Make Multiple Cat Feeding Easier
Cat Feeding in a large multiple cat household can easily turn into a mob scene. Fights, food stealing and general piggish behavior can keep some cats from getting any food at all - and ruin mealtime for everyone - including you!
It can seem impossible to dish out the food because there are several trying to take it right out of your hand - you almost step on 2 or 3 cats while trying to get food out to another. Add a dog or 2 to the mix trying to eat all the cat food you put down and you just feel like throwing all the food into a big pile and heading for the nearest exit!
It is up to you to restore some order to your cat feeding time. Fortunately, you've got 2 major positives in your favor - cats thrive on routine and you are the keeper of the food!
Cat feeding done the same way and same time everyday will develop a routine your cats will come to know and depend on. This routine will help promote the bonds of trust and friendship between you and your cats. They depend on you for food, and with an established cat feeding routine, they all eventually learn to trust that you will provide for them.
And, because you control the food, the cats will come to respect (a little bit anyway) the routine you set for them. But, since cats tend to be more selfish than respectful when it comes to food, you need to have a few tricks up your sleeve.
The first thing to do is to set up cat feeding stations. In a large multiple cat household, feeding stations are separate areas set aside just for cat feeding. Some cats prefer to eat on the ground and others prefer to eat up high so areas should be both on the floor and elevated.
If you have dogs too, all of the feeding stations should be elevated to make it easier for you to keep the dog from eating all the cat food - most dogs just love cat food!
The cat feeding stations should also be easy to clean. Many cats like to pluck their food off the dish, set it down, then eat it. Cats may be considered neat but when it comes to food they tend to be quite messy!
We have 4 separate cat feeding stations. One is at ground level, 2 are elevated, and one has both ground and elevated eating areas.
The floor level feeding station is is located in the kitchen and is simply a washable carpet runner. Here we keep a water bowl and a Drinkwell Pet Fountain Big Dog
. We recommend a larger fountain with a reservoir for multi-cat households or if you also have a dogs. (The fountain shown in the picture above is the Drinkwell Platinum.) At this station, we can feed 4-6 cats here. We can easily spot clean the carpet or throw it in the washer if necessary.
***UPDATE***Many of our cats prefer drinking from a water fountain. The ones we used were OK but we noticed that over time the bowls became etched and rough from the water. We were concerned that they would harbor bacteria. We found a different type of dringking fountain that is made of smooth materials. We have used them for several months and NO ETCHING! Our cats just LOVE it! Even ones that didn't normally drink from the fountains are now drinking from them. Since keeping cats well hydrated is so important to their health, finding a fountain that so many cats enjoy drinking from is great! Check it out for yourself! Just follow the link!
Cat Mate Water Fountain
Next to the floor station, we built storage shelves and the cats eat on top. On the wall above the
ground feeding station we placed a couple of small shelves in stair step fashion so the cats can access
it without jumping on one another.
The nice part about this feeding station is that it serves the dual purpose of providing storage for us and accommodating 4-8 cats at feeding time. The shelving was painted and the top poly coated so it wipes up easily. We also have plastic place mats secured on top with double sided tape.
The largest cat feeding station was created using 2 laminated console tables set in an "L" shape with a cat tree in the middle. Because they are laminated, they wipe up easily but we also taped down plastic place mats.
On one of the tables we have another Drinkwell fountain. The area below the second table serves as a ground cat feeding area. We also store a couple of cat carriers here and the cat weight scale. This feeding station is located in our family room.
We can feed up to 10 cats at this feeding station. We also placed a carpeted staircase in front of one of the tables to make it easier for some of the less agile cats to be able to get to the food.
They can also cross from one table to the other by walking across the cat tree. The cat tree also serves as a sort of blind for the cats who don't want to look at each other.
***UPDATE***Recently, one of our human family members became ill and required a hospital bed and other hospital-type equipment at home. In order to accommodate his needs, we had to make some adjustments to our cat feeding station in the family room.
You will note in this picture that one of the tables that formed the "L" for the feeding station has been removed. This allowed room for the hospital equipment in the family room.
The real problem then became what to do with the other feeding table! We still needed it in order to have enough space for comfortably feeding all of the cats - especially since we had increased our number by
that would soon be joining the rest of the big kitties!
We had never wanted to have a cat feeding station in the master bedroom but, under the circumstances, this was our only option.
This actually turned out to be great for several of the cats! Those that prefer to sleep in the bedroom now simply lounge on the bed until plates are placed at "their" table. They nibble on the bowl of dry food in the middle of the night and like to sit on the table and "watch" us in the bathroom!
We also noticed that a couple of the cats that waited til last and ate leftovers now wait in the bedroom and eat their food fresh without interference from the pushy eaters in the group!
We only bring up this change to illustrate that it is possible to be flexible with setting up your feeding stations. What you think might not be the best idea may end up being the greatest thing for your cats! So get creative with your cat feeding stations set-up!
The last cat feeding station is also the cat food preparation area. This is an island counter top in the kitchen. We feed the more aggressive eaters here so we can keep a close eye on how much they eat. This is easy because these cats like to be first to the food and stay close in case any more gets dished up for them.
This feeding station is tiled so we just wipe it up. When cat feeding, we just dish up the food and push it to the spot we want the cats to be - they follow the dishes with enthusiasm!
If we have a group of kittens, we feed them together on the floor next to us while we are dishing up the food. This way we can watch them and prevent the bigger cats from eating all their food. If we have the mother cat too, she eats with them but we don't need to watch as closely - nobody messes with a mama and her babies!
***UPDATE*** - With the recent addition of
Gizmo and her babies
, Ernie, Heidi, Wally, Molly and Daisy, we knew we would need to add an additional feeding station once the kittens grew bigger. We decided we wanted to keep them up off the floor since they would be eating in a room where there were also a couple of litter boxes.
We set up a sturdy card table next to the kittens' favorite cat tree so they could easily access it. They all started out eating there but recently, a couple of them have started eating at the other areas with the 'big kitties'. And we noticed Marty and Louie have decided that this new station is their new favorite spot to eat!***END UPDATE***
Separate cat feeding stations make it easier to monitor whose eating what. The more assertive cats tend to stay in the kitchen and the more timid, or slower eating cats tend to want to eat at the family room feeding station or the new bedroom station.
All of the cats start out at their favorite cat feeding spot. They may trade dishes from time to time but tend to stay at the same feeding station area.
If we need to
change a cat's diet
for any reason, once they have been successfully transitioned to their new food, we gradually move them back to their favorite eating spot. This helps to restore their routine at cat feeding time which results in better appetites and happier, calmer cats.
All of the cats are monitored during mealtimes to insure they all get the proper amount of
While we may have developed the cat feeding routine, some of our cats have added their own unique aspects to it.
Some of our more fussy eaters like to be petted and placed at their dish. This is part of their mealtime routine so we always be sure to do this. The cats eat better. If we don't, they often won't eat or another cat will eat their food first. A food dish full of food with no cat eating is fair game!
We also have a couple of cats who prefer to eat alone but will not eat if placed in another room. They like to eat in the kitchen after everyone else has eaten and left the room. These two cats will watch while the others eat. Once everyone else is done, they present themselves at the food prep area and wait for their food. We haven't figured out why they do this but it seem to make them happy.
One of our cats likes to stay at the food prep station and take a bite from every plate of food as it's dished up. After this, he eats his own food then hangs around licking the empty food cans. This has become part of his daily routine.
The cat feeding routine may have been introduced by us but several cats have put their own unique imprint on it!
Each cat is also fed using one cat food dish per cat. Though they often share dishes or go from one to another,using separate dishes makes it easier to see who is eating what, how much, and which food they don't like.
Cats hate to get their whiskers dirty and some won't eat if their whiskers touch the sides of the bowl. We solved this problem by using plates instead of bowls. We tried paper plates at one time but the cats were easily able to scoot them off the feeding station, they tended to absorb the water in the food, and of course, were very costly and wasteful.
The plates we use are simple, inexpensive, melamine ones we purchased at a discount store. Since some cats are allergic to plastic and can develop mouth sores if given food or water in plastic containers, melamine plates are an inexpensive solution. They are also much cheaper than traditional cat food bowls.
Plates are easier to store because they're flat and take up less room than bowls. We prefer to wash plates rather than than bowls because they stack neatly in the sink and there are no creases for food to get stuck in. We wash the plates by hand after each cat feeding session. While these plates are dishwasher safe, we prefer not to run the dishwasher so often.
Probably the most important part of cat feeding routine, in addition to feeding stations and cat food dishes, is to to feed the cats around the same time every day. This provides your cats with a certain amount of security regarding food.
This is especially important for strays and newly acquired cats who are already insecure about their surroundings. We feed our cats in the morning and evening, with snacks around mid-day. The time doesn't need to be exact but the cats will make sure feeding time occurs as close to the same time every day as possible.
Cat feeding time is learned very quickly. Our cats start hanging around about 30-45 minutes before the evening meal, staring at us. About 20 minutes before mealtime, they start getting pesty, interfering with whatever we are doing. They know it's play time!
Part of our routine is to play for about 10-15 minutes before the evening meal. In the wild, cats hunt - then eat. Play mimics hunting. This part of the routine helps stimulate appetites and during the meal, they are too busy eating to pick on each other.
We highly recommend adding a bit of play time for your cats prior to feeding. For cats that don't get enough play time, food becomes the high point of their day. This can often lead to over eating and mealtime squabbles. Playing for a few minutes before cat feeding time can easily solve this problem.
Mornings have a slightly different routine. Forget sleeping in! If we aren't up early enough, they torture us until one of us gets up to feed them. (Something every cat owner knows all too well!) We get even by making them wait while we enjoy a cup of coffee! This actually has the benefit of increasing their anticipation for breakfast. Because they start getting excited, they tend to play with each other. By the time breakfast is served, they are hungry and usually eat very well.
The type of routine you develop for cat feeding doesn't really matter. It is the routine itself that strengthens the bonds of trust and friendship between you and your cats.
Cat feeding stations help both you and the cats. The cats get a secure place of their choosing to eat every day and you get to keep an eye on how they are eating - catching any potential squabbles before they become a full blown fight. Observation of the eating habits of each cat will help you to note if someone is not eating and might be ill.
Some of the more eccentric aspects of the cat feeding routine that the cats create for themselves will also help promote the bonding between you and them. As long as it doesn't disrupt the other cats, indulging these individual needs helps to make the cat feel special and more secure - and sometimes they are fun for you too!
Giving your cats food that provides good
, whether commercial canned food or
homemade cat food
, sticking to a routine, and monitoring your cats at their feeding stations during mealtimes will turn your cat feeding mob scene into a mealtime of controlled chaos. Try it - your cats will love you for it!
Go to Cat Nutrition
- To learn the basics of good Cat Nutrition.
Go to Bast Cat Food
- To learn how to read cat food labels and how to choose the Bast Cat food for your cats.
Go to Homemade Cat Food
- To learn how to make your own Homemade Cat Food.
Go to Feeding Your Cat
- To learn how to avoid common problems when feeding your cats.
Go to Cat Diet
- To learn about special cat foods and how to change a cat diet safely and easily.
Go to Dry Cat Food Update
- To learn why we recently started feeding our cats dry food again!
Return from Cat Feeding to Feeding Cats
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