According to the American Pet Products Association, more than half (52%) of cat owners have more than one cat. Some of the problems that plague multi-cat households, such as turf battles and litter box issues, are well known; but owners often overlook the challenges associated with providing balanced nutrition to each individual feline.
Picking the Right Cat Food
Not every cat food is right for every cat. What constitutes balanced nutrition varies with a cat’s age, lifestyle, and health. For example, kittens need to eat kitten food, while a moderately active 3 year old would probably thrive on an adult food, and an otherwise healthy but sedentary 15 year old might do best on a senior diet.
Separating the Therapeutic Diet from the ‘Regular’ Diet
Many feline medical conditions can be treated with therapeutic diets. In most cases, if a healthy cat takes a bite or two of a therapeutic diet no harm will be done, but the opposite is not always true. For example, the benefits of a diet for hyperthyroidism or a food allergy will be negated if the patient regularly gets into even small amounts of their housemate’s food.
Choosing the Amount of Cat Food
Obesity is the biggest health concern facing pet cats in the U.S. today. In fact, a survey by the APOP estimated that 54% of cats are either overweight or obese. Overfeeding and a lack of exercise are the primary reasons for this epidemic. Filling up several food bowls and topping them off is certainly the easiest way to feed a multiple cat household, but it puts cats at high risk for over-eating and obesity. Conversely, if one or more individuals are especially dominant around feeding stations, less assertive cats may not have adequate access to food and may become malnourished.
Finding Time to Monitor Your Cats
A change in appetite is an early symptom of many feline illnesses. Cats with hyperthyroidism or diabetes mellitus may eat more than normal; while other common conditions, like kidney disease and dental disorders, typically cause a reduction in food intake. When multiple cats in a household have 24/7 access to food, owners lose their ability to closely monitor each individual’s appetite, which can lead to delayed treatment and poor outcomes.