Set food times and acting starving constantly- PICA factor?

monkeymind

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In the past we free fed our cats but with our new cats we have them on a 2x a day schedule feeding the amount for their weight. Anytime they hear a container they come running and beg for food as if they are starving. they scarf down their meals and any treats so rapidly they have bitten our hands before. Mealtimes has been helpful to know changes in hunger so that is a plus. With the way they act I'm concerned free feeding would lead to obesity and health problems.

Another concern is the younger cat (15 months) may have pica. he tries to chew and swallow just about anything. his current obsession is kleenex. we have to watch everything carefully to prevent him swallowing undigestable items. And while both cats act food obsessed he howls, jumps out of control, etc. we have tried training him with a clicker but nothing seems to make him behave or act full. Within minutes of eating their meals begging will happen. Would love your input on meal times and the behavior around it.
 

dr rachel

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That the cats act so hungry suggests they are either not getting enough calories per day ( we can figure that out if they are losing weight) or the satiety factor of the food you are feeding (meaning they eat and no longer feel hungry) is lacking. I am not sure what type of food you are feeding, but wet food often lasts longer in terms of satisfaction than does dry food.  You can try to modulate some of these panicked behaviors by trying a different formulation of food (foods with higher fiber can help, for example), feeding smaller more frequent meals or meal feeding twice daily but leaving a small quantity of food out for the cats to graze on through the day. You can feed the same number of calories, just make it more readily available through the day. Domestic cats are basically graze feeders and some really  need that ability. Stimulation within the environment can also be an important factor in overall behavior.  Some advocate the use of puzzle type feeders that so that they eat their food slower and are more active in the process, which may help the cats overall by giving them sensory stimulation.  For people who feed wet food twice daily, I think a mid day meal in a puzzle feeder could be very helpful.

The Pica-like behavior may be related to perceived hunger even if the calorie needs are met.  I suspect this may be a feeding schedule issue and we should try to make some adjustments before we give him that label.  Pica is a primary behavioral abnormality but perhaps for now it is best to assume he is just hungry and change the feeding regimen.  
 
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monkeymind

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Thank you for the tips. We've been doing the raw food (I am the other thread person) so I want to look at other wet options and nutrient content. We have a puzzle feeder but imagine wet would be a mess. Any recommended kibble or treats for mid day play meal? Initially we transferred them from kibble, to wet, to raw but a couple times gave them kibble again and then they would refuse the raw food. After losing 1 to CKD and another to kidney and gallbladder problems that came on really fast I want to make sure we are doing everything possible to keep our boys healthy and happy. Losing are older cats was traumatic in both cases- 1 prolonged and 1 sudden- for us both were devastating so trying to be the best parents we can to our purr babies.
 

dr rachel

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Sound like you are doing a great job.  :)

Perhaps for mid day you could select a low calorie, higher fiber type kibble for the puzzle feeder. There are also automatic feeders that you can set the times they open up.  In the right circumstance, a small amount of wet food could be placed within and that could be their mid-day meal.
 
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