If you're a cat guardian, you're likely no stranger to the scene: you come home from work, toss a single serving of kibble into your cat's food bowl, and stand back to marvel at the sight of a hungry feline enjoying what he's waited all day to do — eat! If you have regularly timed meals, it's not uncommon to see a cat scarf down what's been placed in his bowl, especially if it's wet food you're offering, but sometimes, that food can disappear a little too fast. Like people, cats who eat too fast can be faced with a number of side effects, and may need a hand slowing things down. If your cat eats too fast, there are a couple of tried and true tricks and solutions that may help him eat at a steady, enjoyable pace.
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Why is my cat eating too fast?
A cat may eat food abnormally fast for a number of reasons, and if your cat is a too-quick eater, you'll want to identify the cause in order to implement an effective solution. One reason a cat may eat too quickly is because, quite simply, she's really hungry. This could be due to the fact that she's not kept on a regular feeding schedule, or in the case of certain multi-pet households, she may be competing for her food, or compelled to eat it before someone else does. Some cats who were former strays or cats for whom food may have been scarce may also eat quickly or hide bits of food out of old habits, which can sometimes become outlearned, but not always.
Cats can also eat too quickly because they are bored or otherwise mentally under-stimulated, which is not uncommon among indoor cats and young adult cats who require regular exercise.
Side effects of fast eating
One common result of eating too fast is regurgitation, which can occur when a cat has gorged himself on food. Vomiting occurs when a cat's stretch reflex in the stomach becomes triggered, explains Bishop Ranch Veterinary Center, and usually comes up as undigested pieces of food, often in a tubular or round shape. Cats are known to regurgitate somewhat regularly, thanks to their regular grooming habits and induced vomiting to feel well, but if your cat is throwing up regularly, like more than a couple of times per month, you'll want to encourage him to slow down during mealtimes.
Additionally, eating too fast can do lasting damage to a cat's body, especially if the feline enjoys dry food. According to Alexander Animal Hospital, dry food will absorb water after consumption, which may cause it to expand inside your cat's digestive system.
Helping your cat slow down while eating
To help a cat slow down their eating habits, cat owners can start by implementing scheduled feeding times, which can help them learn that no day will pass without a feeding, possibly decreasing the tendency to scarf down what's in front of them as fast as possible. Another thing that can help all animals eat at a steady pace is slow feeders, which not only make fast chomping harder to do, it may also provide mental stimulation, which is usually much-needed for cats who spend all of their time indoors. If you don't have a slow feeder available, you can try to slow your cat down by adding easy obstacles to their food dish, like a ping pong ball or other small item — just be sure it's not so small that your cat might accidentally swallow it.
Food games can also prevent cats from eating too quickly while also offering a bit of mental and physical stimulation. You can try hiding bites of food or cat snacks in easy to reach places around the home for your cat to find and enjoy, or invest in an interactive feeder. For multi-pet households, feeding cats or other pets in separate rooms may discourage fast or compulsive eating, especially if your furry friends are known for stealing bites from the other's bowls.
Cats may eat too quickly for a number of reasons, ranging from boredom to anxiety to plain old hunger. Identifying why your cat eats so fast can help you find the right solution for helping her slow down. Activities like food games can be helpful, as are slow-feed food bowls or other obstacles which force pets to take their time when eating.