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November 12, 2019

Creative Meal Times for Cats: Part I

Some cats go into high gear as soon as they spot food. Meal times become feeding frenzies—a race starting the moment the food bowl hits the floor. They are voracious around food—inhaling their meal the instant it looms into view. Other household residents need to be vigilant. No meal is safe. The probability of eating a leisurely meal when living with a ravenous eater plummets to nil.

Motivations for this frustrating behavior vary. Felines who had rough beginnings—former strays who did not know when they’d eat again often exhibit this annoying behavior. Boredom is also a factor. Eating helps pass the time when there is not enough mental or physical stimulation. And let’s not forget the foodies. They simply love eating. Whatever the motivations, the results are the same. Cats who eat too much too fast often vomit undigested food. Eating too quickly can also cause cats to gag. Another consequence of over-indulgence is obesity.

The Mandatory vet check

Before approaching this as a behavior issue, cats with eating disorders need to be examined by their veterinarians. Medical issues, including parasites, can cause them to eat like there is no tomorrow.

Will work for food

Cats are predators—our household kitties’ feral cousins hunt for a living. Meals are not served in bowls or placed on platters. Neither do they graze whenever the mood for a nosh hits them. Hunting is hard work and it is mentally and physically stimulating. Keep in mind that hunting for a living is dangerous and food can be scarce. When ferals and other wild cats are not successful hunters, they do not survive.

Although felines are safer and live longer and healthier lives indoors, they still have instinctual hunting behaviors. Meal times for indoor cats can become almost as stimulating as hunting—without the outdoor dangers.

Creative feeding

Maulee retrieving treats from the Nina Ottosson Dog Spinny

Meals become exciting by changing how cats access their food. Standard food bowls are pretty boring and don’t encourage working for food. Exciting feeding systems include muffin tins, puzzle boxes and treat balls. It takes more effort to retrieve food from them. An added benefit is that cats are less likely to inhale their food and then immediately vomit because it slows down the food intake. Favorite puzzle toys include the Nina Ottosson Dog Tornado, Dog Brick and the Dog Spinny . Although these were originally designed for dogs, they are perfect for cats. Food and treats are placed in the different compartments and the kitties have to work for their food—spinning bones or sliding covers off compartments. The Stimulo Cat Feeding Station is an alternative feeding system for canned food. It comes equipped with cups of different heights.

Switching between food delivery systems also adds interest and spices up meals. It is important to monitor the use of creative feeding solutions—cats should be slightly challenged, not frustrated by them.

Part II of Creative Meal Times for Cats will be published next week. It will focus on food games and small meals.

More help

For further help with cat behavior challenges, contact Marilyn to discuss scheduling a consultation.