Jacob is an activist & writer living in D.C. He loves sharing his unique expertise on a wide-range of health & lifestyle topics.
My Cat’s Eating Habits Were Alarming
Last year, I adopted a stray cat that I found living outside in a parking lot. I’m not sure if he ever lived with people before me or not, but he seemed to adapt to domesticated life very quickly. He learned to only go to the bathroom in his litter box, and that it was better to scratch his cat post than the side of my couch. One “wild” behavior he seemed to keep though was the speed at which he scarfed down his food.
Meal times were a bit of a challenge with my new cat because he would eat so fast that he would end up making himself sick. Not only was cleaning up cat vomit a bit annoying, but I worried that he wasn’t actually getting all the nutrients he needed because he was throwing up his food so often. I had a gut feeling that if I could just somehow get my cat to eat slower, he would stop getting sick all of the time.
Reducing Portion Sizes Helped (To an Extent)
I set out to do some research and discovered several ideas which could slow down my cat’s eating. The first recommendation I came across was to simply reduce the portion size I was feeding to my cat. A feline can only consume as much food as you give them, so if you only give them a couple of spoonfuls of food at a time, they probably won’t get sick, even if they eat it quickly.
While reducing the portion size did reduce the frequency with which my cat was getting sick and throwing up, it did nothing to actually slow down his eating. He was still inhaling his food as fast as ever, if not faster.
This method was also inconvenient for me because it required me to add several additional feedings to our daily routine. When you reduce portion size, you need to feed more often, and feeding my cat 6+ times per day quickly became a cumbersome chore that was clearly unsustainable.
Try Making a Spread
Another tip that I found more helpful was to spread my cat’s food over a larger surface area. Part of what was allowing my pet to consume their food so fast was the fact that they had a nice-sized bowl of food they could practically bury their whole face into.
Instead of scooping his wet food into a bowl, I began to put it on a large dinner plate. Once on the plate, I would use a butter knife to spread the food out into a very thin layer across the surface of the plate.
I liked this method much better than the previous one because it didn’t require me to feed my cat more often. I just had to change the dish I was using to serve him his food.
This trick really worked, increasing the amount of time it took my cat to finish his food by at least a few minutes which is exactly what I was hoping for. I also find this technique works just as well for dry food as wet food. Just spread the pile of kibble out across the surface of a plate or mat before giving it to your kitty.
Take Advantage of Feeding Toys and Puzzles
There are a wide array of different toys and puzzle feeders to make mealtime more engaging and entertaining for your pet. Not only can these items enrich your cat’s meal times, but they are excellent tools for getting your cat to eat more slowly.
Two puzzle feeders that have really worked well for me and my cat are treat balls and lick mats. Treat balls allow to you place dry food inside before giving it to your cat. The ball has several small openings which only one or two pieces of kibble will fall out of at a time. In order to get the food out, your cat has to push & bat the ball across the floor to keep it rolling and keep the food coming out. My cat absolutely adores his treat ball, and I love that it gets him active during meal times in addition to helping with his eating speed.
The lick mat is a small, silicone mat with lots of different grooves, nooks, and crannies across the entire surface. You can take any wet food or lickable cat treat, and spread it across the surface of the mat before serving the meal. Your pet will really have to use their tongue and work a bit to get all the food out of all the different textures and shapes built into the mat. I love that it is so durable and dishwasher-safe.
My Cat Eats Much Slower Now, Which Is Great for Both of Us
I am pleased to report that by using these simple tips and tricks, my cat now eats at a much slower pace, and almost never throws up his food anymore. I am really happy I am not cleaning up cat vomit constantly anymore. Not only that, but mealtimes are more engaging, and now involve a bit of playful activity for him as well.
Slowing down your cat’s eating may not solve all of their digestive issues, but it is a good place to start and an easy thing to rule out before looking for more complex causes. Try a few different techniques and see what works best for you and your furry friend!
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
© 2022 Jacob McGee