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Today we will be picking up two senior cats (11 and 13 years) that had to be given up by their previous owner.

These two cats are being fed a different brand of dry food than what we give our other cats, and the food is a "senior" formula. Our other cats receive "Light" dry food (only one of them needs "light" food, but since she steals food from the other cats, they all get it).

We will be doing the normal "quarantine" with the new cats, isolating the pair of them in the basement until we can gradually acclimate them to the new environment, and our other cats to them.

I am uncertain how we will approach feeding once the cats start mingling.

I'm reluctant to let our younger cats have access to senior food, and changing from one brand of food to another suddenly worries me (see this answer), but I'm not sure how this can be avoided. At the same time, I'm worried that a change in environment (two, really, since they transitioned from their home, to a pet food store, to our home) coupled with a change of diet will be unnecessarily stressful, particularly for senior cats.

What would be the best feeding solution?

Edit: my apologies, but I left out an important consideration Our cat who needs the light food needs it because she has food issues. Specifically, she was malnourished as a baby, and, as a result, gets very stressed if she does not have food available at all times. Even a nearly-empty food dish will cause her to pace, cry, and beg. So dry food being available 24/7 will likely be a necessity.

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Related Question How can I make one of my two cats eat less? - Possible Duplicate? –  James Jenkins Jun 4 at 11:10
    
@JamesJenkins I am more concerned about whether we need to change the actual foods being given, rather than portion control. The other question has useful info, and I read it shortly before asking mine, but I believe the focuses are distinct. –  Beofett Jun 4 at 12:24
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5 Answers 5

You may need to split the cats up to feed them. Try putting the senior cats in a different room with their food dish there, and leave them in there until they finish. They'll already be used to the basement, so that's probably a good place. When our cat was sick, we needed to feed her downstairs and our other cat in an upstairs bedroom so the non-sick cat didn't accidentally get medicine, and so the sick cat wouldn't eat more than she was supposed to.

If you feed the cats by putting food in their bowl and letting them pick at it, you will have an easier time feeding them by giving them all food at a certain time and leaving none behind. It's also better for the cats because it restricts overeating and you can see exactly how much each is getting. It will make this situation much, much easier for you.

For the light food, I would consider putting a door in somewhere that opens with her collar. We have a door cut into a wall that leads to the basement for my cat's litter boxes, something similar would be extremely beneficial for your light food needing cat. If she doesn't already, she'll need to learn to wear a collar for this, but it would likely be better in the long run.

If these aren't an option, I agree with the other answer that suggests talking to your vet.

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Good advice, so +1. However, there are additional factors I forgot to include. Please see my edit. –  Beofett Jun 3 at 20:52
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We have a couple of cats on special diets. Try to fit feeding them into your daily routines:

When my wife goes into the bathroom in the morning she takes the two cats that need special food with her, shuts the door, and feeds them there.

The other cats follow me downstairs and get fed in their normal feeding spot.

Then during the day normal food (in your case lite) is left out for all the cats to munch on.

This way your senior cats will get a good dose of senior food (which presumably has extra vitamins and is easier to digest) but can also much on the lite food (which shouldn't hurt them) during the day. If the seniors get diarrhea or throw up a lot from the lite food you may have to adjust the plan. I would be surprised if they did though.

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Check with your vet about just how important it is to maintain the specialized diet they're currently on, or conversely how unreasonable it would be to feed them all the senior diet. It would certainly be simpler if you don't have to do differential feeding... and unless there's something specific that you're trying to treat, I'm skeptical about just how much difference senior diet makes. My previous cat lived to 19 years eating standard cat chow, and what finally took her out had very little to do with diet.

Or give the older cats treats which act as supplements. One of mine gets a bit of extra glycosamine, as a powder sprinkled over canned food. The other gets an equal share of wet food for "fairness", but doesn't need the addition. Luckily these kids don't seem to over-eat badly if given free access to dry food as well; they're each a pound or so heavier than the vet would prefer but they've been stable at that weight.

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You may be able to have light food available all day, for all of them. Then separate them for actual meals. You would feed them less at mealtimes based on your estimate of how much they eat at other times.

If the senior cats have health problems, I'd discuss the plan with your vet.

Another option is to put some food in a toy. That will give them some exercise, and it may provide enough reassurance to the cat who frets if her bowl doesn't have food. You could try gradually reducing the amount of food left out all day, and increasing the amount in the toy.

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Over the last few years I have had similar issues with introducing cats and moving from common bowls to separate ones at varying levels of stress. What could be done here is leave the anxious cat's bowl of dry food in the safe room while giving more in the kitchen or common area as you introduce the cats.

This may keep the other cats from eating it that much and give some ease to the anxious cat, as he or she can always amble off to the safe room for a bite.

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