My cat does not have any specific schedule or amount for eating.

I feed her dry cat food available at market.

Whenever she gives me a particular call, which I know is her "please feed me call", I give her food. Sometimes it comes to food every 30 to 20 minutes.

And I give her as much amount of food that she cat eat. I wait till there is food left and she still walks away. Then I put the left over food back in the container.

Is this the right practice to follow?

NOTE: It is not possible to keep open outside as it will get infested with ants.

  • 4
    If you pet her and pay more attention to her at this time, you are doing more then just feeding her. While you think here particular call just means "please feed me" it may also mean she just wants to you interact with her in the way you do when you feed her. Commented Aug 7, 2017 at 14:47
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    @Pharap the problem here is with ants. Food cannot be left outside because of them.
    – Sonevol
    Commented Aug 9, 2017 at 12:04
  • 1
    By outside I mean in any container that is not air tight. Food will soon get infested with ants.
    – Sonevol
    Commented Aug 9, 2017 at 12:25
  • 2
    Related Question How can I free feed a cat without feeding the ants? Commented Aug 9, 2017 at 12:34
  • 2
    Others may be disagree but I say when it comes to dry food let the cat eat what it wants until signs of obesity. I have had many cats and never rationed food and never had an obese cat. I get a feeling over time how much is eaten in a day discard what is left each day as stale and refil the bowl. I also never have ant problems in the house, every few years I have to put out bait traps but thats it. Maybe its worse where you live, I have seen tricks such as placing the food dish on a platter with water (ants usually wont swim) or dbl sided sticky tape around the bottom of bowl.
    – Joe
    Commented Aug 9, 2017 at 18:46

9 Answers 9


I would not give your cat as much as she wants, obesity is a problem in our pets because they eat too much and don't exercise enough. There are guidelines on the bags of food that tells you how much your pet should be eating of that specific food. Sometimes these guidelines are generous so weigh your kitty every 2 weeks to minimum once a month.

From petobesityprevention.org

In the October 2016 clinical survey, 53.9% of dogs and 58.9% of cats were classified as overweight (body condition score (BCS) 4) or obese (BCS 5) by their veterinary healthcare professional. That equals an estimated 41.9 million dogs and 50.5 million cats are too heavy, based on 2016 pet population projections provided by the American Pet Products Association (APPA). In 2015, APOP found 53.8% of dogs and 58.2% were overweight or obese.

Cats are known grazers so it's a good idea to purchase an automatic feeder that dispenses portioned food at different times during the day. On average a cat should eat 3/4 of a cup of food or less a day (check the guidelines of the food you have). Cats benefit more from wet food than dry so be sure to add some canned goods, again you would substitute some dry for the increase of wet.

Portioning your pets food also allows you to easily see if your pet is losing it's appetite or always begging for more food. Both cases warrant a vet visit to screen for underlying ailments such as diabetes or hyperthyroidism.

Here's a good chart to body condition score your cat

enter image description here

DISCLAIMER: To avoid confusion there are 2 different scales - petobesityprevention.org does the 1-5 scale where as now the standard is leaning towards 1-10 scale to be more precise with scoring body condition


It's probably fine but you should definitely monitor your cat's weight. If she is walking away herself then she can probably control herself.

If you are worried why not measure out the correct daily amount every morning then only feed her from that. Over eating or under eating is sometimes the first indication you have that your cat is sick. Using this method it is easy to notice and you don't need to worry about overfeeding!

  • 1
    +1 The strategy in your second paragraph is a great strategy! My strategy is quite similar for a single cat. Free feeding, but only with the amount of food required. I split it up into a morning and evening feeding. So if they need 3/4 cup, give 3/8 in the morning, 3/8 in the evening. Never more than the maximum, and you can trivially spot if they aren't eating enough. By splitting it, there is less risk of the food getting stale or losing flavor. Admittedly, the strategy becomes more challenging if you have multiple cats and some are greedy gorgers. Commented Aug 7, 2017 at 17:42
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    Yes! I store the food in a 'daily' airtight container because I don't feel like measuring out things that often! :)
    – nicV
    Commented Aug 8, 2017 at 12:45

I've always just left food out for my cats to eat. As long as they are active either indoors or outdoors they usually know how much they need and stay at a healthy weight.

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    Same here, I've never known anyone not do this, it seems so strange to put the food away when the cat has finished eating! My cat eats small amounts throughout the day, and since her bowl is topped up twice a day (morning and evening), she never has to come and actively ask for food!
    – TabbyCool
    Commented Aug 7, 2017 at 13:38
  • I've always done this. So long as you start them young they never feel that food is a potentially scarce commodity that should be consumed in case of drought. Commented Aug 8, 2017 at 9:14
  • I do this, but with a measured amount each day to there's no risk of them overeating.
    – user10093
    Commented Aug 9, 2017 at 9:35
  • This isn't really an answer and should probably have been a comment, but it's still a very good point. Cats still have the same "I'll eat when I'm hungry" mechanism that humans (and, call me crazy, all animals) have.
    – Pharap
    Commented Aug 9, 2017 at 10:52

You certainly can do this, but there is a risk of the cat overeating to the point of obesity.

Every animal is different (including humans). Some cats will eat only what they need, others will keep eating until they are unhealthy. Mine, for example, bother me constantly for food. You might think I am starving or otherwise abusing them the way they cry. However, they are slightly overweight, and I feed them a specific amount each day after consulting with a veterinary doctor so they will go down to and maintain a healthy weight.

Cats are unable to think at the level humans are. A cat might be overweight and think "I am hungry, time to pester the human for food" but is incapable of thinking "but that is okay because I need to lose weight, and do eat on a regular basis, just not enough to maintain my obese body mass."

I recommend monitoring your cat's weight, and discussing with a vet if you are unsure about your cat's health.

You can quickly tell if your cat is the proper weight by looking for a well-defined waist and you should be able to feel her ribs without pressing too hard (source 1, source 2). In other words, you should easily be able to feel the bone structure of your cat without the obvious appearance of being emaciated.

If your cat is a normal weight using your current feeding method, everything is fine. Otherwise, you will need to adjust the overall daily intake to get to that normal weight. As always, please talk to a vet if you have any health concerns about your cat or are unsure about advice you read on some random web site.


In addition to answers already here:

There is no correct answer, that does not include "depends on the cat, you and some other things". Like

  • is it the only cat?

  • has the cat a chance to get food outdoor?

  • is probaly someone else feeding the cat with 'lovely things'

But "in dubio pro reo", or "in doubt for the accused"

I grew up with many cats - I think about 60 all over my life till now - many where the cats of my mother when I was a child. I am around 50 now. I live know in Greece, ... some cats around.

What I have learned: they are all different and as long as they are not sick (any kind - including psycho) the do not eat too much.

And as long as you are not sick (any kind - including psycho), this is still true. (yes you and the cat are somehow a team)

And yes, as other mentioned, keep an eye on the weight of the cat, if it gets to fat,

  • go to a doctor (you)
  • go to a doctor (cat)

I remember many of the cats in my life, there were only a few cats getting fat, one had a big problem with the other cats in the house, was eating every plate clear, just to be sure ....

An other one had a prob with health.

And again, if the cat does not eat up all at once, good chance no problem.

Some stories:

We had a male cat (died with ~ 15 years, not fat, just old), we learned that 'he' does not have a problem, if we leave 'him' alone for 3 days as long as there is water and food. After this time being back, he came purring and half of the food was still here. (we found out after somebody died, we had no other chance, so don't call as bad to cats)

We have a cat know, (we grew her up with the bottle, we got her with 10 days, here mother left the nest with the other 5 babies), she comes 3 to 10 times a day, asking for stroke and food, most of the time just looking if there is food - just in case

And we have a dog - educated - does not touch cat food as long as it is in the cats plate ... on the floor doggy cleans all.

  • My cat is the only cat, she is never outdoor and no one else feeds her, except my mom, and we feed the cat jointly.
    – Sonevol
    Commented Aug 9, 2017 at 12:14
  • Food cannot be left open here because of ants.
    – Sonevol
    Commented Aug 9, 2017 at 12:18
  • @Sonevol You should mention that the cat is not allowed to go outside in your question, it puts a different spin on things (because the risk of obesity and stress is greater).
    – Pharap
    Commented Aug 10, 2017 at 10:59

We have two purebreed cats, which comes with the advantage of breeder support and advise. Both breeders independently recommended to us to simply leave food out for the cats at all times. In english this practice is typically called "free feeding". Basically, whenever we come to the kitchen, a quick glance tells us if there's food left, and if not we add some more. Our cats can eat at any time they want, however much they want. Both of them are slim to normal.

The background, as told to us by the breeders, is that cats do not overeat. This is different from dogs, who do. As long as a cat sees that food is always there, she will eat until not hungry anymore and then stop and walk away. Sometimes you can see them "digging" their food (which of course doesn't work on a kitchen floor) - that's cat for "I'll keep it for later"

As we were told, cats tend to become fat if they don't get activity, or if food is sometimes there and sometimes not - then they learn that when food is there, they need to eat so they are not hungry when it isn't.

Ours are very independent when it comes to food, go to eat whenever they want, and only sometimes inform us, usually when we forgot to fill the plate.

Last note: We went on short trips a few times (3-4 days) and while we have two feeding machines, basically we just leave a lot of dry food and water out, and they're absolutely fine and typically there is enough food left for a day or two when we come home. They definitely don't overeat.

  • For me the option of keeping enough food on food bowel to let the cat free feed in not present. Here there are excessive amount of ants.
    – Sonevol
    Commented Aug 9, 2017 at 12:12

Good & bad eating habits come from experience

Cats learn stuff; they're smart! So if a cat has all of the food it could ever eat 24/7, then it gets lots of practice in how to handle excess food. Whenever cats stop eating (which they necessarily must if they have unlimited food), they're learning the concept of moderation.

Sadly, some cats instead get experience in running out of food. These cats still learn a lesson, but it's a different lesson: they practice eating everything that's infront of them when it's infront of them. And that's a bad lesson. Worse, it comes at the cost of learning to eat in moderation.

Older cats who have bad habits might need management

Unfortunately, if you have an older cat that's struggling with obesity, it might be too late to give it the lessons that it should've had as a kitten. And in that case, the cat may need its diet to be managed because it doesn't know how to manage its own eating.

Kittens should be given good eating habits from the start

If you have a young kitten, it's best to get it trained immediately. Give it excessive food 24/7; more than it could possibly eat. Then each time the kitten goes to eat, it'll eventually have to walk away despite there being more food. Every meal becomes a lesson in moderation.

If the kitten is given limited food, then it'll learn the other lesson: to eat whatever's infront of it. Avoid this as much as possible! If the food's getting low, refill it such that the kitten can't run out.

Ultimately, the goal is to teach kittens to have healthy eating practices.

  • 1
    I agree. I raised a couple of kittens that had been abandoned as newborns, they always had to "compete" for food mainly due to our large dog that would devour unguarded food, plus 3 older cats (one of which would try to steal other cats food). I did expose them to all kinds of food (i.e. raw, kibble, etc) to make sure they wouldn't grow up to be choosy. They now live with a relative and on a free feeding regime they have become fatties. Alas you can't change a cat's kittenhood you just have to work with it as is (one of our cats was clearly freefed kibble, she does poorly with mealtimes) Commented Aug 10, 2017 at 9:28

I have an indoors cat who I tended to perhaps overfeed inadvertently by always making sure her bowl always had food in it.

I took her to her annual check and the vet noted that she'd gained weight and that I should work towards getting her on a diet so she can shed some of that excess weight (plus it would help prevent diabetes and other feline issues related to overeating).

As already noted, what has ended up working really well is getting a simple automatic feeder that provides food at set times and in set amounts.

Over several months she ended up losing that excess weight, learned to stop pestering me for food (she didn't really like being on a diet initially and before I got the feeder she would come and beg me to feed her) and it's also saved me the hassle of having to measure manually her portions before feeding them to her (and I don't have to worry about being stuck at work and my cat going hungry).


It is highly dependent on the cat. We have four cats; two of them maintain a healthy weight when allowed to free feed, the other two overfeed to the point of obesity if allowed to do so. Your cat will probably be happier if allowed to free feed if this is an option for your cat so I would recommend trying it and carefully monitoring any changes in your cat's weight.

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