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Pet Food: Feed on a Schedule or Leave it Out All Day?


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You have spent the time researching the best food for your pet, but how often should you feed him?

Do you leave the food out all day so he can eat whenever he wants? Or maybe you should create a schedule with specific feed times?

Free-feeding versus scheduled feeding is one of the most polarizing arguments among pet owners, with many claiming that their way is the only “right way.”

With so many opposing thoughts on the subject, how do you know which is correct?

Much like feeding a human child, there is not just one right way to feed your fur baby. There are many things to take into consideration such as your pet’s breed, temperament, age, nutrition needs, current health concerns, and even your schedule!

Below we have compiled a list of pros and cons for both methods to help you make the best decision for you and your pet:

Free-Feeding Pros

  • With free-feeding, your pet can eat whenever they want to, never feeling hungry.
  • Because food is readily available, your dog or cat will not feel the pressure to eat even if they are not hungry.
  • Free-feeding works great for those pet owners who do not have a set schedule and would find set meal times difficult to adhere to.
  • Depending on the level of activity that day, your pet may need more or less food. Free-feeding allows them to take what they may need.
  • Some say having food always available decreases food aggression.

Free-Feeding Cons

  • There is a risk of overeating and obesity as it is harder to keep track of how much your dog or cat eats. You could put the bowl in an area where you can see it to help keep better track, but it would not be exact.
  • It is extra hard for households with multiple pets, especially when there are different foods for each, to keep track of nutrition.
  • Because you would not know every time your pet eats, it can be hard to anticipate their need to go to the bathroom. This can make housebreaking take longer.
  • Food left out often gets mixed in the water bowl or left on the floor, creating an unhygienic situation.
  • If you leave food out, your pet will not be motivated by food, which can make training more difficult.

Scheduled Feeding Pros

  • Scheduled feeding makes portion control much easier, reducing the risk of obesity.
  • A schedule provides structure to the day, which is great for an anxious pet.
  • Those who feed their pet on a schedule have better success with housebreaking, as they can anticipate the need to “go.”
  • Set feeding times mean that food and bowls can be put away when not in use. Which means a cleaner house for you!
  • It is much easier to notice changes in eating habits earlier, which could indicate a problem.
  • Scheduled feeding supports a healthy hierarchy. Your pet will respect you as the leader/food giver.
  • Scheduled feeding is best for wet or fresh foods that will go bad if left out too long.

Scheduled Feeding Cons

  • Scheduled feeding is something that must be consistent, or you could cause anxiety in your pet. A timed automatic feeder may help with this problem.
  • Your pet may feel the need to eat, even if they are not hungry, because they know they will not be offered food again until the designated meal time.
  • Scheduled feeding could lead to food guarding. Knowing food is limited may cause stress and aggression.
  • You may be under/over feeding without knowing.

Your Choice for Quality Pet Care in Potomac, MD

Still not sure which feeding method is best for your pet?

At Falls Road Veterinary Hospital, we specialize in a variety of pet health and wellness services, including nutrition and diet counseling. Our veterinarians have seen many different breeds of cats and dogs and can help you find the best way to keep your pet healthy that works with their needs and your schedule. Contact us to schedule your appointment!


Contact Us

Falls Road Veterinary Hospital


10229 Falls Road Potomac, MD 20854

Clinic Hours

Mon-Wed: 8:00am - 8:00pm
Thur & Fri : 8:00am - 6:00pm
Sat: 8:00am - 1:00pm
Sun: Closed