Feed this kitty.
November 18, 2020 7:42 AM   Subscribe

How do I ensure that my cat eats enough when I am away? I accidentally acquired a cat - he was a stray that I was taking care of, and one day he just...didn't leave, I guess. He is, in my obviously unbiased judgment, absolutely perfect. He's even not noticeably naughty when I have to leave home for work. There's just one small issue, however.

He tends to eat significantly less when I'm away - and he starts wolfing down food as soon as I walk through the door (after meowing his pleasure or displeasure about my absence, can't tell). It's bothering me enough to use a question on it - I don't know if this is separation anxiety or normal or should I just ignore it? Vet has given him a clean bill of health, and he hasn't been losing weight. I don't really know the conditions he was in for the first six-seven months of his life (I live in India, we have a lot of strays). I'm going in to work sporadically right now and sooner or later work would be back to 5x a week, when I'll be away for 12 hours a day. I don't want him to lock into that habit of undereating. He doesn't seem to dislike the cat food itself. Is there a way to make sure he eats properly in my absence? Or am I just being anxious over nothing? This is the first time I've had a pet so I don't have a good sense of what I should worry about, or shouldn't.
Thanks in advance. B waves a grateful paw at you as well.
posted by Nieshka to Pets & Animals (12 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: I completely forgot to mention in the question itself - I live alone, so he's at home by himself whenever I am away. He seems to just chill and sleep and occasionally knock over my stuff in my absence.
posted by Nieshka at 7:45 AM on November 18, 2020

Best answer: Aww, what a sweetheart kitty. He's got access to water while you're at work, and its only him not eating for 12 hours at a time you're worried about? If so, he's fine given everything else you said about good health and weight. It's only when cats dont eat for more than a couple days we start to worry. 12 hours is fine. If you're really worried, leave a little kibble out while your gone (wet food may spoil) but you really don't need too. Feed him twice a day, all is good. My cats can easily nap 12 hours without even thinking to eat!

Some cats just scarf their food. Since he's been a stray, he may have developed that habit in order to keep his food from others. I wouldn't worry too much about it as long as he's not vomiting it back up afterwards.

B's lucky to have found you - you're doing great!
posted by cgg at 7:58 AM on November 18, 2020 [10 favorites]

Best answer: My understanding of cats and their eating habits is that a 12 hour gap in between meals is not a problem. (Experience 11 years of living with cats, 5 as the primary person). Nor is it a problem if a cat prefers to eat in your presence. The problem is if B eats so fast that he ends up vomiting. As long as that's not the case, I wouldn't worry if I was you. I currently have a pair of 1.5 year old cats who get 4 meals a day plus snacks because I never leave the house anymore. When I was working on campus, though, there was 1 day a week I would be away from the house for 13 to 14 hours. They got one meal in the morning at 7:30am before I left, and two smaller ones after I returned, at 9pm and then again before I went to sleep.

So don't worry! B is gorgeous and absolutely perfect.
posted by spamandkimchi at 7:58 AM on November 18, 2020 [4 favorites]

Best answer: One of my cats sometimes meows at me until I go into the kitchen, and then he will eat with gusto. If I leave he will stop. I think he just wants company when he eats.
posted by tiny frying pan at 8:00 AM on November 18, 2020 [8 favorites]

Best answer: I work from home. My partner does not and is gone from like 6am-3pm. We have two cats who are given food in the morning before partner leaves. They graze a little, and wander off to do their cat-business. The occasionally pop into my workspace to say hi, chase each other up and down the stairs, mostly just nap - 100% normal cat-business. But at like 2:30, they park themselves where they can see the door and wait for partner to arrive. Once that happens, the *run* to the food they abandoned that morning and go BANANAS on the food that has been there all day.

Vets say they are normal weight and they appear to be under no stress whatsoever. So while I do sorta raise an eyebrow at scarfing of food as if they are starved, we just let them carry on with their (inscrutable) cat-ways.
posted by cocotine at 8:04 AM on November 18, 2020 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Sounds like your kitty is a "social eater", which is a thing with some cats as people are mentioning. Right now I'm the opposite of you, I'm home literally ALL day, but one of my cats is a social eater in his old age (he wasn't like this as much when he was younger). What this means is he comes up and yells at us, straight up yells at us, until we follow him to one of his food dishes and watch him eat.

I don't think being away for 12 hours will be a problem, especially as he's eating while you're away just not as much as when you are around! This behavior is just showing you how much your cat likes having you around and feels safe in your presence. Cats are crepuscular, too, so being active and eating in the morning and the evening is very amenable to their schedules.
posted by foxfirefey at 8:21 AM on November 18, 2020 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Everyone else's answers look great. I hope it's appropriate for me to add, what a handsome gentleman!
posted by theatro at 8:55 AM on November 18, 2020 [11 favorites]

Best answer: Ah, I always heard cats like us to watch them eat because it’s a time when they are vulnerable and want us to watch their backs, so to speak. It sounds like your very perfect kitty trusts you and learned that vulnerability as a stray isn’t always rewarded.

Anecdotally, we have had several cats that like us to watch them eat and will yell at us until we comply!
posted by itsamermaid at 7:05 PM on November 18, 2020 [3 favorites]

Best answer: That is a very handsome gentleman of a kitty!

I have also had a cat who was a social eater. He liked to wake me at 3am to come watch him eat a snack.
posted by shiny blue object at 4:28 AM on November 19, 2020 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: I marked everyone as best answer because I got either information or reassurance, both of which were very helpful.
B says hi. Or he would, if he could drag his attention away from the birb chirping tantalisingly out of reach. Heh. Thank you, everyone!
posted by Nieshka at 4:57 AM on November 19, 2020

The food scarfing may stop eventually as he begins to feel more and more secure. When we adopted our cat he had been in a shelter for 4-5 months after 3.5 years as an elderly lady's spoiled pet and initially he ate so fast that he did vomit.

These days he tends yowl frantically at us for dinner but then eats leisurely bites here and there for the next several hours. Once he can see that we haven't forgotten he's good. Breakfast is from a timed feeder at 5AM so as far as he knows we have nothing to do with his morning kibble.
posted by The Librarian at 7:43 AM on November 19, 2020 [2 favorites]

I don't have anything to add, really, to the great advice above.

But I did want to assure you that yes, he is a perfect (beautiful, adorable, magnificent) cat.
posted by Flock of Cynthiabirds at 10:47 PM on November 19, 2020 [2 favorites]

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