Mealtime for your cat should be a happy, relaxed experience. Your cat shouldn’t have to worry about whether she can eat in peace. This can be challenging in multicat households, especially if cats eat at different speeds, require different diets, or one of the cats is a “food bully.”

Why do cats feel vulnerable at mealtime?

In order to understand why cats can feel vulnerable at mealtime, we need to look at life from the cat’s point of view. Margaret Gates, the founder of the Feline Nutrition Foundation, explains this perfectly in a recent article titled Your Cat Worries About This:

“How does a cat’s concern with safety intersect with food? There are some cat activities that even cats understand are less safe. Eating is one. When you are eating, your head is down and you are distracted. Plus, a cat’s usual diet in the wild is fresh prey; the meal itself may attract larger predators who may not only want your dinner, but you as well. So, it’s pretty hard for a cat to really relax when eating. There is usually lots of looking around and pauses to check the environment. They instinctively know eating is dangerous.”

The following tips will help you create a mealtime environment that allows your cat to enjoy her food in peace.

Don’t place food or water bowls near the litter box

Most cat parents already know this, but it bears repeating: cats do not like to eat near where they eliminate. This goes back to cats’ wild origins: in the wild, the scent of a cat’s waste may attract predators. And while cats will eat if having food near the litter box is the only option, this will almost always create litter box problems: the cat will simply stop using the box and find another place to do her business.

Observe your cat’s body language during mealtime

Does your cat seem nervous while she eats? Does she frequently look up from her food to look around? If so, you may need to find an area that feels safer to your cat. Some cats don’t like having their back to a doorway when they eat. Some cats prefer to eat on elevated surfaces.

Don’t feed multiple cats from the same bowl

In multicat households, each cat should have her own bowl. Depending on your cats’ temperaments, you may need to place feeding bowls in separate areas, especially if one cat eats faster than another, or if not all cats eat the same food.

Feed cats separately

In some cases, separating cats at mealtime may be the best solution for everyone, especially for more timid or nervous cats. Feeding cats separately, behind closed doors if ncessary, will allow everyone to eat in peace.

Get a programmable feeder

The Surefeed Microchip Pet Feeder reads a cat’s microchip to determine whether to give the cat access to the food inside. When the feeder is not in use, the food compartment is covered with a clear lid. As the cat approaches the feeder, it reads the cat’s chip and the lid retracts.

Allegra and Ruby ate separately. Allegra eats super fast, whereas Ruby liked to savor her meal. When I fed both of them in the kitchen, Allegra would try to nose her way into Ruby’s dish after she finished her meal. This would inevitably lead to Ruby growling, and while Allegra would heed the warning and step away, it would take a while for Ruby to go back to her dish, and I had to work at keeping Allegra from trying to get to it again. This created unecessary stress for Ruby. After I started feeding Ruby on the bathroom counter with the door closed, everybody was happy.

In fact, it was almost comical in that Ruby ran into the bathroom when she thought it was mealtime (which, sometimes, could be hours before the actual event) as if to say “is it time yet, Mom? Is it time?” My cat sitter used to report that when she came over, Ruby barely greeted her before racing into the bathroom.

Do you have issues with your cats around mealtime? How do you handle them?

This article was first published in 2016 and has been updated.

Photo Depositphotos

16 Comments on Make Mealtime Peaceful for Your Cat

  1. my cats get fed in five different rooms, and in a specific order as well, they all eat off of flat dinner plates to avoid whisker stress, and because they can be picky about the texture of their food they get fed a variety of different wet foods, and then two of them get a “dessert” of
    salmon cream cheese with their medication inside. and the cats know exactly which rooms to go into for mealtimes. once I open up the panty door and rattle the dishes they all go to their rooms to await dinner.

  2. Miss Lulu is the food bully in my house. She tries to push Pele away from her bowl. I have started watching them as they eat so she doesn’t try to take over Pele’s bowl. It’s all the same food anyway.

  3. We currently have three, all different ages and eating habits. Our youngest (3) is a “competitive eater” which I think stems back from before we brought her home. She and her 4 siblings and momma were all fed from just two big bowls. Even though we fed her across the room from the others, she would constantly looking up at our male cat and run over to his food. This continued even when we fed her in the hall where she couldn’t see him. Now she is fed in the bathroom until the others are done and she’s quite content (she even gives me “the look” if I don’t leave her alone)…we just have to make sure we don’t forget about her. When she is let out, she makes her rounds, seeing if there are any leftovers.

    Our oldest (15) has always eaten up off the floor, eats some and likes to come back throughout the day for the rest…which has to be covered with a casserole lid to keep the other 2 out. The only problem with this is her waking me up in the middle of the night to uncover it.

  4. Mozaic eats very fast and if I let her she would immediately go over to Topaz’ dish and Topaz will walk away every time. She takes forever to eat so I’m picking up the dish and putting it back down multiple times per meal.

    I can’t put her in a room behind a closed door because she doesn’t like doors closed on her and occasionally I will put Mozaic behind a closed door so Topaz can eat in peace and I don’t have to keep picking up the dish & putting it back down but since it takes her so long to finish I don’t feel that’s fair to Mozaic.

    And of course there are those times when she does manage to sneak the food if I lose track of it.

    They both eat only canned food.

  5. Again, I do appreciate how lucky I am when I hear of people’s problems with feeding time. Mine eat at the same time, each out of their own dish, but no one is nervous or apprehensive. My first cat, Maxximus who is no longer with us, was a kitten from a feral tribe who used to literally sneak up on his water. No problem with food but water was very scary. First he walked around the dish, then he pawed the ground next do it for a while, then he looked into the water for a bit before he let his nose get so close that it got wet and he had to jump back. Then, and this could take several minutes, he finally settled down and slurped up the water. It was hysterical. He’s been gone close to 5 years now and I still miss him.

  6. Mealtimes are usually peaceful for my boys, as long as I’m consistent in how and when I feed them. They both like chicken, but only little Jack likes turkey — and only for breakfast. Joey just eats chicken — for breakfast and dinner. And he only eats one-quarter of a 3-oz can per mealtime, while little Jack eats one 3-oz can per mealtime (he’s much larger than Joey). Also, they each have their own unique ceramic bowls, but Jack’s has a crack in it and tends to teeter on my uneven hardwood floor and he won’t eat. So I place it on a rubber mat and he’s perfectly happy with that. Joey, on the other hand, wants me to bring him his bowl wherever he may be at the moment — and so I indulge him as it’s most important that he eats. Plus, I don’t mind — they’re my babies and I just want them to be happy. And, at mealtime, I make certain the house is quiet while they’re eating, which isn’t difficult since I live alone with them; if I have a friend or family member over during mealtime, I make sure they know to remain quiet and calm — and in another room — so my boys can eat in peace, like they would any other day.

  7. I had two cats, and one of them was on a special diet. I separated them at meal times and fed one in the bedroom, behind a closed door. They both got to know their “spots,” and knew where they would be fed. The kitty in the bedroom would meow when he was done. It was really a very simple solution that worked a charm!

  8. All of my cats get along but it looks like musical bowls at feeding time. They all get a separate bowl and they will eat awhile and switch. It does not appear to be the same cat that moves first.

  9. Mine get seperate bowls of wet food. They pretty much get a long. I have one who is a begger. He starts early in the morning. LOL.

  10. Maybe I should try feeding Carmine in another room. He has not been eating much of his dinners for months. He usually likes breakfast, though. I’ll see if that gets him to eat more. I wouldn’t blame him if he’s nervous about Lita – she likes to eat her food quickly and then see what else there is.

    I used to put Jewel in another room when she was here because she ate more slowly and like I said, Lita likes to go and steal food once she finishes hers. It seemed to help some. 🙂

  11. Mine all seem to eat together without any problems most of the time. But I used to have a cat that I had to feed in a different room because she didn’t like anyone around her while she was eating.

  12. Have multiple cats. Have no problem with both using the same dishes. Eat in dining room on their own rug in corner. Just eat at different times.

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