Hungry Hungry Kittehs
July 5, 2012 8:31 AM   Subscribe

Scheduled, portion-controlled feeding is failing for my cats. One ravenous kitty versus one food-agnostic kitty equals lots of frustration for me. Can anyone share some tips for making this work?

Hoshi (previously and previouslier) has adjusted to her new roomie pretty well. The thing is, she'd gotten used to picking at her food little by little over the course of a day, and new cat is an unstoppable eating machine that eats all the things. This is leading to new cat (Jinx) overeating until she pukes, while Hoshi gets barely a few nibbles and then find herself hungry later.

My feeding routine is this:
1/4 cup of dry food in the morning. This is Merrick Before Grain. They both take turns having little nibbles of this.
1 small can of Fancy Feast when I get home from work. They each get their own can. Jinx eats hers as fast as she can so that she can shoulder Hoshi out of the way and eat Hoshi's too. She creeps around Hoshi so much that Hoshi growls while trying to eat, and eventually gets so annoyed she leaves.

What I've tried:
1. Isolating Jinx after she finishes her portion, but Hoshi still only eats a few nibbles and then walks away. Then once Jinx is released, even if it's an hour later, she goes straight for the leftover food and eats it.
2. Feeding Hoshi on the kitchen counter while Jinx eats on the floor. It only took 2 days before she figured out where the uneaten food was.
3. Taking the food away and storing it in the fridge for a few hours (2-3) and then putting it back out once I noticed Hoshi returning to the feeding area. Jinx immediately wakes up, bolts over to the bowl and eats it.
4. Adding salmon oil to the food to make it more satiating. No effect.
5. Feeding Jinx a small portion of extra protein (cooked ground turkey) in the mornings so she wouldn't be as hungry in the evening. She would still eat everything, including Hoshi's food, then puke it back up.
6. Leaving a further 1/2 portion (so about 1/8 of a cup) of dry food out so that Hoshi would at least have something to eat when she decides she's hungry. She does eat this, but I think relying on dry food is causing her to gain weight. I've also noticed that while I'm away at work, Hoshi tries to tear into bags of treats (often successfully) so I think she must not be getting enough to eat, but she eats very little at mealtime. Ideally, I think Hoshi wants to stretch out her eating over the course of the night, while Jinx eats everything that's in front of her right away.

So, cat gurus, is there anything I've missed? I've separated them hoping Jinx would realize she's eaten enough, but this cat seems to be totally lacking the "I"m full" signal. I asked my vet about this and she said that sometimes when they don't get enough food as kittens their drive to eat becomes really strong like this.

Pictures. Hoshi is the grey one and Jinx is the black one.
posted by Kitty Stardust to Pets & Animals (17 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Yeah, nobody's invented this yet that I've seen (but it might be out there now, I just haven't looked)... some kind of mini-feeding 'rooms' for cats that are triggered by electronic doodads they wear on their collars would probably be your ultimate food-dispensing situation. Unless aggressive nomming cat figured out a way to swat Hoshi out of the way when her door opens.
posted by bitterkitten at 8:36 AM on July 5, 2012

Bitterkitten: This device exists! I saw it recently on metafilter or askmetafilter and sadly I can't remember where now. Maybe somebody can help.
posted by timsneezed at 8:38 AM on July 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

My boss had a fat cat that needed to lose weight and a thin cat that needed to bulk up. She installed a door to the feeding area with a hole in it that was big enough for Skinny, but that Tubby couldn't squeeze through. Are their sizes different enough that something like that would be possible?
posted by Rock Steady at 8:40 AM on July 5, 2012

Response by poster: Rock Steady: No, not really. Hoshi is more petite but plump, Jinx is slightly bigger but thinner, so they're about the same width.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 8:45 AM on July 5, 2012

Not sure how these brands compare but a quick internet search turned this up:

neko feeder

meow space

Here are some do it yourself models
posted by timsneezed at 8:50 AM on July 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


timsneezed is referencing this clever microchip-controlled feeding box in MonsieurBon's recent, excellent, and hilariously well-updated thread about his cat's penis woes.
posted by lonefrontranger at 9:04 AM on July 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

If you feed the two of them separately (I'd try putting Hoshi in the bathroom with her food for half an hour, so she can't wander off and has to be bored right near the food), and then just put the food away until next feeding time, she'll figure out pretty quickly that she needs to eat on a schedule.

My cats who had always been free-feeding were not HAPPY when they were put on strictly-scheduled food with no snacking (because one required scheduled feedings for his medication when he got elderly), especially because the one liked to eat a little here, a little there, a little later on, but after two weeks their tiny little brains forgot they had ever been free-feeders and they ate at mealtime. (And yes, we did have to separate them at first.)

You need to pick your strategy and stick to it consistently for a couple of weeks, though. Hoshi isn't going to get the idea of eating at mealtime unless you restrict their feeding times for long enough for it to become a routine. If you're concerned Hoshi isn't getting enough food, I'd ask your vet at what point you should worry about Hoshi missing meals.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:13 AM on July 5, 2012 [3 favorites]

Can they jump to different heights? We have Boycat feeding at the top of the bookshelf, where the greedy Ladycats cannot jump. Advice in this thread may help us with our differing levels of appetite among the Ladycats!
posted by Shepherd at 9:19 AM on July 5, 2012

Best answer: We have ours on a diet also, and one of them is also a machine (Jack) and the other a picker (Cat). Jack gets wet food in the morning that he sucks down and it keeps him happy until the later feedings, which are wet. Cat doesn't really care for wet food, she likes kibble. For later feedings, which are kibble, they eat separately. Jack's kibble goes in a treat ball, which is a little plastic ball with adjustable windows and a little food hatch; fill it up and close the hatch -- he has to smack it around to get the food out, and it takes him 5-10 minutes to eat his portion out in the hallway. Meantime, Cat, the picker, can visit the bowl in the kitchen while she refuels over 5-10 minutes of short visits. It's working okay. The key is to slow him down and remove him from her when it's feeding time so she's not disturbed by his mooching.
posted by seanmpuckett at 9:25 AM on July 5, 2012

Separate them into two different rooms. Put food down for a predetermined time, say 20-30 minutes. Pick food up. Picky eater will figure out within a feeding or two that if they want to eat they better eat now.
posted by Anonymous at 9:27 AM on July 5, 2012

My cat luuuuuuurves his food-dispensing ball; he's not a fat cat, but I use it to keep him entertained. With the ball, Jinx could still steal food, but not gobble it up all at once, because the cat has to bat it around to get the food out in the first place. This particular ball is dishwasher-safe and you can adjust the hole sizes to change kibble-falling speed.
posted by nicebookrack at 9:28 AM on July 5, 2012 [4 favorites]

We've got a badly fitting door in one room. It's perfect for separating our cats, one of whom has medication on her food. Push the door slightly to, so it just catches in the frame, leaving cat+medicine on the inside. She can push out when she's done, but due to the lack of opposable thumbs (thank god, can you imagine?) the other one can't pull the door. When we hear the creak, we can go and check she's eaten enough, pull the other cat off the remnants and clean up. Sure she'd rather eat all day whenever she wants, but after a week of realising there wasn't another opportunity (and that the pills came in the hard way) she came around.
posted by cromagnon at 9:40 AM on July 5, 2012

We tried to do the portion controlled feeding for our kitties, and what ensued was hilarious and annoying and we returned to free-feeding.

When our kitties were kittens, we free-fed them because they needed lots of food, throughout the day. They liked this arrangement, because there were always crunchy noms around, and we liked it because we weren't awakened by crying kitties in the wee hours.

I got concerned when they were at the one-year mark because I didn't want my babies gaining a lot of weight. So we went with portion controlled feeding.

Everyone was miserable. The cats were miserable, Husbunny and I were made miserable by miserable cats and in the end, Eartha somehow got the free-feeding jar stuck on her head in her efforts to find noms. So we went back to free feeding. Everyone is happy and while the people in the house may stand to lose a couple of pounds, the cats are lean and healthy.

How about a feeder that drops food down at intervals throughout the day? How about diet kitty food (augmented with some regular food for Hoshi?)
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:04 AM on July 5, 2012

I saw something similar to this on the show My Cat from Hell... Jackson Galaxy kind of solved it by giving the fast eating kitty a bowl that slowed her down. Let me see if I can find it. It looked something like this. Because the kitty has to work to get her food out, she takes much longer to eat and gives the second cat more time to finish. Of course, that might not help if Hoshi is only eating a little at a time... But it might help Jinx feel fuller?

Nicebookrack also has a good idea. My Mister also has a food-dispensing ball, which he loves. It works very well for keeping a scarfing kitty occupied so they don't hoover their food and make themselves sick. Of course, it only works with dry food, but I keep food in it, and I notice that Mister doesn't quite eat as much as he would were he free fed from a dish. And both cats can eat from it so neither is getting the short end of the stick.
posted by patheral at 11:03 AM on July 5, 2012

Have you had Jinx's thyroid checked? I used to have the same problem - one of my cats was constantly begging for food and stealing from the other. Turns out he has hyperthyroidism, which makes his appetite go crazy. Once we got that taken care of, the food obsession pretty much died off on its own. I can actually tell the difference if he misses more than a couple doses of his medicine because he's suddenly constantly starving again, even thought the food amount hasn't changed.
posted by platinum at 1:57 PM on July 5, 2012

Best answer: My mum has cats like this. For what it's worth, they were from the same litter (although very likely only half siblings with different fathers) and have both lived with mum from about one week (they came as ferals with their mum+siblings). So sometimes it just happens.

Eat Everything kitty gets a fixed portion on a regular schedule. No snacks set out to keep him from being so hungry because it just won't work... it can cram it down in about ten seconds and still be starving. She has to go by his weight (still chubby but less) and general healthiness to confirm that he's really not staaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarving.

Eat Two Kibble And Walk Away kitty has a migrating dish which is carried to where the humans are and placed on an easy to guard surface, usually an end table or the foot of the bed. She can snack on it when she wants and the chubby kitty can't get past the human defenders (although he still tries, all the time). When the humans go away or sleep the bowl goes away, but she did adapt to that. (If she only eats two kibble this time, then the next time the bowl is out she'll be hungry and eat four... Which will stretch her stomach out a little so that eating four feels more natural next time, and so on. She never became a food obsessed kitty, but her finickiness got more manageable.)
posted by anaelith at 2:08 PM on July 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Platinum, Jinx had a full blood work-up when I brought her home. No physical cause of her ravenous appetite.

The remote-controlled box sounds the easiest, however, Hoshi will absolutely not wear a collar. She once did some serious ninja moves to rip off a muzzle so she could attack the vet-tech. So far, what I've been doing is acting like the kitty lunchroom monitor. When Jinx is done devouring her food, I put her in the spare room with some toys and close the door. Hoshi can then eat about half her food. When Hoshi walks away from the bowl, I pick it up and put it in the fridge, then I let Jinx out. A few hours later, when Hoshi starts lurking around the food area, I get the rest of her food out of the fridge and let her eat it. I have to stand nearby to shoo Jinx away, though, because Hoshi still dithers over the food and she surrenders it quite easily once Jinx starts creeping up to her.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 9:06 AM on August 6, 2012

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