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Dear Crystal,

I have two cats. One likes to scarf down his food in a manner of seconds. The other likes to eat his a little at a time. The problem arises when the first then eats the second cat’s food. He is gaining weight!

I have tried feeding them separately in separate rooms. They are too interested in what the other cat is doing to eat their own food. I have tried feeding both cats a little at a time, but then I get constant crying from the first because he knows that he gets more.

Any suggestions on how to change this behavior or what I can do to monitor which cat is eating the food without standing over them during mealtime?

Sincerely,

Dueling Kitty Diners

 

Dear Dueling,

Oh boy, that sounds really frustrating! Kitties can be very particular about their eating habits, can’t they? Unlike dogs, cats are solitary hunters and in the wild would eat several small meals a day. Many cats are grazers who eat several small meals a day, while others are meals eaters who eat their entire meal all at once. We are going to need to turn your grazer into a meal eater since you can’t leave food out all day.

The first thing we need to do is create a feeding schedule. You may want to feed your kitties at least twice a day to make sure that they have adequate opportunity to eat. Try not to let them go any longer than 12 hours in between feedings. Depending on your schedule, you may want to feed three times a day. If you work you can feed in the morning, when you get home and then again at bedtime to make the three meal schedule work. Be sure that you are measuring the appropriate amount of food listed on the bag and dividing it up among feedings. You can still feed them in the same room but there does need to be some separation. We don’t want to feed the cats right next to each other, it can cause them to feel uncomfortable and change their speed of eating.

You could try an elevated surface for the slow eater and feed the fast eater down low. We are going to give the cat up high the food first and then feed the fast eater down low. You could also try a feeding crate so that the fast eater can’t get out to eat the other’s food while he is eating. We are going to give them about 30 minutes to eat. So yes, unfortunately in the beginning you will need to supervise but hopefully it will only take a few meals for them to catch on. I suggest catching up on your reading and use it as an opportunity for some “me time”. When the 30 minutes is up the food bowls get picked up and put away.

You don’t say if you feed wet or dry or a combination of both. I would suggest that you start out the meal with a little bit of can food. Many vets believe that can food is actually better especially for male cats to make sure that they are getting enough moisture. Cats tend to not drink enough water and can food can help provide the additional moisture to prevent urinary tract infections and kidney disease. We often find that eating a little bit of wet food stimulates the cat’s appetite to eat the dry food as well. Can foods also have less carbohydrates and more protein so it can help keep kitty’s weight down better than dry food. If your cat doesn’t like the can food, it might be the flavor or texture. I would suggest trying to narrow down a preference for pate versus shreds and poultry versus seafood flavors if they have one. You can also try some tuna flakes or juice in the food to entice him.

Another option may be to try to slow down the other cat that eats too fast. You can try a really large bowl so that the kibble is spread out and takes longer to eat. There is a huge variety of slow feeders for cats now. Not only will it slow him down but it will also provide enrichment and entertainment for the fast eater. I suggest a search for slow feeders for cats or enrichment feeders for cats. You will be amazed at the variety of products out there!

In short, we need to entice the one kitty to speed up and slow the other kitty down. If you don’t already you may try playing with your kitties for 10-15 minutes prior to eating to help encourage his appetite. Cats naturally hunt before meals so you can mimic their natural tendencies which will lead to happier kitties even nothing else. I hope one or more of these tips can help you find a balance that works for you.

Until next time,

Crystal

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