Should Cats Share Food Bowls?
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?
Let's look at cats' natural instincts plus day-to-day considerations to see what is best for our cats...
Cats Hunt and Eat Alone in the Wild
What do feral cats do in the wild? What can we learn about their natural instincts - do cats prefer to eat alone or in groups?
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.
Indoor Cats Also Prefer Eating Alone
Understanding the natural behavior of feral cats helps us understand what feels most natural to our indoor cats. Instinctively, an indoor cat would rather eat alone, away from another cat, rather than shoulder to shoulder.
According to the Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine, the most common cause of conflict between indoor cats in a multi-cat household is competition for resources. Cats can compete and develop conflicts and stress over food and water resources.
Even if you continue to fill the food bowl, and there is no actual scarcity of resources, cats may still perceive that they are competing with the other cats in the house for food and water.
When it comes to food, some cats can be very territorial. (It’s in their nature after all!)
They may fight over food. They may guard the bowl. Or, they may chase other cats away as they approach the food bowl. This is called resource guarding.
Not only does this aggression create a stressful environment among the cats in your home, it can also create an uneven distribution where more dominant cats get more food, and less dominant cats may be left hungry.
Make Meals More Comfortable
Some cats eat quickly, and some like to take their time.
Separating bowls allows each cat to eat in peace without worrying about having to chow down quickly or watch over their shoulders for another cat.
If a cat feels nervous during mealtime, they may stop eating altogether. We certainly don’t want that!
Separate Bowls for Different Diets
Control Portion Size
Some cats need to eat more, and some cats need to eat less. Their caloric needs are based on their weight, their age, a medical condition, or all of the above.
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 is 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 the case for me… my Bella has eaten a kidney-friendly diet most of her life, while Penny ate a regular indoor cat diet. 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.
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 drink from the same water bowls throughout the day, have at least 2 bowls of fresh water out in a multi-cat household.
Place water bowls in different rooms and on different floors in your home.
That way, if one cat is guarding a water bowl (potentially a perceived scarce resource), there is another water source.
Also, when water is more accessible so your cats don’t have to search or travel far, they will be reminded to drink. Good hydration is so important!
Give Each Cat Their Own Food Bowl - They Don't Want to Share!
Although having cats share a bowl is often easier, saves space, and creates fewer dirty dishes, there are so many reasons cats need their own bowls!
Eating separate is instinctively how cats eat most comfortably. Plus, separate bowls reduce stress and promote peace when cats aren’t competing with each other for food. Lastly, different portion sizes and diets require separate bowls.
Do your cats have enough bowls to dine separately?
Penny and Bella have 14 cat bowls between the 2 of them!
Each 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.
Our Favorite Cat Bowls
We use Americat Company stainless steel cat bowls, because they are made in the USA in a facility that makes healthcare and culinary products. They are also tested to be free of lead and radioactive metals by an independent lab accredited by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.