“One of my cats is a grazer and the other is a food monster! How can I feed them so that the monster doesn’t get overweight and the grazer gets enough?”
This is one of the most common dilemmas we face in feeding our cats. Cats are like potato chips, you can’t just have one! As such, most of us have this problem if our cats cannot be trusted with the food dish. The following plan will help you have success.
Step 1: Switch to canned food
Cats on canned food are more apt to eat a meal. Dry food grazers will often convert to a full meal eater if given the choice to eat canned food. Once you know how much your grazer will eat in a meal, that is the basis for calculating how many meals to feed them.
Step 2: Satisfy the grazer first
Once your cats are eating canned food, calculate the feeding volume based on the calorie rating of the food and the requirement of your cats. Divide that total amount of food required by the amount that the grazer will eat in a meal and that will tell you how many meals per day you need to feed. Usually, that will be less than 3 meals spread over the day. You can now “meal feed” them in separate rooms and in all likelihood, they will both finish their meal. The food monster will devour its food and come looking for left overs, but if you have done your math right, there won’t be any!
Step 3: Feed for weight loss of the fat cat
Once you have the meal size figured out, you can now start to restrict the food for the food monster. I have had the most success with Royal Canin Calorie Control canned diet. For more information on this diet see their web page. web link to Royal Canin This diet is low enough in calories that most hungry cats will be satisfied even though they are getting significant reductions in the total calorie intake. One of my own cats had this problem and my “fat” cat was able to eat 1½ cans per day, that worked out to a half can per meal which despite the calorie restriction made her a happy cat!
Step 4: Monitor
Any time we are trying to get a cat to lose weight, monitoring is essential. Often we are talking about a couple of pounds loss over several months so an accurate scale that will get decimals of a pound is best. Visual inspection is inevitably inaccurate. From my experience in my own family, my wife and son were convinced that our chubby cat had lost weight but the scale showed that after 1 month there was no change! But in 6 months she did lose 3 pounds rather painlessly.
Dry Food Options
The same plan can be done for dry food eaters but often the number of meals climbs to 6 or more. You can lock them in separate rooms for meal times but I have found it is hard to change a cats eating habit unless there are drastic changes. Once a grazer is hungry, they will convert to a meal feeder but it takes progressive restriction of the food to achieve that. I would suggest starting with 6 meals a day, removing left overs after about 15 minutes and you can decrease the number of meals as the grazer starts to eat more at a time. Others have suggested feeding the skinny cat inside a large cardboard box with a small hole in it or feeding on a countertop where the large cat cannot jump to. Another option to consider is to use an automatic feeder that will only dispense small amounts of food at a time and set it up to give a total of food slightly less than they both need. In time, the grazer will change her habits and will not allow the food monster to win.
In conclusion, weight loss is only achieved by feeding less calories than maintenance requires. That means there will be hunger! Low calorie foods on their own will not have success, the cats will only eat more!!! Restricted feeding will be needed and lower calorie foods can help with the satisfaction level but canned foods do tend to work better given the higher meal volume allowed. It is always better to prevent weight gain rather than having to address weight loss so the key times to address this is during your cats annual physical exam. We can recommend small changes in diet early so you will never have to go through a stressful weight loss program. Hungry cats are not happy cats! Unhappy cats always find ways of making you unhappy too!