An opinionated feline in Edmonton, Canada who lived with a retired cat behaviourist, Greyce provided behavioral advice to cats in need until her death in July 2014. Because her entries are useful even today, the blog remains posted.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Feeding Frenzy

Dear Precious Greyce,

We are eating machines who gulp food down. We would eat everything and all the time, if we were allowed. We raid our companions' bowls. Themselves cannot eat in our presence because we get on their plates and nothing can stop us. If they try to eat standing up, we just jump and climb on them to get at the food.

Other than that, we are very affectionate, cuddly, playful and energetic. Herself says we are just purrfect. And we agree. But when it comes to eating, we are like small tornadoes.

Does this have something to do with being abandoned?

At about two months of age, we were left on the street in a nylon bag. Herself  took us home and found lovely homes for our two sisters. We three remaining cats charmed her so much that she couldn't part with us. (We are extremely cute.) 

So now we live in a multi-pet household with another cat and a Havanese (dog) who are our friends. Oh yes, there are two humans as well. And everyone gets along except when it comes to eating.

Herself has tried to slow us down. She used wide bowls but we just stepped inside them; it was great because we each could protect our share from the others. She separated each bowl quite a bit. That's didn't work either.  And as soon as we are finished, we raid someone else's bowl.

So here is the current situation:

Twice a day when it is feeding time, we are kept locked in another room while Herself is in the kitchen preparing our food. Meanwhile we let the neighbours know that our meal is getting ready by screaming, jumping and trying to knock down the door. If we ever got out, we would head straight into the kitchen and start to look for food everywhere - even go into the saucepan before she can dish it out.

When our meal is ready, Herself puts our food down, in another room. When she opens our door, we run like rockets shot into space, sweeping away and destroying everything on the way to our bowl. And before you ask, Greyce, we behave the same way with commercial food.

Our companions eat separately because they eat at a normal spend and don't have a chance to finish their meals if we are around. We get more food than they do. And our vet says we are NOT thin.

How can we become more civilized eaters?

By the way, we know that our sisters eat like we do. Each of them live in single-pet homes so there is no competition for food. The good news is that we've received reports that each of them calmed down their eating behaviour - a lot - about a month ago. 

Can Herself expect the same from us? And if you don't know the answer, just send us a parcel of food instead.

Sheffy, Mimoza and Cherry

Dear Sheffy, Mimoza and Cherry,

You certainly belong to the list of cats with amazing behaviour.

When I was first rescued, I inhaled food because I was so hungry. Just like any street cat. Admittedly, I have been known to gulp food and then throw it up on occasion. But you are in a class by yourselves!

I think there is a strong possibility that you will calm down in time, just as your single-pet siblings have done. After all you are all siblings and have a history of the same behaviour. And now two of your litter have changed their ways, as they are growing up.  

But in your case it will take more time. Your single-pet siblings had no one else to keep encouraging their behaviour; whereas you have each other.

There are two parts to your problem: 1) your impatience with receiving your food (related to your antics when someone goes into the kitchen or in the presence of human food); and 2) the speed at which you eat. There are things that could be done to modify your impatience (item 1) but many of them require re-training that would be difficult in a 5-pet household. So let me suggest some simpler things instead.

All of my suggestions have to do with getting you to eat more slowly (item 2)  which I would consider the first step. Then we can work on getting you to be more patient.

Here are some things to try (if you have not already done so):

Add water to your food to thin it out. That way Herself can either smear it thinly all over a dinner plate which means it will take more time for you to lick it up. OR she can thin your food to make it like a  soup which would take time to finish, even in a bowl.

Elevate your food bowl. Many cats I know are fed on the floor or other flat surface, so they have to bend down. For some, it encourages faster eating. Some fast eaters have been known to slow down their eating with the same method. Before you purchase elevated food bowls (and the site I've highlighted here has several in its 'feeding' section), try raising your current bowl - for example on top of a very large thick book - just to see if this works for you.

Some of my colleagues find that some feeding dishes are bothersome because their whiskers bump up against the sides. And so they gobble their food because they are uncomfortable. I don't think that is your case; but just make sure each of your bowls is large enough that your whiskers don't get bothered by bumping up against the sides.

You can also try changing your bowls in the same way that changes have been made for dogs who eat too fast: 

1.  Use a bowl that has sections or raised areas so you can only get a bit of food at a time. For example, have a look at  you can check out The Brake Fast Bowl or Eat Slower Sectioned Dish. Just make sure to get a bowl suited to your size. But before you get out your charge card to order on-line, try a muffin tin (as suggested in the August 2011 issue of Veterinary Medicine). This is a similar idea to having a bowl with sections but it is less expensive to try.

For the benefit of readers who eat kibble rather than wet food, consider the Portion Control Cat Bowl.


2. Use what is known as a portion ball, such as the Omega Paw Portion Pacer. The presence of a portion ball makes you have to eat around it and thus slows you down. Some of us have tried putting a ping pong ball in the bowl, instead.

Last but not least, try food puzzles such as the one by Aikiou (though this might not work for soft food).

Now thinking about patience, I believe you may become anxious when you know Herself is preparing your food. Such anticipation! In such a case you could try putting a part of your food into a Kitty Kong - or similar toy. But to do so, your chef would have to make it into a paste which may not work with your homemade food. However if it does (or your purrson can find an acceptable substitute just for this), this toy might be a wonderful distraction for you while you await the preparation of your main meal.

Readers who eat kibble will know that I've recommended Treat Balls before and the Kong is one of several types on the market.

In any event, please look over my list of suggestions and try some of them out. In the meantime, I'll start thinking of ways to increase your patience.

Happy Eating!