Most cat owners feed their kitties from bowls, and many allow their felines to graze all day on dry food that is continually filled when they let us know it is running low. This can make it difficult to know how much your cat is actually eating, especially in multiple-cat households (and, as cat owners know, it’s easy to “acquire” more than one cat!) Cats often become overweight and have no way to expend their energy with the availability of an all-day buffet and the slothfulness that goes along with being an indoor cat.
By offering food in a bowl only, we don’t allow cats to use their prey drive, which in turn can lead to cats being bored, anxious, stressed, overweight, and looking for an outlet. Cats are often surrendered to shelters due to behavioral problems like scratching furniture and/or people, stalking or pouncing at small children, being disruptive at night, and other behaviors that could be explained by frustration, anxiety, and boredom.
Cats who live outdoors catch many small meals throughout the day, which is why folks who have a nearby outdoor kitty notice a distinct lack of rodents and other pests around the house. Aside from sleeping, much of an outdoor cat’s time is spent stalking and hunting. While it is much safer to keep a cat inside, indoor cats don’t have the same outlet, and have little else to do other than eat. Toys and playing help, but can’t mimic the all-day mind and body workout that is catching prey on which to survive.
So what’s a cat owner to do?
The first step is to stop feeding your cat alongside other household pets. Eating for cats is actually a vulnerable time. Cats are solitary hunters and predators. Eating alone encourages them to relax and eat more slowly, and to pay attention to when they are full. Less stress at mealtimes can also help to decrease medical issues, including vomiting, urinary tract infections, and eliminating outside of the litter box.
Feed smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day to mimic a more normal feeding pattern for a cat. Cats are often accused of being finicky – but their stomachs are only the size of a ping pong ball. They really should only be eating a small amount at a time. An automated pet feeder can help with maintaining this schedule.
Ditch the traditional bowl – puzzle feeders make it more exciting for pets to eat as they have to work to get the food out. This also makes eating take longer, which helps to alleviate overeating. Puzzle feeders are great for both cats and dogs, especially those who are prone to “scarfing and barfing.” If you’ve never seen a puzzle feeder before, come in to the store and we will show you a variety of options – pets love them.
A wonderful alternative or supplement to bowl feeding are fun, mice-shaped feeding dispensers, made by Doc & Phoebe Cat Co., and designed by Dr. Bales, a leading veterinarian in feline behavior and environmental enrichment. They have outer cloth wraps to stimulate the tactile feel of prey for a cat to grab, claw, and use their teeth on. These mice-shaped feeders are similar to puzzle treat dispensers that require pets to play with their toys in order for them to get the treats. Once your cat gets used to the idea of how to use the feeders, you can start hiding them to increase the amount of fun stimulation that goes into “catching” the “prey.”
We are excited to see you in store, or for curbside pickup or delivery. Ask us about alternative feeding options for your pets. See you soon at Leo&Lucky’s!