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Free feeding hints?

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 
My only other experience with cats was with my female stray who adopted me when she was a year old and stayed with me until her death when she was almost 18. She ate both wet and dry food--which I made always available to her, so there was no actual "feeding time" except for the morning when I got her set for the day.

I recently adopted a 5-year-old male from a shelter. He'd been there for a month and had been rounded up as a stray--although he's obviously been raised by humans and is a really affectionate cat. However, I know nothing of his past life before the shelter. Here's my problem:


I can't seem to get him to feed on his own. He will be hungry and ignore food in his dishes UNLESS I take it up and put it back down for him--as though I'm feeding him fresh food. THEN he'll eat. I'd like to get him used to at least nibbling on some dry food when he's hungry because although I'm home most of the time (retired), I am sometimes away for the day and I have a week-long vacation planned in the fall. I don't want him to be starving waiting for the pet sitter to feed him.

Anyone have any tips on how to get him to eat on his own? Also, he has a strange habit of eating from the floor, which my former cat would never deign to do. If she pushed some food to the floor, I'd have to clean it up, but he will nibble from the floor BEFORE he will eat from a dish. Is this usual for cats? Again, my only other experience was with my female, and she would never eat except from her dishes.
post #2 of 9
Quote:
...Anyone have any tips on how to get him to eat on his own?
If it were me, I wouldn't be too worried...I chalk it up to his being "new"...I think that, when he settles in he'll develop his own patterns for meals.

Quote:
...Also, he has a strange habit of eating from the floor, which my former cat would never deign to do. If she pushed some food to the floor, I'd have to clean it up, but he will nibble from the floor BEFORE he will eat from a dish. Is this usual for cats? Again, my only other experience was with my female, and she would never eat except from her dishes.
One of my (now) six is the "cleaner-upper" in the house - some of the others have no qualms at all about pushing wet food off the plates...Stryker will come along and eat all of that before taking anything from the plate. Rusty will rarely eat dry from the bowl...he'll draw out kibble from the bowl with his paw, then eat it from the floor.
post #3 of 9
My girl actually scoops her kibble (and sometimes her gooshy food) from the bowl onto the floor before she eats it. I even tried putting it on a small coffee plate to see if she just didn't like rims, but she scooped it off that as well.

I think your boy is just feeling things out now - I adopted my boy at the age of 4 and at first he had to gobble everything immediately, as though he were afraid it wouldn't be there later. I started measuring out his dry food in the morning and just leaving it. After a month or two, he started feeling more at home and just nibbled throughout the day and night.

On the other hand, sometimes both of my divas seem to like having mommy put the food in a slightly different location for them...maybe they just like the change of scene.
post #4 of 9
Thread Starter 
Thanks for your response--especially about eating from the floor. I was really worried about him, but I guess it is "natural" for some cats. It encourages me to keep his feeding station clean at all times because I hate to see him eating from the floor like that.
post #5 of 9
I got one of those tiny whisk broom sets from Ace, just to 'clean up' Dharma's area ....sometimes she leaves little bits and pieces around. Oddly, no ants have trailed in there yet.

I've just had cats the last two years - every day I'm amazed at the differences in the personalities of my boy and girl, including their approach to food! Anyway, enjoy your boy - mine is a real sweetie and I bet yours' is as well.
post #6 of 9
Oliver changes his habits... he will eat straight from the bowl (he has a Le Bistro 5 pound free feeder for kibble) and other times he'll take his paw and either eat the kibble out of his paw or put it on the floor then eat it.... got me! And it's not like he only paws food out if the level is low or something, so I guess he's just quirky

Personally, I wouldn't start the routine/idea of you picking up and putting down the bowl just so he'll eat because he'll expect that and become accustomed to it... maybe try a different style or material bowl and see if he'll free feed that way (the dollar store is a good way to try out like metal vs ceramic vs glass instead of investing tons on actual pet bowls - if you find he has a preference then you could get something from the pet store) or maybe move the location of the food - some cats do not like the food right next to the water and some like privacy to eat or would rather have an audience... Oliver doesn't care, if it's kibble he'll eat it (he's even sampled out of the dog's raised feeding station - thank god that habit didn't last)
post #7 of 9
also, some cats are really picky about how clean the dish is... where it's placed... shape [bowl vs. plate], etc.
Cable seems to prefer whichever kibble bowl is furthest to the right same w/her wet food plate... [obviously, she's my diva!]
unless you REALLY like the 'pet food' dishes, i'd stick w/people dishes. you can get really inexpensive ones at dollar stores, or places like BigLots - plus, you can get colors that match your kitchen/home decor! my current cat dishes are from BigLots - 5 small squared bowls in deep blue for kibble, 3 salad plates in white for wet food - all of them were $1 each! i could afford enough that i don't have to wash cat dishes every day, but can still use clean plates each night for the wet.
post #8 of 9
Wal-Mart has "stackables" open stock dishes for $1 each that fit in our elevated feeder. Corelle also works in our feeder. My cats prefer ceramic to other materials.

Why not measured free feeding? That's what I do. 2 times a day I put out a measured amount of fresh kibble. That works well for us. Food that sits out too long gets stale. My cats also get wet food meals every day.
post #9 of 9
Thread Starter 
Perhaps I was not clear. I'm attempting to feed mainly wet (clearly his preference) but with dry for him to "nosh" on if he wishes. I also give Greenies and other treats separately. I use ceramic bowls for the dry and his water, but both the wet food and treats are on saucers (from my own set of dishes). All plates and bowls are cleaned daily.

Just recently, he has begun to return to his food (especially treats!) during the day, so his need to have me feed him directly may be due to the fact that he's new to the house--just about 6 weeks. We still may be in a period of adjustment. I know that the first two weeks, he ate constantly and was really hyper about wanting more food. He's settled down significantly since then, so I think that he's finally confident that this is a reliable food source.
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