Many times, cats in the same household need to eat separately to ensure each feels comfortable eating and doesn’t get pushed out of the way, or sticks to the dietary food they must eat.
Growing up, we had two cats that ate at the same time and from the same dish (one dish that had two bowls). The younger, more aggressive cat would use his paw to pull the food dish over so he could eat from the other cat’s bowl, even though they both had the same food. The older, more docile cat would simply walk over to the side of the dish that was free and eat until it got pulled away from him again.
It was funny to watch, but when the older cat got diabetes, he had to be on a special diet and could no longer share his food with his stepbrother.
This is often the case for many multi-cat households. If you have one cat that’s more aggressive and territorial than the other(s), or you have a cat that must eat a special diet, you may be wondering how you’ll feed them separately.
6 WAYS TO FEED CATS SEPARATELY
To feed cats separately you must first switch to set mealtimes (rather than letting them graze all day) and then either find different feeding times for each cat, different feeding locations, or get the cat who’s “stealing” food, more interested in what’s in their bowl. It will take time to get your cats used to the new eating situation, but they’ll eventually form a new habit.
If you don’t have the time or ability to monitor your cats until they’re done eating, you may invest in a microchip feeder, which is a food dish with a cover on it that will only open for the cat wearing a chipped collar or, if your cat is microchipped, you can use their microchip number to connect it to the machine so it only opens for them.
1. CREATE MEALTIMES
If you’re currently filling your cats’ food dishes and allowing them to snack throughout the day, the first step is to get them used to eating at mealtimes. This may take a week or two for them to adjust and understand they can’t come back in an hour for more food.
During this transition time, you may need to add one or two extra meals so they don’t get too hungry. But do start filling their food dish at the same time every day and taking the dish away once they walk away from it. They’ll start to understand food isn’t always available and will fill up at mealtime.
2. DIFFERENT FEEDING TIMES
Try getting each cat to understand when they get fed. For example, your one cat may get fed immediately after you get up in the morning while your other cat gets fed when your significant other gets up. Once each cat becomes accustomed to their individual feeding times, they may not bother trying to eat before or after it. This option may work if you need to feed one cat a special diet and don’t have other cats that are more aggressive around the food dish than the other.
You can add some positive reinforcement to try and encourage them to eat during their scheduled times by giving them lots of attention once they’re done eating and perhaps even giving them a treat.
If a cat tries to eat the other cat’s food, stop them without giving them too much attention. You may simply pick them up and move them away from the dish. If you pick them up and cuddle them, or talk to them, they may associate their “bad” behaviour (i.e. trying to eat your other cat’s food) with getting attention from you and continue to do it.
3. SAME FEEDING TIMES, DIFFERENT LOCATIONS
When your cats’ food dishes are right next to each other, it’s easy for them to become distracted by each other, or each other’s food. Try moving one cat’s food dish to another part of the room, or to a completely different room.
You may need to start by feeding them at separate times, and keeping the cat who’s not eating, out of the room. Once both cats are used to eating in their designated locations, they may not even notice if the other food dish is full of “better” food.
4. DIFFERENT ROOMS
If you have a really aggressive cat that won’t allow another cat to eat their food, even when their own food dish is full, you may have to put one cat’s food dish in a room that allows you to close the door.
Feed both cats at the same time so the aggressive cat remains occupied while the other eats their food. With time, they may get used to focusing on their own food dish without the distraction of another food dish nearby, and you may not need to close the door. It will still be a good idea to keep designated locations for each cat’s food dish, ones that are far enough away so they can’t smell each other’s food.
5. DIFFERENT CAT FOOD
If one of your cats gets a special cat food due to a health issue, your other cat(s) may be jealous that they get something different while they’re eating the same food they’ve been eating for years.
It’s likely your cat’s special food is more expensive, but if budget allows, try switching your other cat(s) onto a new cat food that mimics the special cat food. If the special food is wet, try a wet food for your other cats. It may even help to simply switch flavors for the cat who doesn’t want to eat their own food.
6. MICROCHIP CAT FEEDER
For an easy solution that won’t require as much training, you can try a microchip feeder. The idea is that the cat who must eat a special diet wears a collar that you attach a tag to, or you can register your cat’s microchip number if they’re microchipped. The food cover will only open for the cat wearing the tag or who’s microchip number has been registered with the feeder.
This microchip/collar tag feeder works for both wet and dry food:
You may also want the cover to go on the back if your feeding area will allow another cat to eat from the backside:
I hope this article has helped you determine how to feed your cats separately 🙂
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