Feeding my pets once per day

I started feeding my dog and cats once per day about six weeks ago. This began as a trial, but it’s been going so well I may stick to this schedule.

I switched my pets to one meal per day instead of two as a way to cut back on stress for myself. I have a cat named Beamer with an unhealthy food addiction, and the constant meowing and harassment before mealtimes really, really gets to me. My mutt Ace and my other cat Scout are a bit more subtle about begging, but still annoying.

In addition to the begging, let’s just say Scout has been having some bathroom issues. Apparently the litter box is now optional for Mr. Princess. Feeding him once per day is a way to control his “schedule.” I’ve been treating this cat like a puppy and restricting his freedom until I know he’s “gone.” It’s just easier to deal with this once per day.

So to make it easy, I switched all three pets to one meal per day, and they receive this meal in the morning. It makes my life less stressful, and the animals don’t seem to mind.

Ace Piglet Stordahl

Like most people, I assumed my animals would “protest” this new schedule and beg like crazy for their second meal around 5 p.m. Instead, what I’ve noticed is my dog and cats beg because it’s part of their routine. They are not necessarily hungry.

My cats beg by showing exaggerated affection, scratching things to get my attention, head-butting me, jumping in my lap, poking me with one claw and meowing. My dog begs by exaggerated yawning, whining, nudging my arm and staring at me. He will also grab a bone and chew on it as loudly as possible right next to me.

Here are some examples that show my animals beg because it’s part of their routine:

“Triggers” in our routine cause my dog and cats to beg.

There are many pieces to our routine that cause my animals to ask for food. They know every detail of what formerly lead to their evening meal. When these “triggers” in our routine take place, they beg. If these “triggers” do not occur, they do not beg.

The most obvious trigger is when Josh comes home from work around 5 p.m. This “excitement” sets off the begging. On the weekends, 5 p.m. rolls around (and then 6 p.m. and then 7 p.m.), and there is no begging. Josh worked from home yesterday (and therefore did not come home at 5), and there was no begging.

Josh’s mom has been staying with us this week, obviously altering our routine a bit. There has been no begging this week.

My dog and cats always stop begging around the time they would’ve eaten.

Even when a trigger causes my animals to beg, they always stop begging around the time they normally would’ve finished eating. They don’t beg after 6 p.m. or so. The recent time change has also worked in our benefit. Once it’s dark, the animals assume feeding time is long gone.

This tells me that although certain triggers have conditioned my animals to ask for food, there are also triggers that tell them to stop asking for food.

Is it safe to feed my dog once per day?

This is a good question to ask your vet because some dogs need to eat more than once per day. It’s usually best to feed a growing puppy two or three times per day, for example. But for the most part, adult dogs will do just fine eating once per day.

I know some people are sensitive about comparing dogs to wolves, but I pet sit and foster a lot of dogs and I notice that many of their natural eating habits do compare to the way wolves eat in the wild.

It’s usually feast or famine for gray wolves, according to the International Wolf Center, an organization that provides information on wolf biology. Finding food is a full-time job for them, so they have to be able to go days or even weeks without eating much. When they do catch a large mammal, boy do they eat! A gray wolf is able to eat up to 22 pound of food at one time.

Many of the dogs I care for choose to eat once a day or even once every two or three days. They eat a large quantity of food at one time and then they are good to go for a few days. I believe that part of the reason they eat this way when I care for them is because their routines are off. Their usual “triggers” such as their owners coming home from work do not occur so they eat when they are naturally hungry.

When I travel with my own dog, he doesn’t ask for food around his usual mealtimes. There are no triggers to tell him it’s time to eat, and he is usually focused on more important things like new smells or getting someone to scratch his head or throw a ball.

Another factor to keep in mind is that most dogs would love to be out exercising for most of the day just like wolves. Most dogs would prefer to work for and earn their food. I’m not saying this is always convenient for the humans. I don’t always walk my dog before he eats. It’s just something to consider. After all, most of us would prefer to work for and earn what we own rather than have everything handed to us.

Will my dog throw up if he eats one large meal?

He might 🙂

My dog is one of those big-chested dogs with a tiny waist. I always make him lie down after he drinks water or he will throw up. That’s just the way he rolls.

Bloat is always at the back of my mind as well. Bloat in dogs occurs when a dog’s stomach fills up with air, making breathing difficult because of pressure on the diaphragm. So when Ace eats a large meal, I keep him quiet for an hour or so afterwards. He is fine to go for a walk, but I don’t throw his ball or take him running until a few hours later.  He naturally wants to curl up for a nap after he eats anyway.

How should I switch my dog to one meal per day?

Just switch him, cold turkey. It’s no big deal. Just combine his meals to one so he gets one larger meal. If he doesn’t eat all the food, then put it away after 10 minutes. He’ll be hungry the next day. Feed him at the same time every day to help him get used to the new routine. Don’t feel bad for him. He’ll adjust to the new routine after a few weeks.

I’m not saying it’s better to feed a dog once per day. It just works for me and my dog right now. I might stick to this schedule or I might not. If you want to feed your dog two or three meals per day, then by all means, go for it.

Some people will definitely call me lazy for only feeding my pets once per day. Maybe it is lazy. But making cuts to a routine is not always the easy route. Who is more disciplined? The person who checks her email once per day or the person who checks her email multiple times per day?

How many meals per day do you feed your dog or cat?

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