How Many Cat Food Bowls Do I Need?
You don't want to run out of cat bowls! It's important to have enough bowls for each cat. Plus, clean bowls help cats stay healthy.
With 2 cats, a busy schedule, and Bella (my 13 year old dilute orange tabby below) eating from a buffet as she battles heart disease (anything so she'll eat!), I have 14 cat bowls in my house.
Ideal number of cat food bowls depends on:
- How many cats you have
- The types of food each of your cats eat
- How often you clean your cat bowls
- Whether your cats have any unique needs
Answer the 4 questions below to learn the best number of cat food bowls to keep your kitties well fed, healthy, and comfortable.
1. How Many Cats Do You Have?
Give each cat their own food bowls, so they don't compete with each other for resources (aka food), and so you can customize and monitor each cat’s food intake.
Tip: Cat Food Bowls Per Day = At Least the Number of Cats
Here are the reasons we strongly recommend that each cat eats from their own cat food bowls:
Cats instinctively prefer to eat alone: In the wild, outdoor cats hunt alone and eat alone for multiple small meals each day. This behavior is most natural and comfortable for cats, so we want to mimic it for our indoor cats.
Indoor cats also prefer to eat alone: Just like outdoor cats, indoor cats prefer eating away from other cats in separate locations, not shoulder to shoulder. Therefore, they need separate bowls.
Avoid perception of scarcity: According to the Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine, “the most common cause of conflict between indoor-housed cats is competition for resources." Food is one of the most important resources.
Reduce conflict among cats at home: Even if you continue to fill the food bowl, and there is no actual scarcity of resources, cats may still perceive competition with other cats in the house for food. This can lead to conflict and stress.
Honor different eating styles: Some cats eat all their food at once (like Lewie), and other cats are grazers (like Bella). Sharing bowls may force a grazer to scarf down all their food in a rush. Or your less dominant cat may be afraid to approach the shared bowl and go hungry. Use separate bowls to avoid these issues.
Accommodate different diets: Separate bowls allow cats to eat different diets. For example, Bella is on a prescription kidney diet, and Lewie is on a regular indoor cat diet. So, they need separate bowls for their different foods.
Feed different amounts: Each cat in your house probably doesn't need the same amount of food. Customize portion side depending on their weight and their age.
Monitor eating habits: Do you know how much each cat eats in a typical day? This is important! A change in appetite is a warning sign that your cat may not be feeling well. So, keep an eye on how much your cats eat each day.
Whether cats need their own food bowls or can share is such an important topic that we wrote an entire article about it. Learn more here!
2: Does Your Cat Eat Wet Food, Dry Food or Both?
If your cats solely eat wet or dry food (and not both), you'll need 1 bowl per cat. But, if your cats eat a combination of wet and dry food, the number of bowls you need depends on the answers to these two questions:
- Does each cat like a mix of wet and dry food in the same bowl?
- Or does your cat prefer wet food in one bowl and dry food in another (like those of us who don’t like our foods touching)?
If you're not sure, try feeding your cat wet food and dry food in separate bowls one day. Then, experiment with mixing them together another day. Observe what your cat likes best!
Tip: Cat Food Bowls Per Cat = Number of Different Foods Eaten in Separate Bowls
For example in my home, both Bella and Lewie primarily eat wet food. But, they get a small amount of dry food as a treat.
Bella is a grazer. She prefers dry food by itself, not mixed. So, she gets a bowl for wet food and a separate bowl when it's time for a kibble treat.
Lewie (above) lived outside as a stray before we rescued him and loves food any way. He gets wet food and dry food in the same bowl.
Therefore, I need 2 bowls per day for Bella (1 for wet food and 1 for dry food), and 1 bowl per day for Lewie. These are the bowls we use and love.
3. How Often Do You Wash Dishes?
Think of the saliva and crumbs that get left behind after your cats finish eating. Bacteria can begin to feed on those leftovers and contribute to sickness.
If you’re washing cat bowls by hand each day, you may not need extra sets. But, if you’re using a dishwasher or not hand washing daily, you’ll need additional sets. That way, cats can eat while dirty bowls are waiting to be cleaned.
Tip: Number of Days Between Running Dishwasher or Hand Washing = Number of Additional Sets
I run my dishwasher every other day, so I need at least 1 extra set of cat bowls. Since I use 3 cat food bowls per day, that means I need at least 6 cat food bowls per week.
- If leftovers have been sitting out for several hours, it’s best to wash or change bowls before the next meal to reduce the risk of bacteria growing. Don't keep piling new food on top of old food - gross!
- If you feed a raw food diet, clean or replace the bowl with each meal for safety to prevent Salmonella, E. coli, and Listeria.
4. Do You Have Extra Cat Bowls?
Tip: Have extra cat bowls on hand - you never know when you'll need them.
Here are some examples when extra bowls come in handy:
A new medical condition: Illness, disease, and aging may cause your cats to become pickier about food. Sadly, this happened to my Bella after she was diagnosed with severe heart disease. Some days she'll eat all her breakfast. Other days she won't touch her favorite flavor.
When this happens, she gets a buffet of wet and dry food and different flavors so she can eat whatever she is in the mood for. This means lots of bowls, but the most important thing is that she eats!
Dirty dishes: Dishes piling up or forget to run the dishwasher. It happens (anyone else?), so have extra bowls on hand just in case!
Find or adopt a cat suddenly: A feral cat started visiting my mom’s yard. We began feeding her, so we could trap, spay, and vaccinate her. We suddenly needed more bowls, so having extras at home saved us time!
Have at Least 2 Water Bowls
Stay tuned for our next article about how many water bowls you need! Hint: You need at least 2.
Do You Need More Cat Bowls?
We hope this article has helped you figure out how many cat bowls you need to keep your cats well fed, healthy, and comfortable during mealtime. If you've discovered that you need more, pick a bowl that is safe for cats and that will last like these bowls from Americat Company.
Bella and Lewie love them! They are made in the USA, human grade, and foodsafe. Plus, they are dishwasher safe and durable - years later, they still look brand new!