Feeding plan to improve cat health and welfare

Experts at the charity International Cat Care have recently developed a feeding plan, based on scientific evidence, to help mimic the way cats eat in the wild and so provide both physical and mental stimulation for cats. The plan encourages cats to hunt, explore, climb and play – activities which boost cats’ positive behaviour and wellbeing. 

Developed by scientists Dr. Sarah Ellis and Dr. Lizzie Rowe at International Cat Care, the plan also helps to prevent overeating and promote a balance between energy intake and energy output, in order to avoid weight gain, as well as encouraging weight loss in overweight cats.

It is estimated that there are 10 million pet cats in the UK1, and current scientific data suggests that 39 – 52% of these cats are overweight or obese2,3. This is a problem because being overweight or obese is a major health and welfare issue4-9, and can ultimately lead to an early death in cats10

Research shows that current feeding practices are contributing to this obesity epidemic, with a number of factors associated with a cat’s modern lifestyle leading to overeating. For example, most cats need little or no exertion to obtain their food, making it more likely that the calories they take in through eating will outweigh the calories they use up through exercise (leading to weight gain). Furthermore, the way we feed our cats generally does not match the lifestyle they were designed for, resulting in a lack of mental stimulation and reduced opportunity to express natural, instinctive hunting behaviours. This can lead to boredom, apathy, anxiety, frustration and stress in cats, resulting in reduced wellbeing and potentially the development of problem behaviours.

Dr. Sarah Ellis, Feline Behaviour Specialist, said: ‘By making a few simple changes to the way we feed our cats, we can help them to live longer, healthier and happier lives.’

Cat owner, Tim Lloyd, 35, from Surrey, who tried out the feeding plan, commented: ‘I’ve had my cat Colin on the plan for three weeks now and he is definitely more lively, inquisitive and healthy.’

The plan recommends:

  1. Giving cats five or more small portions of food a day (rather than feeding fewer, bigger portions)
  2. Using puzzle feeders
  3. Changing food location regularly
  4. Spreading feeding across the 24-hour period (using timed feeders and puzzle feeders)
  5. Monitoring cats’ behaviour and weight 

A detailed version of the feeding plan, along with the full report behind the development of the plan, can be found on International Cat Care’s website: https://icatcare.org/advice/general-care/keeping-your-cat-healthy/feeding-your-cat-or-kitten

A short version of the feeding plan can also be found here. 

The feeding plan was developed by International Cat Care for The Big Bang UK Young Scientists and Engineer Fair, to help young people realise how science is everywhere, including when it comes to looking after their pets. More information on The Big Bang Fair can be found at: http://www.thebigbangfair.co.uk/




1. Murray JK, Browne WJ, Roberts MA, et al. Number and ownership profiles of cats and dogs in the UK. Veterinary Record 2010; 166: 163-168.

2. Russell K, Sabin R, Holt S, et al. Influence of feeding regimen on body condition in the cat. Journal of Small Animal Practice 2000; 41: 12-18.

3. Courcier EA, O’Higgins R, Mellor DJ, and Yam PS. (2010). Prevalence and risk factors for feline obesity in a first opinion practice in Glasgow, Scotland. Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery 2010; 12: 746–753.

4. Nelson RW, Himsel CA, Feldman EC, and Bottoms GD. Glucose tolerance and insulin response in normal-weight and obese cats. American Journal of Veterinary Research 1990; 51: 1357-1362.

5. Hoenig M. The cat as a model for human nutrition and disease. Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care 2006; 9: 584–588. 

6. Litster AL and Buchanan JW. Radiographic and echocardiographic measurement of the heart of obese cats. Veterinary Radiology and Ultrasound 2000; 41: 320-325.

7. Scarlett JM, and Donoghue S. Association between body condition and disease in cats. Journal of the American Medical Association 1998; 212: 1725–1731.

8. Lund EM, Armstrong PJ, Kirk CA, and Klausner JS. Prevalence and risk factors for obesity in adult cats from private US veterinary practices. International Journal of Applied Research in Veterinary Medicine 2005; 3: 88–96.

9. Miller C, Bartges J, Cornelius L, et al. Tumor necrosis factor-alpha levels in adipose tissue of lean and obese cats. Journal of Nutrition 1998; 128: 2751S-2752S.

10. O’Neill DG, Church DB, McGreevy PD, et al. Longevity and mortality of cats attending primary care veterinary practices in England. Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery 2015; 17: 125–33.




Press enquiries:

Jo Vuckovic, Digital Communications Manager

jo.vuckovic@icatcare.org, +44 (0)1747 871872



Overweight cat

Caption: Current feeding practices are contributing to this obesity epidemic

©Shutterstock.com/Susan Schmitz


Notes to editors:

About International Cat Care (iCatCare)
A charity dedicated to the health and welfare of cats.

The International Cat Care vision: all cats, owned and unowned, are treated with care, compassion and understanding.

The International Cat Care mission: to engage, educate and empower people throughout the world to improve the health and welfare of cats by sharing advice, training and passion. 

For more information, please visit http://www.icatcare.org or https://www.facebook.com/icatcare



Monday, 27 February, 2017