The Daily Cat: Feeding
Mealtime in a Multi-cat Home
By Darcy Lockman for The Daily Cat
Whether you currently live in a multi-cat home or are thinking about adopting another pet, consider these common concerns and questions when it comes to their mealtime. Dr. Katy Nelson, a Virginia-based emergency veterinarian, weighs in on multi-cat food and whether it’s right for your household.
Is multi-cat food right for my household?
Multi-cat formula is ideal for households with cats between the ages of one and eight who do not have any health problems that require special diets. Cats with diabetes or kidney issues, for example, might need to consume particular types of cat food recommended by veterinarians.
“If you’ve got a kitten, a pregnant cat or a 12-year-old, multi-cat food is not appropriate,” adds Nelson. “Kittens and pregnant cats need more calories, and seniors need less protein,” she explains.
What goes into a good multi-cat food?
Multi-cat food is formulated to meet the nutritional needs of healthy adult cats of all body types. Quality multi-cat foods contain the high protein levels that all cats require, as well as L-carnitine, which helps to burn fat. Vitamin A, found in multi-cat food, reduces the risk of weight gain and boosts energy. Along with vitamin E, it supports your pets’ hair and skin health.
Nelson recommends a multi-cat formula with prebiotics, which promote healthy digestion, as well as beet pulp, which is one of the best fiber sources for cats. “The way beet pulp ferments, it doesn’t produce much gas, and it’s only moderately digestible, so it bulks up stools,” she says. Beet pulp also helps reduce hairballs.
How do I feed multiple cats?
“No matter how great a food is, there can be too much of a good thing,” says Nelson. “Cats will gain weight if they eat more calories than they require.” She adds that, in a typical household with four cats, three of the four are overweight. To feed multiple cats, Dr. Nelson recommends that you …
- Maintain separate bowls and separate eating areas. Baby gates can keep cats apart during mealtimes if separate rooms are not an option. Separation during feeding also makes it possible to feed a kitten or an ailing cat a special-needs formula while still feeding multi-cat food to the others.
- Feed cats on a schedule, either two or three times a day. “Give them a specific amount of time to eat, and then remove the bowl,” says Nelson. Your pets will then not spend the day grazing, which can lead to weight gain. This most often happens when one cat makes a habit of grazing from the other’s dish.
- Mix wet and dry food. “Cats fed higher protein diets, like wet food, tend to be healthier, maintain better weight and have fewer issues with diabetes,” says Nelson. Canned food also has higher water content, which helps stave off urinary issues. Some cats, however, prefer dry food, which also provides appropriate nutrition. If you feed both wet and dry food to your cats, just be sure to keep following daily recommended serving sizes so that you do not overfeed.
Darcy Lockman is a Brooklyn, N.Y.-based freelance writer and frequent contributor to The Daily Cat. Her work has appeared in publications such as the New York Times and Rolling Stone.