Tips for Feeding Cats in Multiple Cat Households

Sometimes cats need separate diets.

When you have multiple cats, a situation may develop where you need to feed one or more of them a special diet. If your cats have spent a long time eating together and chowing down whenever they want (eating free choice), you may find it difficult to transition them to another feeding style.

When You Might Need to Feed Cats Separately

Here are some of the situations in which you might need to make sure that your cats are fed separately, so they only get their own food:

Be sure to discuss any diet change or reduction in food with your veterinarian first.

How to Transition from Free Choice to Meal Feeding

The first step to take when you decide you need to feed your cats separately is to provide them with meals rather than having food always available free choice. This is often the step that creates the most dread in people, who may worry that their cats will bother them incessantly if the food bowls aren't always full.

It is true that meal feeding will take some getting used to for your cats if they are accustomed to having food around all the time. Generally, most people find that it takes about a week for their cats to adjust to such a change.

When switching to meal feeding, first consider your schedule and determine the times of day when you will be able to provide your cats' meals most routinely. You can give two or three meals a day depending on your schedule.

First, choose an area where you will feed each of your cats. Prepare their food dishes ahead of time, then place them where you want them, and invite your cats to eat. Use treats (if your cat can have them), positive words, and petting to show each cat which bowl is theirs and supervise them while they eat.

Consider using Feliway to help calm your cats during this adjustment period. You can learn more about it here: "Feliway - A Useful Tool to Help Treat Stress in Cats."

Remember not to make sudden diet changes for your cats. If a new diet is necessary, make a gradual switch to avoid gastrointestinal upset. Check with your veterinarian for specific information.

Initially, your cats probably won't finish the food in their dishes when you switch to meal feeding because they won't understand that you'll be picking the food up. During this transition time, you may need to feed them more often so they don't get too hungry while they're learning the new routine.

How to Feed Cats Separately

Here are a few additional tips for how to go about feeding cats separately. You may choose to use one or mix-and-match several depending on your household's needs.

Be Patient

Be patient with your cats and yourself during the feeding style transition time. Don't give up if the first few days are hectic and make your cats (and you) grumpy. Stick to it, and you'll find that everything smooths over fairly quickly, and your cats will accept the new routine.

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