Feeding Multiple Cats: Setting Up a Feeding Station
Multiple cats bring a lot of joy to a household but they can also bring some challenges when it comes to feeding. Here are some tips to consider if you have more than one cat that you are caring for.
Generally in most multi-cat homes, meal feeding with individual feeding stations is the best approach.
This is especially true when some cats must be fed a specific type of cat food, such as Hill’s™ Prescription Diet™. Free choice feeding can be problematic in multi-cat situations, particularly because it is not easy to monitor each cat’s appetite and food intake. This can make it more difficult to tell when your cat is not feeling well. Additionally, assertive cats may block access to the food bowls and guard it from shyer cats, or make shyer cats leave the food bowl ,before they are finished eating. Conflict among cats is often subtle — cats communicate largely by eye contact, facial expression and body language.
Setting up a feeding station
Each cat can be fed in a separate room in the home with the door closed. Typically, a regular feeding schedule is used, and each cat is given a certain amount of time to eat (e.g., 20 to 30 minutes). Water is freely available in several places at all times.
There are ways that overweight cats can be fed separately from their slimmer housemates. For example, a hook and eye closure can be put on the door to one room to allow the door to remain open enough so that the slim cat can fit through, but not the overweight cat. Or the slim cat can be fed on a high surface, such as a shelf or counter, where the overweight cat is unable to jump up. It may also be possible to use a baby gate to feed cats in separate rooms if the overweight cat cannot jump over the barrier.
Feeding stations can be homemade using a plastic storage box and a cat flap operated by your cat’s own microchip. Commercial feeding stations are also available. Food can be freely available in the feeding station if recommended by your veterinarian, or a meal-feeding plan can be used. Another option is to use a timed feeder inside the feeding station.
Regardless of the feeding plan that is chosen, it is important t,o consult your veterinarian about the amount of calories your cat should consume each day. If a free choice or combination feeding plan is used in a multi-cat home, it is important that the volume of cat food offered should not exceed the total calorie requirements for all the cats each day.
Feed most of the daily cat food allotment when family members are at home. This will reduce the chance your cat will learn to beg for food. Full bowls of cat food should not be available when no one is at home.