DEAR DR. FOX: I saw your recent column about a cat eating too fast and then vomiting. We had the same problem, and our vet suggested spreading out the wet food on a large platter -- it has been a great success with our cats. I also observe their eating and have certain times that the cats know are for food. This has really worked wonders. I have five cats who range in age from 4 to 10 years old. -- M.W., St. Louis
DEAR M.W.: Yes, spreading wet food over a plate is one way to make a cat slow the rate of eating, but it can make it difficult for some cats to actually lick up their moist food rather than grab bites. Another method to slow down your cat is to put food in a large bowl with a few glass marbles that the cat has to eat around.
Cats do train us when they want to be fed, and I strongly advise attunement to their natural meal cycle, which is usually around four small meals daily. Feeding two large meals can cause problems, as can at-will self-serve eating from a dry cat food dispenser.
DEAR DR. FOX: I am in a family of four: my husband and two grown "kids," ages 38 and 34, who still live at home. We currently have, yes, 13 cats and kittens in our home.
My older son was feeding a couple of outdoor strays who kept coming around our house. They ran away if he even opened the house door before they were done eating and went on their way. To make a long story short, one of the cats gave birth to kittens, and sadly, while following them into the yard of another neighbor, was mauled to death by a K-9-trained pit bull who lives there.
Two very nosy "concerned" neighbors claimed they knew our son was feeding the strays and brought the four motherless kittens to our door. They said they found them abandoned in the street. We tried to get the one male and three females fixed and get their shots in a timely manner, but our financial situation did not allow it. We are now faced with owning 13 cats in total as the male cat impregnated his three sisters, two of whom had four kittens each; the remaining sister gave birth to kittens who died shortly after birth.
My husband and son are the feeders of the 13 cats. They do it four times a day, at 6 a.m., 10 a.m., 4 p.m. and 9 p.m. That is what their lives revolve around, and I feel they are grossly overfeeding all the cats and kittens. They're out of their mind!
Please give me your input. I am at wits' end and desperate to resolve this extraordinary, over-the-top situation. I know it sounds like I am making up a story. Sadly, it is all true. I am an animal lover myself, but know it is more than a little prohibitive -- at this rate, the cost of cat food and kitty litter alone has been outrageous. We did get all the cats and kittens spayed and neutered, and they've had their shots ... better late than never, I guess. All remain indoor cats. -- T.L., New Jersey
DEAR T.L.: What a tragedy for the mother cat to be killed. This happens to many cats allowed to roam free.
I advise feeding adult dogs twice a day, and most people feel that is fine also for cats. But recent studies have shown that four small meals a day and a couple of snacks is a better, more natural feeding regimen for cats. High-cereal-content cat foods often lead to obesity, diabetes and other health problems.
Adult cats should be periodically weighed to check if they are putting on too much weight. To keep them healthy, look for grain- and soy-free cat foods; feed them freeze-dried, raw frozen or canned food; or try my home-prepared cat food recipe.
(Send all mail to email@example.com or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.
Visit Dr. Fox's website at DrFoxVet.com.)