat because I end up feeling bad. So how many times a day should I feed them?
There is no right answer to this question. From a health point of view it is okay to feed adult cats once, twice, three times a day – or more – as long as you can control their calorie intake. Free choice can be okay in some cats, but not if they tend to over-eat. I would say most people take the happy medium of feeding twice a day, as that is easiest to fit with most people's work schedules.
There are, of course, certain conditions where feeding schedule must be closely monitored, such as in a diabetic cat. In otherwise healthy cats who are overweight, it is important to control their calories. You can calculate how much they should be getting based on their ideal weight, and the calorie information which should be available online for most mainstream brands, or if you call the company. Unfortunately this information is not on the bag for many foods.
For overweight cats who tend to over-eat, you may find it helpful to split the total calories into more meals. Feeding three or four smaller meals will mean that their stomach is less empty for long periods. Also consider switching to a lower calorie food, as that will allow cats to consume more (feel fuller) but not take in additional calories.
Timed feeders can help when you need to feed more meals a day, and provide excellent consistency in timing which cats often appreciate. However, with timed feeders it is hard to control which cat eats which food, therefore thi is not likely a workable solution for you.
For your underweight cat, if you have not already done so, it is important your vet rules out whether there is a medical reason why she is not gaining weight despite an increased appetite. These signs are quite typical of hyperthyroidism, so it would be worth checking a T4 to make sure her levels are within normal range.
See How Often Should You Feed Your Cat? for some further information.