How can I alter our cat's feeding schedule?
January 6, 2006 2:49 PM   Subscribe

How can I change our cat's feeding schedule?

My wife and I adopted a cat from a shelter 6 months ago. He is nearly 2 years old now, and we know nothing about his former owner(s). He is somewhat over-weight and he loves to eat, so we can't just leave food out for him all the time. (We actually had some difficulty figuring out a way to keep him away from our roommate's cat's food.)

My wife and I work 11 to 7 every day. We feed him twice a day. Once when we get home at night, the other feeding time would ideally be when we wake up every morning. The problem with this is that he always wants food at 3 or 4 am.

I wish it were as simple as locking him out of our room, but our room is in a different part of the apartment from the rest of the living area. If we leave him upstairs at night he bothers our roommates. So, when he wants food he just knocks everything over that he can get his paws on, claws at us, &c.

Does anybody have any suggestions for getting our cat to just wait a few more hours before waking us up for food?
posted by Hillman Cobs to Human Relations (13 answers total)
My roommate and I were having this exact same problem, so we've started feeding our cat pretty late at night (that is, we don't set out his food till about 11 pm or so), then leaving it there through morning and putting it up when I leave for work (a bit before 10). It's seemed to help so far -- at least his propensity to stand outside my door and shriek at 3 a.m. seems to be waning.
posted by scody at 2:55 PM on January 6, 2006

Use a pet moving crate/box? If the cat doesn't make a huge racket once he is inside this would keep him from causing any trouble. (You can always throw a really heavy blanket over the crate to muffle any sounds.)

Warning: I am not a cat person.
posted by oddman at 2:55 PM on January 6, 2006

Like scody says, feed the cat late right before you go to bed. Or you can try to remove its association with you and food by getting one of those automatic timed feeder thingies.
posted by BrandonAbell at 2:58 PM on January 6, 2006

Second the automatic cat feeder.
posted by essexjan at 3:07 PM on January 6, 2006

Yes, a feeder is a great idea! I had the same problem, so I bought a large automatic feeder a bit like this one. I can't find a link to the exact model I bought, but the features on that one look about the same. It was the best $100 I ever spent. My cats stopped bothering me for food the very next day. Now, a year later, they don't bother me at all, and I can even leave them on vacation for a couple of days without worry. Plus, it has had a positive effect on their weight -- before, I had one slightly fat cat and one slightly skinny one, but now they're both about perfect.

As some of the Amazon reviewers noted, cats are clever enough to stick their paws up the food chute to get more. I solved that problem by affixing some chicken wire over most of the chute. After that, it has been totally foolproof.
posted by vorfeed at 3:38 PM on January 6, 2006


I shifted my cats from a morning to a night schedule so that we could sleep in on weekends.

It took several months (probably 5 or 6) but eventually we broke them of their morning food desire, and now they are unholy terrors at night instead of 5:00 a.m.
posted by Sheppagus at 3:54 PM on January 6, 2006

I got an auto-feeder for less than $10 at TJMaxx (REALLY lucky find) and it is a godsend even if your cat isn't hugely overweight. The cats in general don't whine to me for food anymore because food comes from the feeder, not so much directly from me. And even better, they don't wake me up in the morning to be fed! Heaven!
Mine is just a rotating feeder with 4 trays so the cats can't thwart it. Really would be worth way, way more than I paid for it.
Nothing else ever worked for me, btw. I tried patience, feeding them late, etc etc. The feeder really, really rocks.
posted by ch1x0r at 4:42 PM on January 6, 2006

Sheppagus, what was your method?
posted by Hillman Cobs at 4:44 PM on January 6, 2006

Or just leave a bowl of food out and let him be fat. So he's fat, isn't getting all the food you want a big part of what makes a cat happy?
posted by JamesMessick at 8:01 PM on January 6, 2006

I agree with the previous post. So you have a fat cat, let him eat! Put out extra food at night so he will be satiated and not bug you during the night. He will love you all the more for it.
posted by cvoixjames at 5:17 AM on January 7, 2006

Except that "Excessive body weight can increase the risk of liver disease, heart disease, respiratory problems, and constipation. Furthermore, fat cats are at a greater risk of developing diabetes and arthritis" (from here). Letting a fat cat eat all it wants is a bad idea, as Hillman Cobs already seems to understand.
posted by purplemonkie at 6:15 AM on January 7, 2006

Iams Multi-Cat was a godsend for us. One skinny cat that ate too much, one chubby cat that didn't eat as much but was always hungry because his brother ate all of the food.

The Multi-Cat formula is meant for this. We give our cats a cup a day, each. Half cup in the morning, half cup at night. They get enough to eat, so they aren't bothering us for food (no more 4 AM feeding calls!) but they are also not becoming hugely fat. Still chubby, but not fat and definitely more active than they used to be.

It's cheaper than trying a feeder, I suppose. And definitely delay the night time feeding as much as possible.
posted by caution live frogs at 10:42 AM on January 7, 2006

Sorry I didn't answer your question, but I didn't see it until today.

We didn't really use any specific method other than a determination that we were going to win a battle of wills with a cat.

The first few days of not getting food first thing in the morning the cats went on and on with the yowling and mewing and (my favorite) a few dramatic soundless attempts at a MAO followed by falling over (because they were weak with hunger).

Heh. I still snicker when I think about it.

They also tried standing on my sleeping body MAOing until I would lift my head, and then race off the bed and toward the food, looking back to see if I sprang up to follow.

Eventually they were just going through the overly dramatic motions in their attempts to get food from us. This didn't stop them from screaming and trying, they just didn't expect any real success from their efforts.

One (Saturday) morning we were able to sleep until we woke up naturally.

Now they don't expect food in the morning. They will still beg and carry on occasionally, but only after we are up and already in the kitchen (where the food is).

Good luck!
posted by Sheppagus at 3:46 PM on January 9, 2006

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