It doesn’t even take the sound of a tin can being taken out of the cupboard to start our cats going. Their own biological clock tells them food time is near and they get as excited as piranhas in an underwater butcher’s shop. Before you know it, it’s feline feeding frenzy time!
Food makes up a major part of a cat’s life. Depending on the owner to provide them with the building blocks of life itself, cats take on the behavioral feeding patterns of kittens in the nest, meowing loudly to make sure you don’t forget they’re there and they’re hungry.
Handling a single hungry cat is easy. Whatever your feeding schedule is like, your cat is likely to show some level of interest and you will provide her with her meal. But what if you share your home with more than one cat? The cats are likely to excite each other with their vocal meowing, and feeding time can become fairly intense. If the cats have to compete over food dishes, or if for any reason you can’t or won’t feed them at once, it could be very difficult to have them all together in the same room.
The Challenges of Feeding in a Multi-Cat Household
Owners of multiple cats can find themselves facing several feeding challenges. Just how challenging things can get depends on the –
- Number of cats involved.
- Temperaments of the cats involved.
- Size of the feeding area and number of dishes available.
- Specific dietary needs and concerns.
Rivalry and Food-Induced Aggression
Cats can have fairly complex social interactions with each other. They form their own social hierarchy and can form either friendships or bitter rivalries with their fellow felines Thus, in a multi-cat household there is always potential competition over resources. In Kitty’s view, these resources can include available napping spots, litter boxes, owner’s attention and of course, food.
Some cats are more likely than others to share their food, allowing their feline buddies to stick their head right into the same food dish. Other cats go crazy when another cat, friend or foe, comes near their lunch. Competition over food can quickly deteriorate into rivalry in other areas too. You could eventually end up with a behavioral issue, whether cat-to-cat aggression, or stress-induced litterbox problems.
As always, prevention is key. It’s always best to have enough feeding dishes with enough space between them to keep everyone happy.
Feeding different diets
Sharing food dishes, whether simultaneously or with one cat “finishing up” after another, may not always be a good idea. Sometimes, you have to feed different diets to different cats. This can happen when one of your cats –
- has a medical condition requiring a specific diet.
- needs to take medication mixed into his food.
- suffers from a food allergy.
- should have his or her food consumption limited due to weight issues.
In each of these situations, you can’t risk having cats eat from food dishes other than their own.
Practical Cat Feeding Tips for Multi-Cat Households
- Have enough food dishes.
- Keep enough distance between food stations.
- Prepare food dishes in advance and only then let the cats into the room.
- Don’t let cats go hungry for too long. This could make them even more agitated prior to feeding times, increasing risk of aggression.
- If you need to feed separate diets – feed in separate rooms, or feed in the same room at different times, making sure the other cats are locked out of the room.
- Switch to scheduled feeding and avoid free feeding, especially if you have any cats with special dietary needs.