With the formidable size of Maine Coons, and their late-blooming status, folks often ask "How much should I be feeding my Maine Coon?"
It's a sensible question. Kittens and young cats require enough food to fuel their growth. But with such a large breed, how much is that?
Sometimes it seems like they are always hungry! And regardless of age, pet parents often worry about maintaining a healthy weight.
My personal reasons reasons are personal and common sense, and almost all come with a caveat:
Who came up with this measuring idea anyway?
We don't measure the amount of food we feed our human babies and children.
Feline mamas, both domesticated and wild, don't cut off their kittens or cubs at mealtime! Wild cats free feed of course.
And in the old days, before pets stores and pavement, there were no farming families pulling out the 1/3 measuring cup to feed kibble to the family mouse hunter!
What is the caveat? Well, wild cats obviously get plenty of exercise. In a house, it's up to us to help our cats not become sedentary. Keep playing with them, even when they are grown up!
Also, processed cat food is very calorie dense, and not the same as the meat wild felines eat. Supplementing with canned food helps offset this.
Meaning, a one year old Maine Coon might weigh the same as an elderly domestic shorthair.
But strictly following the package guideline for food to weight might leave him unsatisfied. Measured feeding, based on a package, just for the sake of measured feeding, is a one size fits all approach.
On the other hand, there are times a veterinarian will prescribe a measured approach.
Some days I'm really hungry. Some days I'm not. Some evenings my son barely touches his dinner. Other days he eats as much as a teenager, maybe due to a growth spurt.
I see the same behavior in my cats. They are both healthy, so I'm happy to let them choose how much is enough. Their habits change with the seasons and with age.
This brings on unnecessary stress, for a few reasons. For one, a limited supply of food, with multiple pets, encourages competition between them.
And my biggest reason for free feeing is this: When the dish is empty (which is rare), Leo gets concerned about having enough to eat. He might even be afraid when his food runs out he'll be hungry again.
So when we fill it, he devours his food, too fast, and immediately vomits. It's a guarantee. Another thing he does when his dish is empty is to seek out the dog's food and try to sneak some. Definitely not good for him.
Caveat: If the bowl gets empty, my only option is to let him eat a succession of very small portions until he's satisfied.
New Maine Coon owners in particular worry that since this is a large breed, they are prone to being 'fat cats.' But in actuality, Maine Coon Cats are well-proportioned.
They are strong and muscular. Muscle weighs more than fat! They are build to be big - that means big feet, big heads, and long, strong bodies.
On the other hand, any cat can overeat and become fat. And, though rarely, some owners overfeed their Maine Coon or mix in an effort to have a high weight to boast about.
This is dangerous for big cats who already have a heavy frame to support with their hips and joints.
It's also dangerous for mixes who might have medium length fur and friendly Maine Coon personality, but not the length or bone structure to support those pounds.
I, like the majority of cat owners, have multiple cats. One weighs a little, one weighs a lot.
We are also raising a family and spend time working away from the house.
I cannot imagine putting Alice and Leo in separate rooms multiple times a day, each with their different measurements, waiting for them to eat, then confiscating their food till the next time!
Plus, on those longer workdays they would not be happy with waiting. I have a feeling they would end up eating the same amount anyway!
Free-feeding works for us. But whether it works for you is completely up to you and your Maine Coon.
Every fur-family, and every Maine Coon is unique. I strongly feel that being in tune with your cat is crucial.
No one knows better than you whether he or she is happy, healthy and content!