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I have three adult cats, all found as strays. The first two I found as kittens so they now behave just like regular domestic cats. The third one I found a year later as an adult. I have integrated her with the other two and there are almost no personality clashes, certainly nothing to cause any behavioural problems.

However, when I found her she was very malnourished and had two kittens of her own. I gave the kittens away but kept her. Over time she filled out but became overweight. I now monitor her food carefully and she is an appropriate weight for her size. The problem is that due to her background she thinks that food is always scarce and she thinks she's always hungry.

Ideally I'd like to be able to feed all three cats at the same time in one room without her weight increasing. If I do that at the moment she eats as much as she can and stops the other two from eating until she's finished. The other two will eat out of one bowl at the same time. If I feed them in separate bowls at the same time she wolfs down her food and then eats the other cats' food before they've finished.

What can I do to reduce her food anxiety while keeping her weight under control?

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    This will go away eventually - a former stray we adopted showed the same issue and would get into anything that resembled food. After somewhere between a year and 18 months he's settled down to the point where he doesn't try to eat anything in sight and doesn't try to bully the other cats away from their bowls. – Kate Paulk Dec 5 '14 at 12:55
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Adjusting Mealtimes/Amounts

She will gradually learn that food will be given to her when she needs it. You can help her learn this faster by making sure that meals are given on a regular schedule (you can use a timed feeder if you need to, I've had good success with the CatMate C50).

It can also help to feed small meals more often (again, the timed feeder helps with this!). That way she doesn't get as hungry between meals so that the old starvation response from her days as a stray kicks in.

Slowing Down Her Eating

My experience with puzzle feeders (and slow feed bowls) mentioned in the other answers is dependent on the cat's personality. They're good for Romeo because when he was a stray he got used to digging in everything to scrounge for food, and he still sometimes snuffles around the house "scrounging" (he's teaching us to keep our dirty dishes cleaned up!). On the other hand, Juliet grew up in a hoarder's house and also had food anxiety, but she never learned this "scrounging" habit. She learned to eat out of a puzzle feeder from watching the other cats, but it doesn't affect her behavior at all.

Exercise/Play

The other key in managing her weight is making sure she gets enough exercise. You can incorporate food into her exercise regime to make it more interesting for her. One easy game to play is to take a small handful of dry kibble and throw them across the room for her to catch (one at a time). Incorporating food and interactive play will reinforce that you are the source of food.

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Have you tried using a slow-feed bowl? It could slow her down enough to give the other cats time to finish their food. If that slows her down enough that there's never any food left in the other bowl by the time she's finished, it should begin to break the cycle given enough time.

Another thing you could try is pheromone therapy. There are a few companies (Feliway and Comfort Zone) that make sprays and diffusers with cat facial pheromones that can help make a cat more calm and reduce the risk of unwanted behavior like compulsive eating.

  • That link doesn't work for me but I've found a link for another product called Tiger Diner. It seems they'd only work with dry food? – CJ Dennis Dec 5 '14 at 5:12
  • Try this link instead: google.com/search?q=durapet+slow+feed+bowl&tbm=shop Many slow feed bowls are designed for dry food, but there are ones for wet food as well. The one in my link can be used for either. – Dan Herbert Dec 5 '14 at 5:23
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Another possibility is to get a treat ball or treat puzzle toy for your cat like THIS one. Then you feed her a bit less at dinner and she can slowly trickle out food when she needs it. Since she needs to work at it, this might even mitigate weight gain, but the main idea is to get her used to feeling that she can always "hunt" for some kibble when she needs it.

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