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Got a cat that always seems hungry? New University of Guelph research suggests you might want to reduce — not increase — how often you feed them.

Animal nutrition specialists in U of G’s Ontario Veterinary College (OVC) and Ontario Agricultural College (OAC) have found that feeding cats one large meal a day may help control hunger better than feeding them several times a day.

The research, published in the journal PLOS One, revealed that cats that ate one meal a day were more satisfied, which could result in less food-begging behaviour.

The results also suggest cutting back feeding frequency could help reduce the risk of obesity by controlling cats’ appetite and potentially making them eat less — an important discovery given that obesity is the most common nutritional problem affecting cats.

“These findings may surprise the veterinary community and many cat owners who have been told their animals need several small meals a day,” said study co-author Prof. Adronie Verbrugghe, a veterinarian with OVC’s Department of Clinical Studies, who specializes in companion animal nutrition. “But these results suggest there are benefits to this approach.”

Previous research has examined the effects of meal frequency on cat behaviour, but this study is the first to use a comprehensive approach analyzing effects on appetite-suppressing hormones, physical activity, energy expenditure and use of energy sources, said co-author Prof. Kate Shoveller, an expert in animal nutrition with U of G’s Department of Animal Biosciences.

“There was no good research to back up the several-meals-a-day approach that many owners hear, and so we wanted to put some real data behind current feeding recommendations to be sure they were right for cats,” she said.