Whether you feed your cat on a set meal routine or allow her free-choice feeding (or a combination of both), you may have noticed that she tends to eat less in summer.
This is normal. Recent research shows that most cats will eat approximately 15% less in the warmer months, even if they are predominantly indoor cats. It is believed that cats use less energy maintaining their body temperature in summer and therefore require less food.
So how best to adapt to her reduced appetite? And is there anything else to be aware of?
IS MY CAT COMFORTABLE IN SUMMER?
Domestic cats’ maternal ancestors have been traced back to the deserts of Africa and the Middle East. As a result, cats are well-equipped to deal with high temperatures, even if they do tend to eat less in summer.
WHAT EFFECT DOES MY CAT’S AGE HAVE?
Your cat’s age may have an effect on her ability to handle warmer weather. If you have an older cat you might have noticed she likes to be in warm spots during the day, perhaps sunning herself in front of her favourite window. This may be because the warmer temperature helps alleviate any bone or joint pain she may have. It will also affect her appetite – a more sedentary lifestyle will naturally reduce your cat’s energy needs.
Very young kitten generally need warmer temperatures than older cats as their temperature control needs to learn how to function properly. So you won’t see any difference in your kitten’s behaviour or appetite in summer.
WILL MY INSIDE CAT EAT LESS TOO?
If your cat is an inside cat and she has a variety of spots to be in during the day -some cool, some warmer -she will generally find summer easy to deal with, but you may still see a slight loss of appetite, that most owners wouldn’t notice...
It is thought that the increased daylight of the summer months naturally causes a reduction in the appetites of all mammals, including our pet cats.
HYDRATION AND WET FOOD
Keeping your cat hydrated is the most important thing you can do for her during the warmer months.
A normal 4kg cat should drink approximately 150ml per day (though they may drink less if they are being fed wet food). So, it’s important to provide your cat with plenty of fresh, clean drinking water in different places throughout your house, and in a cool, shaded spot outside if your cat spends time outdoors.
Keep an eye on her bowls - make sure to clean her bowls regularly and replace them with fresh water at least twice a day.
Plastic bowls can give water an unpleasant taste so consider upgrading to a stainless steel bowl. You could also consider investing in a cat fountain that provides continual, fresh running water whenever your cat wants a drink.
If you feel your cat is not drinking enough, it’s possible she doesn’t like the taste of your tap water so try some bottled spring water instead. Do not locate the bowl next to the toilet, litter tray or next to the feeding bowl.
Also, as cats get older they can forget to drink enough water. Try delicately pouring fresh water into a bowl in front of your cat, or lead her to a dripping tap – the movement can spark her interest and encourage her to drink.
You could also consider feeding your cat wet food in summer. Wet food has a higher moisture content than dry food and will help keep your cat hydrated. In fact, wet food with a moisture level of approximately 75% would allow your cat to thrive without drinking water at all. Like most desert animals, cats can get hydration from their prey.
Also, wet food tends to be highly palatable and enjoyed by cats as it usually offers a wider variety of flavours, and it has a texture more closely resembling fresh meat.
MY OUTSIDE CAT IS LEAVING FOOD IN ITS BOWL
As we’ve mentioned, it’s totally normal for your cat to eat less food in the warmer months. If you feed your cat outside it’s important not to leave her uneaten food for too long. Wet and dry food will begin to deteriorate quickly in the summer and can attract bugs, insects and other animals to your cat’s bowl. It also quickly becomes unattractive to your cat and can put her off her regular feeding routine. It is better to feed your cat with regular, smaller meals than large servings that she only partially eats.
WHAT ELSE SHOULD I LOOK FOR BEFORE FEEDING MY CAT?
Making sure your cat is relaxed and out of direct sunlight before you feed her. Summer can be a challenge for our feline friends at times and their reduced appetite can sometimes be the cause for alarm. If you have any concerns about your cat you should always take her to see your vet.
But, if she is relaxed, eating regularly, getting plenty of fresh water, her body weight is stable, you’re brushing her regularly, and she has cool places to be in during the day, there is no reason to be alarmed. Let your cat eat when she needs to eat and let her enjoy a nice long, lazy summer. Sounds lovely!