4

OK some background first...

We got the cat from the streets when he was approximately 1 month old. He was in an animal shelter until he was 2 months then came to our house, December 2016.

The first months, lets say 2, we would fill his bowl and he decided when to eat, a full bowl usually lasted the whole day, even until the next morning some days. When he was about 4-5 months, we started to giving him 3 meals per day, since he seemed bit anxious about eating (this whole time, he was eating kitten food, good quality, always dry).

With 5-6 months we had him neutered, and started eating special food, again, good quality, dry, still with 3 meals per day, but he started meaw-ing a lot, asking for food between hours, can't really tell if he is always that hungry, or just bored and likes to eat, anyway, we never give him more than he should eat. This has been the norm until september.

For the last month approximately, he have been trying to teach him to self feed, giving him all his 3 meals together in the morning (7am, maybe 9-10 the weekends), but he always eats everything before 12am. Then for the rest of the day, he keeps asking for more, yet again, can't tell if he is hungry or just likes food. He eats all of his food really fast, and he is starting to be a little overweighted, >5kg now, 5.5 aprox.

Always high quality dry food, same brand. (Wild Instinct). We want to teach him to self-feed himself, since it is more convenient for us, if we spend a day out for example, and I think it is better for him also (if he really learns it), but he seems a bit anxious. Also, he always tries to steal our food while we are eating or when something is left on the table (specially, bread, he loves it).

He is the only animal in the house, spends lots of time alone (>6h per day)

Am I doing it right? Is self-feeding a good/viable option? I am new to cats, this is my first one.

EDIT: It is this type of cat: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Shorthair

EDIT2: He eats 75gr of dry food per day.

  • What type of cat is this, Maine Coon? 5.5 kg seems a bit heavy for a 10 month old cat? – Berend Oct 9 '17 at 11:23
  • @Berend European Shorthair, maybe not 5.5kg, but somewhere between 5 and 5.5. He is a bit overweighted, but not too much. He likes to run around sometimes, it's not that he doesn't move at all – Mario Garcia Oct 9 '17 at 12:47
5

I'm not sure if there's a definitive answer to this, but some things to keep in mind:

  • I don't think 10 months is too late. It may take some time for a cat to get accustomed to a new regime, but sooner or later he will 'get it'. (When switching to daylight saving time, our two cats need about a week to get used to that)
  • Cats like regularity, so use a fixed feeding scheme. I think any scheme will do, as long as you stick to it. If you decide that one feeding per day is convenient, do that (kittens may need more feedings per day though). Ignore your cat pleading for more (this will be the hard part ;-), cats are experts at negotiating), After a week or so, he should be accustomed to the scheme and will understand that there won't be any in between snacks. If you give in, he will soon learn that meowing means 'more food'.
  • Most cats use the 'eat now, die later' rule, eating everything you give them. They can't be sure there will be any food left tomorrow. Therefore, you are the one that should decide how much your cat gets, and when. You could for instance weigh the daily amount, and give it in as many portions as you see fit. If it's gone, it's gone.
  • How much food your cat needs depends on many factors, e.g. type of cat, age and activity. The packaging will probably give some indication (In my opinion usually a bit too much). Kittens eat more that adults. As a rule of thumb, you should be able to feel the cat's ribs, but not see them. If you can't feel them anymore, feed less, if you see them, feed more.
  • Don't worry too much about occasionally leaving for a day or so, cat's can go without food longer than we. Make sure there's plenty water available though.
  • And as always, if your not sure, go ask your vet for specifics.

See also:

How many times a day should I feed my cats?

How often should cats eat?

2

Am I doing it right? Is self-feeding a good/viable option?

Not every cat is equally adept at self-regulating their food; but I expect a vast majority of cats to be able to learn this skill if they do not already have it.

Because he's a rescue, he's more likely to eat all that he can, because a cat in the wild is never sure when the next meal is going to arrive. It might take him longer to learn how to self-regulate, but he should still be able to learn it.

For the last month approximately, he have been trying to teach him to self feed, giving him all his 3 meals together in the morning (7am, maybe 9-10 the weekends), but he always eats everything before 12am.

Your cat has likely become reliant on your suggested meal sizes. If the three meals you've been giving him have been on the small side for him (where he always wants to eat the whole thing), then your cat likely has unlearned to gauge how much they should eat in single sitting.

Your cat is very likely to overeat if you suddenly start giving him a large bowl. Just like how a child who is given free access to the candy cupboard will eat candy at a record rate (until they feel sick, at which point they learn to not gorge themselves). Just like that child, your cat will need to learn a new skill: keeping leftovers so that he can eat them later.

It's normal for him to struggle with it at first. Every creature needs to make some mistakes, so that they can then learn from their mistakes.

Then for the rest of the day, he keeps asking for more, yet again, can't tell if he is hungry or just likes food.

The fact he asks for food proves to you that he hasn't learned to self-regulate. He should've been smarter and left some food in his bowl so that he can eat it now.

Do not feed him. The inconvenience of feeling hungry is supposed to be the incentive for him to learn self-regulation. If he self-regulates, then he won't feel hungry.
If you feed him, you preclude him from having to learn from his mistakes.

If it's been a few days, and he still hasn't learned, maybe you should intervene. The problem with consistently overeating is that it stretches your stomach. If your stomach stretches, then you need more food in order to feel full. Consistently overeating can lead to your cat being able to easily eat the whole meal in a single go, which makes it harder for him to learn how to keep leftovers.

However, if you go back to the old feeding schedule, you're again putting him in a situation where he doesn't need to learn self-regulation, which is also not good.
If you suspect his stomach has already stretched, it might be beneficial to go back on the three-meal-plan for a short while, so his stomach can get used to eating smaller portions again.

Solution 1 - Free, but requires training

Serve him all the food, but use two bowls, and cover one bowl so that he cannot eat it. Ideally, a transparent cover, so that your cat sees the food and knows that it is there.
You could also use clear plastic containers with lids, in case your cat is clever enough to lift a cover.

If he asks for food later in the day, simply remove the cover from the bowl, giving him access to it.

It subtly suggests to the cat that the food was there all along, which should eventually make them realize that they have the ability to leave food for their future (hungry) selves. How quickly he learns this depends on the cat.

Solution 2 - Costs $20 but works well

We bought our cats a food maze:

enter image description here

The idea is that you put food in the top, and your cat needs to push the food through little holes, so that it drops down and will eventually land in the dish on the ground.

The idea here is that it costs effort. When he's hungry, your cat will be more than happy to spend that effort to get food. However, when he's not that hungry anymore, the food will no longer be worth the effort, and he'll stop eating it.

I was apprehensive of this; I figured that any cat who is determined to finish their bowl will be equally determined to empty the cat maze. But I have to say that I was proven wrong, because it did wonders for our cats. The friends who suggested the maze to me have had equally good results with their cat (who is left by himself for a day more often, and thus needed to self-regulate).

There have been days where I've poured in too much food by accident, and I've noticed that a larger pile lasts for longer, so they're not eating more than usual just because they have access to it.

One thing that I realized at a later stage is that when you put enough food in the maze, then the initial food is easy to get (a simple swipe will make many pieces drop), but it takes more and more effort to get food when the maze is nearly empty (because you need a precision swipe just to get a few solitary pieces).
This again incentivizes the cat to stop eating afte a while, and come back when he's sufficiently hungry (and therefore sufficiently willing to put in the effort).

  • Hi, thanks for the solutions you give. I will try to start with nº 1, but I feel my cat will just play around with the closed bowl trying to open it. If I see no results in 2-4 weeks, I'll get him the food maze. – Mario Garcia Oct 13 '17 at 6:09

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.