Here’s some (cat) food for thought... If there are multiple cats in your family, should they all have separate food bowls, or can they share one?
We recently wrote about the best places to put cat food and water bowls. Now, we'll dive into whether cats should have separate bowls.
Would you want to eat dinner from the same plate as your friend? No! Neither do cats. Veterinarians and cat behaviorists agree that giving cats their own bowls is best. Here's why...
CATS HUNT AND EAT ALONE IN THE WILD
First, let's consider how cats eat when they live in the wild. Outdoor cats are solitary hunters. An average size cat eats 6-9 mice a day, and each mouse is small (not much to share). A cat's natural instinct is to hunt alone, eat multiple small meals every day, and not share. This helps us understand why indoor cats prefer having their own food and enjoying it alone.
CONTROLS PORTION SIZE
Some cats need to eat more, and some cats need to eat less. If your cats eat from the same bowl, you won’t be able to tell how much each cat is actually eating. Not knowing portion size makes it difficult if you are trying to put your kitty on a diet or help them grow.
ALLOWS FOR SPECIAL DIETS
Separate cat bowls may be a necessity if you feed your cats different foods. One cat may be on a prescription diet, a life-stage food (such as kitten or senior), or have medication mixed into their food, while your other cat eats a different type of food. This was my case, because Bella has eaten a kidney-friendly diet most of her life. So, I'd put Bella's bowl in the kitchen, and Penny's bowl in the office, so I could ensure both were getting their own special food.
GET INTO THE HABIT EARLY
Even if your cats eat the same food now, chances are that at some point, they may be on different diets or have to eat different portion sizes. Getting them into the habit of not sharing bowls early will make any future dietary changes so much easier.
When it comes to food, some cats can be very territorial. (It’s in their nature after all!) They may fight over food, or one cat may keep another away from the bowl, which is called resource guarding. This aggression creates stress among the cats in the household. It can also create an uneven distribution where more dominant cats get more food and less dominant cats may be left hungry.
MAKES MEALTIME MORE ENJOYABLE
Some cats eat quickly, and some like to take their time. Separating bowls allows each cat to have a relaxing dining experience without the worry of having to chow down quickly or watch over their shoulders for another cat.
HOWEVER, CATS CAN SHARE WATER BOWLS
Mealtime tends to be when all cats in a multi-cat household eat. But, cats tend to get thirsty and drink at different times. So, it is less likely that multiple cats will try to drink at the same time from the same water bowl. There also is usually a lot more water, enough for everyone. Although cats can share water bowls, we recommend having multiple water bowls out at a time. By placing them in different rooms or on different floors of the house, it will be easier for cats to stop for a drink, encouraging good hydration.
HOW MANY CAT BOWLS DO YOU HAVE?
We have 12 cat bowls! Each cat has her own food bowl in separate rooms, and there are water bowls on each floor of the house. Plus, since we change bowls each day, but don't run the dishwasher each day, we have a stack of clean bowls ready to go.