Deciding whether to leave food out for your Bengal cat or to feed them at specific times can be a difficult decision.
On the one hand, leaving food out all the time can be convenient and allow your cat to eat whenever they’re hungry. ‘Free feeding’ is a very popular choice.
On the other hand, feeding your cat at specific times can help prevent obesity and other health problems. If you have other cats or pets (or curious children, even) then feeding at set times can also make it easier to manage which household member is actually getting access to the food.
In this article we are going to look at whether you should leave food out all the time for you Bengal or whether it is better to feed your feline friend at set “meal times” during the day, like you might do with a dog.
Advantages Of “Free Feeding” (Leaving Food Out All The Time)
The primary advantage of free feeding/leaving food out for your Bengal cat is that it is easy and convenient.
You simply load up the bowl with your Bengal’s food, and then it’s “job done”.
If you are out much of the day at work or with other commitments, then leaving food out is much more manageable than having to time meals for your cat.
For most cats (Bengals included) leaving food out so the cat can eat on demand is typically an effective and simple choice. Cats generally do a decent job at eating when they are hungry and self-regulating their food intake.
If you want a bit more control, then you can always invest in an automated feeder or similar device that can time the food release. Although there is an additional expense in doing this, it can strike a nice balance of control and convenience.
In my view, if your cat has a normal appetite and is able to maintain a healthy weight through free/on-demand feeding, then it’s probably more than okay to continue with this approach.
However, some cats do struggle with having constant access to food.
For some, free food access means overeating, which leads to weight gain and a whole host of issues.
For other cats, having constant access to food can actually lead to grazing and then under-eating, as the cat feels no “motivation” to finish their food as it is constantly available.
With that in mind, let’s look at the advantages of feeding your Bengal cat at distinct meal times.
Advantages Of Feeding At Set Times
One of the main reasons to feed your cat at specific times is to help control their weight.
Although Bengal cats are typically good at regulating the amount they eat (provided there are no underlying health issues that might cause an excessive appetite) allowing them to eat whenever they want can lead to them consuming more calories than they need. This can lead to weight gain and the associated health problems, such as diabetes and joint issues.
By feeding your cat at specific times, you can regulate their food intake and help prevent them from becoming overweight.
In addition to the health benefits, feeding your cat at specific times can also make it easier to monitor their food intake and overall health. When food is left out all the time, it’s difficult to know how much your cat is eating and whether they’re getting the right amount of food. Scheduled feeding times make it easier to keep track of how much your cat is eating and to make any necessary adjustments to their diet.
For some Bengals, set meal times will also promote a sufficient appetite. As mentioned earlier, some cats have a tendency to graze if food is always available. This can actually lead to under-eating. By having set food times, your grazing Bengal will learn that food isn’t always available and this will help to motivate them to eat more.
Of course, there are also some drawbacks to feeding your cat at specific times. For one, it can be inconvenient for you, as you’ll need to make sure you’re available to feed your cat at the designated times. It can also be difficult to get your cat on a feeding schedule, especially if they’re used to having food available all the time. However, with some patience and persistence, you can train your cat to eat at specific times.
Overall, the decision of whether to leave food out for your cat or to feed them at specific times is up to you. Both options have their pros and cons, and what’s best for your cat will depend on their individual needs and circumstances. It’s always a good idea to consult with your veterinarian to determine the best feeding schedule for your Bengal cat.
My personal opinion is that if you are currently using one method and it seems to be working (i.e. you are free feeding your Bengal and it works well for you with the cat being a healthy weight and correct appetite) then there is probably not much benefit in changing. Switching up how you approach “dinner time” for your Bengal should probably be driven off an actual need.
Make sure you read my guide here on the best foods for Bengal cats to ensure you are feeding your cat a good diet as well.