free feeding

vacuumfreakMarch 7, 2007

I'm surprised this hasn't been a topic yet. Do you believe in free feeding your cat or dog? I don't free feed my cat because I don't want a tubby tabby. Maybe each individual animal is different or maybe dogs are different than cats, but I don't think it is appropriate. I'm sure it also depends on if you feed dry, wet, or raw... would be a lot easier and more sanitary with dry. What about you... how do you feel about free feeding? Do you think it is a good thing to do, or is it for people that are too lazy to actively feed their animals? Will animals stop when full, or are they like people eating out of boredoom

or emotional stress? Thanks!

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When I was a young girl, my parents always kept a bowl of kibble out for the dog and cat to eat out of, whenever.

When I moved out It wasn't a tradition I kept up with. The "kids" get fed twice a day out of their individual bowls. I have some real chow hounds and a cat that loves it when both my husband and I accidently feed her twice (oops). So the measured portions twice a day work best for us.

I can still remember (with a grin) the day our basset/golden found the 20 pound bag of kibble while we were out. He ate himself silly and looked miserable! Luckily no harm came to him from that stunt!

    Bookmark   March 7, 2007 at 5:33PM
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My black lab we had for years was not free fed. When we first got her (she was a foundling, age approximated at 5-6 years when we found her), we pretty much kept her food bowl full all the time. She would eat out of it when she was hungry, but wouldn't gorge herself. At this age she was very active and did not get overweight at all. As she aged, we had to start cutting back on the food because she did eventually start to gain weight and this was good on her joints. So we slowly cut back on her food and got her into a routine of eating twice daily, 2 cups each serving. This kept her nice and trim. Our lab lived to the ripe old age (again, approximated) of 17. And I'm sure that was pretty accurate, she was practically a white lab when she passed away. Now we have 3 new doggies. A hound, another foundling, approximated age 4 years. We feed her twice daily, about 1.5 cups each meal. Then we have an 8 month old black lab and a 4 month old saint bernard. We pretty much let the puppies eat whenever they are hungry. I don't leave an endless amount of food out for them, but I do fill their bowls a few times each day. Probably 3 bowl fillings daily. I am doing this only because they are puppies and very active. They run and play outside (3 acres) for hours every day and seem to have an endless appetite. My thinking is that while they are growing so fast their metabolism is probably pretty high and they have a higher caloric need than an older dog. Now, when they are full grown, I will not be feeding them endless amounts, I will get them on a regular routine of 2-3 meals per day, but now while they are puppies, I feed them pretty much anytime they want it. This may not be what is right according to some, but my dogs are growing by leaps and bounds, they are both healthy, and very happy, so it seems to be working for them, so I'm not going to change it right now. But for a fully grown, mature dog, no I do not agree with free feeding.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2007 at 6:48PM
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I think free feeding totally depends on the animal. If you have one that will snarf food down until it's gone then it's a bad idea.

My parents have 2 dogs that are free feeders, they each have their own feeder and only eat when they are hungry. Both are active and never had weight issues.

One of my shih tzus used to free feed and actually weighed less than she does now. She was switched to a rx diet and eats bid and has gained 3 lbs in less than a year.
Now that I have 2 more dogs they are on schedules too.

I think it should be up to the animal if free feeding is an option. If they pace themselves when eating, great go for it. Chow hounds should be put on schedules.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2007 at 7:47PM
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I think it really depends on the critter. I have two cats, one of whom is completely normal in her eating habits (meaning she stops when she's full and doesn't overdo), but the other one is a kibble grubber to the extreme. She is one of those who would eat herself into a coma if you let her. So out of necessity, I feed them twice a day, measured helpings. It seems like there's one in every crowd...

    Bookmark   March 7, 2007 at 7:58PM
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I feed my dogs a doggie dinner, Skeeter gets one cup of dry dog food and 1/4 can of wet food and water or broth on it,Maee gets 2 cups dry and 1/4 cup wet with brewers yeast and water. My cats ae free fed dry food morning and night they share 2 cans of wet food each cat getting it' own dish it looks so cute with 6 cats all eating together. Oreo and Kreem (the young ones) clean up after the older ones lol.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2007 at 8:08PM
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I think a lot of it depends on the dog. My personal opinion is I'd rather feed meals so I can see exactly how much the dog is eating or catch a loss of appitite quicker than if free fed. Really tho if the dog doesn't over eat either way is ok.


    Bookmark   March 7, 2007 at 9:09PM
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My best friend has always free fed, and now that her little girldog is diabetic, she has had difficulty teaching her to eat her breakfast after getting her shot, so my friend can get out the door and off to work!

Funny thing was when my friend was telling me how she free feeds and none of her dogs have ever eaten more than they needed - all of her dogs have been fat!

    Bookmark   March 7, 2007 at 11:13PM
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I believe in free feeding dogs from time they are pups on...
I have always free fed my dogs dry food & have never had a problem. They still only ate once a day, even though it is there for them for whenever they want it. They set their own schedules and rarely change it. (Of course I don't have a Great Dane either.)
: )
I guess it is personal preference, as to feed that way or not. It has always done great for me & my dogs.
Seeing how much they eat is not hard to do, when you always fill up the same amount in a large bowl. You can tell how much.
I have never owned a fat dog over it.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2007 at 11:17PM
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I free feed the 3 cats. One cat is overweight, the other two are fine. Everyone gets wet food in the morning, but throughout the day they have access to dry and water. I don't think its a good idea, but with 2 of the cats being indoor/outdoor, I don't want anyone hungry either.

I could never free feed the dogs. I have a middle child who will eat paper towels just to eat something.LOL. The other morning he used a chair to gain access to the top of the microwave where DD so carefully put the banana bread she had just baked. Yep, he got it. The dogs would all defintely suffer weight problems. Besides, who would want to give up trying to feed three dogs dinner at 4 p.m. whilst trying to cook the human dinner? I'd miss the shoving, the jumping up and down with excitement, and then trying to get the foods and meds right, making sure that the right yellow dog is at the right bowl:).

However, my friends with only children can free feed with no problems, since there is no pressure of another sibling eating your dinner - at least that's my take on it. When I see it I wonder, geez, how come your dog has such control over itself? Mine have none.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2007 at 8:59AM
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It definitely depends on the animal. Most animals can successfully be free fed but some don't know when to quit. I have always just left a bowl of food down for my animals in the past with no weight or healthy issues because of it, but recently we had a cat that would scarf her food and get sick some of the time. I'm not sure if timed feedings would have helped though because she still would have eaten too fast and gotten sick. She would cram her face into the food bowl and fill her mouth with as much food as she could get into it and eat like that. Well she's no longer my concern!

    Bookmark   March 8, 2007 at 9:12AM
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Arkansasgirl... what ever became of the feline? I know you posted about the problem but I don't remember hearing of an outcome!

    Bookmark   March 8, 2007 at 9:34AM
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They are in foster care with a lady that has another puppy and a cat in foster care. She's taking very good care of them and is very concerned about their well being and feels that she will have no trouble finding a good home for them.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2007 at 11:01AM
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My 5 dogs and 4 cats are all free fed. Being lazy has nothing to do with. Whenever someone walks by their food they will put some in so when one of the pets wants to eat, they can.

None of my animals are overweight except my old golden mix. She's huge, but she has zero thyroid levels and is on meds. Even the meds don't help with her weight and the vet has agreed with me at her age she should enjoy her time left by eating food she enjoys, and not be on a diet.

My experience is that none of them eat out of boredom or eat till the bowl is empty as perhaps many humans do. They eat when they're hungry and stop when they aren't. A lesson I wish I could learn as well.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2007 at 11:23AM
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I've always free fed my animals, and they have never been overweight, but I do think that's because of the individual animals. And I think cats seem to do much better with free feeding than dogs. Altho we had three dachshunds when I was a kid that were free fed and seemed to handle it well. Of course, they ate cat food rather than dog food...

My last cat was particular about getting fresh kibble twice a day. And he was very particular about breakfast time. He'd have a bowl full of kibble sitting right there, but he wanted that dumped, and "fresh" kibble poured for him at 6am. He'd start agitating at 5:45, and there was no way I was allowed to stay in bed until 6:30.

My neighbor's cat that I've taken in is the first animal I've ever had that doesn't self-regulate. She's quite a bit overweight, so I've had to modify our routine. They still get a bowl of kibble in the morning that they can work on all day if they like, but in the evening I mix it with some canned cat food or salmon. They eat much more quickly, and she's less likely to eat the Siamese's food.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2007 at 1:14PM
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Our big guy is somewhat free-fed, by his own choice. We give him a full bowl and some days he'll eat the whole thing and ask for more (by standing at his bowl staring at you like he hasn't eaten in days) and other days he won't finish the first bowl.

Our little girl would eat herself to death in a heart beat. I give her her breakfast, and it's gone in less than 2 minutes, same with dinner. She doesn't like to chew, either, most times. If we free fed her, she'd probably be morbidly obese, if not dead already.

My cats get a set amount of food, once a day, and they seem to be doing well with it, most days. They pace themsevles and make it last all day. Some days though, they eat it all by early afternoon and I have to give them a bit more, just to shut em up and stop the swarming everytime I step foot in the kitchen. My oldest I could fill a bowl of dry right up, and it'd last her a few days. Now with the littlest one, it'd be gone in a day. She will eat and eat and eat, so I have to try and limit them.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2007 at 1:31PM
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I like to control the distribution of food in this household.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2007 at 3:21PM
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I free feed mine, I want to make sure there is always food out for Gizmo as he is a skinny dog, but he gets 1/2 cup of canned in the morning to get him going, Pearly she is a night eater, when we got her spayed there was some concern as the vet had her on I/D (??) canned to make sure she didn't have any sugar shock issues, she would not eat it, so I finally just put some in with her before I went to bed, the next morning it was gone:)

    Bookmark   March 8, 2007 at 3:38PM
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I have three dogs, 2 larger active bird dogs, one a smaller very active bird dog mix. I feed the two larger dogs once a day 1/2 scoop, I feed the smaller one a full scoop twice a day. She gets twice as much food twice as often and weighs half as much!
I would free feed her in a second because she is so energetic and slender. I do leave her bowl down longer, so she might be encouraged to eat more. I think it is hysterical to watch her guard her bowl from the other two that would no doubt eat themselves into oblivion given half a chance...

    Bookmark   March 8, 2007 at 5:51PM
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I've had four cats in my life so far and all have been self-regulating in terms of eating--no weight problems. My current two cats share a little can of wet food in the morning, then eat freely from dry kibble during the day. Only trouble with this schedule is that they wake me up promptly at 5:00 am for the morning food (I do get up that early on weekdays; on weekends when I want to sleep in, it is annoying. . .)

    Bookmark   March 8, 2007 at 6:37PM
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My two dogs get their meal in the late afternoon/early evening, proportioned according to their weight. I feel quality kibble and they share 1/2 can of dog food, in proportion to their weight (one weighs 46 lbs, and the other weighs 10 lbs.) In the morning, after our outside critter-feeding they will have a biscuit each. Gussie, the big one, sleeps outside in her "den", she gets a late snack/treat. a kong or a buster-cube with goodies, sometimes a hot-dog or some raw chicken. They both are in excellent condition, shiny coats and the perfect weight.
My cats get a third of a can of wet food twice daily, each a portion in their own dish, and I fill their dry food dish with one cup of kibble, they eat that at will.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2007 at 6:38PM
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My dogs would continue eating until the food ran out or until they exploded, whichever comes first.

I don't generally recommend free feeding dogs and cats for a couple of reasons. One is that it is very difficult to monitor how much an animal is eating if the bowl is being constantly refilled (depends on how you free-feed). So if the animal goes off feed due to illness, it isn't immediately apparent, which can cause delays in treatment sometimes with devestating effects. When my B'Elanna didn't gobble her dinner up one night, I rushed her to the emergency center- her stomach had perforated. If I was free-feeding, I might not have noticed and she may have died in pain. She still didn't make it despite treatment, but she wasn't in pain.

The second reason is that many animals do not self-regulate their weight very well (me included). Some do, which is great, but many people who free feed their pets have a hard time keeping them in top condition. It gets worse as the animal ages because their metabolism slows down but not their appetite (same with me unfortunately).

Third, as animals age they often develop chronic conditions such as osteoarthritis that require medication to be taken with food or just after a meal. It is impossible to do that if free-feeding, and most animals that have been free-fed all of their lives are very reluctant to go onto a schedule.

Fourth, I train my dogs with the Nothing in Life is Free Program. If they want food, they have to sit quietly next to their bowls and wait for me to prepare and deliver their meal at the proper time. My dogs therefore never beg, bark, or act like lunatics during feeding time, which is pretty impressive with 2 Huskies, a Rottie, and a Lab.

Of course, many people successfully free feed their pets without any problems at all, which is great.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2007 at 4:13PM
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It really depends. We have two cats with weight issues. We feed them set meals. Usually I save a small portion of their breakfast and dinner to give them a couple of snacks - one in the afternoon, the other just before we go to bed. But still a measured amount of food. They would gain too much weight if free fed. Takes time to do it this way as I have to also watch them eat to make sure no one takes another's food, but I figure it is my responsibility to them.

The third could free feed as he is thin, so the snacks work really well for him too. We don't free feed him as the others would get it, but don't limit his amount of food, either, when he does eat.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2007 at 10:25PM
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I free feed my dogs to a certain extent They get a certain amount in their bowl for a day. sometimes they don't eat the whole bowl and it gets added to next days bowl, if it goes empty through the day, they don't get anymore.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2007 at 6:16AM
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I never have, never will free feed my three large dogs. Unless the vet recommends it.

They all get regular exercise, and I still sometimes have issues with their weight, especially in the cold months.

I don't want unhealthy, fat, arthritic creatures on my hands. I've got enough to deal with!


    Bookmark   March 10, 2007 at 5:24PM
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Bumblebeez SC Zone 7

I have always had food available for my two dogs and grew up with dogs that always had it sitting out also. None of the dogs were overweight.
For my two, I think because it sits out all the time, they are not that interested in it. They tend to eat with us when we eat our lunch and dinner. One of the dogs will take up a mouthful, carry it over next to either me or dh, spit it out, then slowly chew up each piece. They share a bowl also.
It's a big decorative pasta serving bowl and the water bowl is equally large.

They get little bits of meat at various times during the day and that is carefully doled out.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2007 at 9:33PM
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Some dogs eat to live, some dogs live to eat. No way could you free feed the latter.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2007 at 10:48AM
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And that's it in a nutshell!

    Bookmark   March 12, 2007 at 1:16PM
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I'll agree that it definitely depends on the individual animal... or, if you've got a few pets, it depends - if you've got one gobbler, they'll sometimes snatch everyone else's food, too. I free fed a cat I had and it worked okay, she was healthy. However, my new Bullmastiff rescue is a scavenger and *must* have timed/measured feedings or he would surely make himself sick, or worse - bloat.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2007 at 5:17PM
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I can't stop my husband from free feeding our two overweight cats dry food. It is expensive grain free dry food but I don't want to feed them dry food at all. They get grain free wet food twice a day and don't need any dang dry food.

He actually goes and buys it himself if I don't. I'm very frustrated over it.

We just lost an overweight kitty to cancer/cardiomyopathy and I don't want the other two to die young too.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2007 at 12:15PM
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