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According to the American Pet Product Manufacturers Association, 71 percent of all domestic felines in the United States live in multi-cat households. Like a household with more than one child, owning multiple cats can be entertaining and fun, but it may also present some dilemmas, particularly at feeding time. “We have one dish for both cats, but usually the fat one pushes the skinny one out of the way, while the skinny one politely waits his turn,” says 32-year-old Amy Morgan of Brooklyn, N.Y. Morgan had tried to feed the felines -- calico cats Mashy and Ruki -- separately, but “both cats have grass-is-greener complexes. They would start at their own dish but then notice the other had something else. They ended up switching back and forth but not really eating anything.”
While Morgan would like to give Ruki, the larger of the two, a weight-control formula, she fears this would not be right for the naturally thin Mashy, so she feeds an adult formula cat food, trying not to worry about Ruki’s expanding waistline. According to Trisha Joyce, DVM, of New York City Veterinary Specialists, Morgan’s cats are typical of multi-cat homes. “You see it all the time in medicine,” Dr. Joyce says. “In multi-cat households, one always tends to be a chunky monkey and prediabetic, while the other one’s fine.”
Are Morgan’s cats good candidates for new multi formulas? Are yours?
Vittles for a Cat Crowd
Multi-cat foods are specially formulated for households with multiple, healthy adult cats. While Dr. Joyce stresses that “a fat cat needs a weight loss diet,” cat owners with slightly overweight cats who’ve lost the battle to keep their furry friends out of each other’s dishes might want to try multi-cat food. To address the very common weight issues of heavy-ish household cats, multi-cat foods contain L-carnitine, a fat burner, as well as Vitamin A, which works to prevent weight gain in the first place. For the leaner cat, there are the high levels of protein necessary for optimum feline health and muscle mass maintenance.
Multi-cat formulas are not simply for girth issues, though. For older cats sharing dishes with younger cats, Vitamin E helps maintain immune function. Many multi-cat foods also contain enough fiber to fight hairball formation, promote colon health and keep litter box odor to a minimum -- a special concern in households with more than one cat and possibly more than one litter box.
When to Consider a Multi-cat Formula
If you can respond with “true” to each of the following statements, your cats may benefit from a multi-cat formula:
When Not to Serve Multi-cat Food
If you responded “false” to any of the above, multi-cat food may not be right for your pets. Kittens should not be fed multi-cat food. Neither should pregnant or lactating cats or cats with special health concerns, like diabetes or kidney problems.
“Kittens need special growth formula foods, which are higher in calories that they need for growth,” explains Dr. Joyce. “Pregnant and lactating cats need more calories as well. And cats with renal disease and diabetes need modified diets. They should be fed in separate rooms, if possible, to ensure they’re getting the appropriate formula for their needs.”
For obese cats, Dr. Joyce suggests putting the thinner cat’s food on a higher surface, where the aforementioned heftier feline may not be able to leap to access it. “Portion control is the most important thing with a heavy cat. A cat that grazes all day on its thin brother’s food is not going to lose weight.”
As for Morgan, she plans to start feeding a multi-cat food. While it may help Ruki’s weight problem, it probably won’t do anything to change his me-first attitude. “We’ve taken care of that though,” she says. “We sneak Mashy extras when Ruki is sleeping.”
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.