Q: I am adopting a cat in a month’s time, and was thinking of feeding him ad lib. Is it healthy? What is recommended for a working paw-rent who is out most of the day?

A: Today’s domestic cats have mostly adapted to suit our modern lifestyles, but with apartment -living—typical in Singapore—our pet cats are further restricted from exhibiting their natural behaviours. For example, in the wild, cats eat multiple small meals throughout the day, depending on the successes of their hunts.

Ad lib feeding (free feeding) is not recommended because indoor cats have a tendency to overeat out of boredom, thereby leading to obesity. As opposed to outdoor cats that have birds, insects, and people to occupy them, house cats have fewer opportunities for stimulation.

I suggest keeping your feline’s feeding regime as “natural” as possible—allowing her to express her natural behaviour as much as possible. Although it takes effort to research and prepare balanced meals, offering raw food twice a day is a good choice. Since you mentioned that you are quite occupied with work, consider quality wet food, which is a good alternative to going raw. In between the two large meals (while you’re away at work), you may feed kibble. Take note to follow the feeding guideline as stated on the package, deducting the calories from your other food sources, which in this case is wet food and treats.

Regarding the feeding method, rather than simply leaving a bowl of kibbles out, challenge your cat with puzzle feeders. Commercial puzzle feeders usually come in various levels of difficulties, so you’re sure to find a suitable one for your cat. You may also wish to create a homemade food dispenser: Simply cut holes into a clean plastic bottle, fill it up with kibbles, and let your cat bat the bottle around to get to her food! Just as wild cats play with their prey before killing and eating, puzzle feeders will require your cat to “work” by using her paws and mental abilities to get to the food. Up the challenge by placing these feeders at random places daily to mimic the searching of prey during hunts.

Also, remember to check with your vet for your cat’s healthy weight range, so that you can weigh her regularly and ensure that a healthy size is maintained by adjusting the feeding portion as required.