Dinner is the highlight of the day for many cats. This excitement can be detrimental, though. If a cat eats too quickly, it risks regurgitating undigested food. It can also cause obesity. A cat that eats quickly will not realize it is full, eating more to overcompensate.
If you have multiple cats, feed them in separate rooms. This prevents competition over food. Feed smaller portions, multiple times per day. This way, your cat will not spend all day waiting for food. Slow feeding bowls and timed feeders offer automated solutions. Kibble takes longer to eat than wet food, but a diet transition must be managed slowly.
Take the time to learn why you cat eats so quickly. In some cases, the cat is simply hungry or gluttonous. In others, a lifestyle adaptation may be required. If you understand the reason for a cat’s behavior, a solution typically presents itself.
How To Prevent a Cat from Eating Too Quickly
There are several ways to prevent a cat from eating too fast. To understand which method is most effective, try to understand the reason for your cat’s behavior. Common explanations for a cat eating fast include:
- Hunger, as the cat has been waiting all day to be fed
- Food insecurity caused by multiple cats in the home or irregular feeding schedules
- Old habits from kittenhood or a previous home
- Instinctively treating food like wild prey
Whatever the reason, it is important to train a cat out of eating too fast. Cleaning up regurgitated food is never pleasant. A cat that eats fast can also develop other unwelcome habits.
These include overeating. The cat does not understand that it regurgitated food because it ate too quickly. It just knows that it is hungry again after a meal and will seek more nourishment. Some cats may even refuse to eat. They assume that all food makes them sick.
Eventually, this can lead to ill health. The Journal of Veterinary Behavior attributes this to a condition known as abnormal feeding behavior. Pica, picking and choosing meals and food aggression are other examples.
Fortunately, gobbling down food is one of the easier negative behaviors to resolve. There are multiple solutions to fast eating in felines, so tailor your fix to the cause.
Two of the most common explanations for a cat to eat quickly are hunger and insecurity. Both of these issues can be resolved by getting your cat into a regular feeding schedule.
If you feed your cat at erratic times, it will never know when food is coming. The cat will then eat any meal as though it is its last. As far as the cat is concerned, it may well be.
Help your cat understand that it will be fed daily by serving food to a timetable. Tie this in with other activities, such as play. Cats learn routine quickly. They understand that you will feed them an hour after getting home from work, following playtime.
Cats also benefit from having their daily food allowance split into two meals. This way, the cat is not left waiting all day for food. If it has eaten earlier, a cat is unlikely to be ravenous by evening. This, in turn, prevents the cat from devouring its evening meal so quickly.
Food Treasure Hunts
Even the most domesticated cat retains certain wild instincts. Chief among these is the desire to hunt. You can appeal to feline instinct and slow down eating by creating food treasure hunts.
All cats love to hunt. Certain breeds of cat will then eat their prey, including mice and birds. In the wild, a cat will typically drag their prey to a safe place to eat. If this is not possible, it will devour the prey quickly. Cats do not like to feel exposed to their own predators.
Place small portions of food into various dishes around the home. The cat will follow its nose, tracking down the various food sources. This will provide a sense of achievement. The cat feels like it has earned its meal by hunting it down.
This approach may backfire, though. The cat may not feel ready to stop the game and pester you for more food. In addition, not all cats will take kindly to working for their food. Older, lazier cats will consider this a burden and lose interest. Assess your cat’s habits and temperament adopting this tactic.
Isolated Feeding Areas
If you have more than one cat, the animals should be fed separately. Each cat needs its own, isolated feeding area. If you fail to meet this expectation, rivalry can follow. This rivalry can lead to food insecurity.
In all cat groups, one feline will take a dominant status over the other(s). In most aspects, both cats will accept this. Cats become protective over food, though. A dominant cat may bully a submissive counterpart. One cat could eat both meals, leaving the other hungry.
Adopted cats that previously lived in a multi-pet household may carry over their fast eating habit. Such a cat may fear that unless it eats fast, it will not get to eat. Other cats will hide or bury their food. Eating in isolation, undisturbed by humans or animals, will help the cat feel at ease.
Ensure that multiple cats are fed at the same time, in different rooms. Let the cats smell each other’s food. Given enough time, this insecurity surrounding food will pass. Once both cats eat normally, they may even be able to eat together.
Invading Neighborhood Cats and Wildlife
If you only have one pet, you may wonder why your cat appears so insecure. Be aware that the competition may not arise from within the home. If you have a cat flap, other cats may be accessing your home. Wild animals could also be helping themselves to your cat’s food.
Cats can be nosy and disrespectful of trespassing laws. Your own cat will likely have entered somebody else’s home if it roams outdoors. If a local cat entered your property, it may have found food. Your cat may still be bullied out of its own meal.
Even if you are keeping neighborhood cats out, raccoons or feral felines may discover your home. These animals are likelier to be aggressive with your cat and the theft of its food. This must be managed.
If your cat is at risk of external visitors, restrict access. The easier way to do this is to invest in a magnetic cat flap. Your cat will be fitted with a collar that activates the flap. This way, only your cat can access to your home – and its food bowl.
It is not only other animals that could cause anxiety in a cat. Felines are particular about the circumstances in which they eat. Check for any of the following issues around your cat’s food bowl.
- Loud noises (TV sets, radios, windows that leak outside noise)
- Cold draughts
- Excessive heat
- Strange smells
- The close proximity of the litter tray
- Territory claimed by humans or other animals
These are all common stressors for cats. Your cat may be eating quickly so it can dine and dash. Mealtimes should be a leisurely experience for a cat, not something to endure before escaping.
New Feeding Apparatus
You may find that you cannot stop a cat from eating quickly. The behavior is too ingrained in your cat’s psyche. If this is the case, you can invest in specialist feeding apparatus.
Two common examples of this are slow feeding bowls and timed feeders. Both these items will be on sale in any reputable pet store.
Slow Feeding Bowls
A slow feeding bowl looks like a typical bowl, with one significant difference. While traditional food bowls are flat, a slow feeding bowl contains ridges in the middle.
This means that your cat will need to eat around these ridges. They act as obstructions that prevent rapid, excessively fast eating. Your cat has no choice but to stop eating periodically to change angles.
The only thing to watch with a slow feeding bowl is whisker fatigue. It will be difficult for a cat to avoid brushing against this bowl with its whiskers. This could become painful. If your cat is prone to whisker fatigue, use an oversized bowl to provide more space.
If you do not wish to use a slow feeding bowl, you could use an object as an obstruction. A large golf ball, for example, will serve the same purpose. This is not without risk, though. The cat could attempt to eat the item in its hurry, breaking teeth or even swallowing it.
An automatic feeder is most commonly associated with kibble. These devices can be programmed to release food at set times of day.
This can be invaluable for cat owners that dislike being pestered at night. If your cat wants a midnight snack, a timed food dispenser will provide it.
Perhaps more importantly, a timed dispenser can release set amounts of kibble at a time. This will encourage grazing in your cat. It will soon learn the schedule that the timed feeder keeps.
The cat will then check in at appropriate times, eating little and often. This will discourage gorging. Timed feeders for wet food are also available.
These are less likely to aid fast eating, though. A full meal will be available to the cat whenever the device opens. The cat remains just as likely to eat at haste. If you plan to use a feeder, you’ll need to get your cat on a dry diet.
Bulking Food with Water
Adding water to a cat’s diet can be an effective way of slowing down feeding. This methodology is arguably more effective with kibble. The liquid is unlikely to impact upon taste so much. You can apply water to wet food, though.
Water slows down a cat’s eating as it bloats the stomach. The cat will feel fuller, faster. This means that it will start to slow down toward the end of a meal. The cat will feel uncomfortable if it attempts to eat a full bowl of food too quickly.
Adding water to food has additional benefits, too. The most obvious of these is hydration. Domesticated cats are descended from desert-dwelling wild ancestors. This means that cats rarely drink enough. Many cats live on the brink of dehydration, especially in summer. Water in food will surreptitiously increase water intake.
According to The Journal of Animal Physiology and Animal Nutrition, water also reduces calorie intake. This can be critical if your fast-eating cat is gaining weight.
Reduce your cat’s food serving by 20% and add 40% of the mass in water. The cat will lose weight and become more active. This can be beneficial in older cats, who exercise less despite enjoying a consistent food intake.
Switching to Dry Food
Changing your cat’s diet completely should be considered a final resort. Cats can be stubborn about food. If you take away a favorite meal, a cat may refuse to eat until it is reinstated.
There are advantages to switching a cat to a kibble-only diet, though. A dry-only diet is typically cheaper than wet food. This may be helpful if you have a gluttonous cat. Perhaps more importantly, dry food takes longer to eat.
Kibble needs to be crunched and chewed before it can be swallowed. Your cat will have no choice but to slow down. It cannot inhale kibble at the pace of wet food.
You will need to ensure that the dry food is of sufficient quality. Discuss this with a vet or animal nutritionist. Learn which brand of food suits your cat’s needs best. Age, breed, and weight must all be taken into consideration.
In addition, transition your cat from wet to dry food gradually. Do not attempt an overnight switch. This will upset your cat’s stomach, leading to vomiting and diarrhea. Gradually wean your cat off wet food and onto kibble.
Amending Serving Styles
You do not necessarily need to eradicate wet food from your cat’s diet entirely. Instead, you may prefer to amend the way it is prepared and served.
Rather than chopping wet food into chunks, consider squashing it in the bowl. This will change the way your cat eats. Rather than throwing the food into its mouth, the cat will lick it. This way, it can still savor the flavors found in the meal.
A cat that licks its food will need to eat slower. Eventually, this will become the norm. Once this is achieved, you can return to chopping the food if you prefer.
There are many ways that you can slow down a cat that eats quickly. Do not scold the cat or take food away. That is just creating a negative association with what should be a pleasant activity. Instead, look into these solutions. Your cat will learn table manners in no time.