Our cats, Arby and Alex, have been driving us completely crazy the last few months with their obsession with food. They have been meowing hours before dinner time and begging for food all throughout the day. Trying to sleep in on the weekends has been disastrous; one or the other cat starts jumping around our bed at 5am or earlier, pestering us to get up and feed them. Finally this week we decided we’ve had it and started an experiment to get them to be ‘free eaters.’
Maybe I am not using the right terminology for this, since I had trouble finding any references to cats and “free eating” online. What I mean is that we are going to keep their food bowls filled at all times, so Arby and Alex can have something to eat any time they like. On Sunday at about 5pm I filled both of their food bowls to almost overflowing and let them at it.
Arthur and I had talked about trying this before, but we never went through with it because we figured Arby and Alex would eat themselves sick and get so fat they wouldn’t be able to walk anymore. Well, much to our delight and surprise, the cats didn’t finish their heaping bowls of food — not right away anyway. Even better, neither of them threw up afterwards, which they have been known to do after a particularly crazed begging session – the excitement seems to be too much and after wolfing down dinner it just all comes up again.
Lately Alex would walk away from her food bowl even if she didn’t finish everything, so we thought she might prefer to be a free eater. Arby always finishes everything, and would eat whatever was left in Alex’s bowl if we weren’t there to stop him. But on Sunday, after eating from his bowl for ten minutes or so, he started to look a little bit confused. There was still a lot of food in his bowl. He kept eating, but much more slowly. After about five more minutes he looked over at Alex’s bowl, which still had a lot of food in it. He walked over to her bowl and started munching from her food (normally they each get a different kind of food but we heard from the vet earlier this week that Alex’s food probably doesn’t influence her anal-gland problem, so they are both having Arby’s anti-bladder-stone food for now). He gave up with that after a few minutes and went to lay down, still looking confused. During the rest of the evening both cats returned to their food bowls for a top-off a couple of times. It seemed to be working okay – they did not eat themselves sick and they didn’t feel the need to finish everything in their bowls. Before we went to bed we topped off their food with another heaping scoop each.
On Monday morning when I came downstairs, both cats came into the kitchen with me, bouncing and eager for breakfast. As usual they looked at me and then trotted to their placemats in anticipation. Then they saw that their bowls were still there, and they both still had some food in them. They lost that spring in their step as they bent down to eat. Seeing them like that made me really sad. I filled up their bowls with even more food (4x more than they usually get for breakfast) and went to work, feeling blue.
When we got home from work the food was gone again. Little piggies. Another heaping scoop each for dinner was also gone the following morning. So they are not meowing so much anymore but they are going to gain some serious weight if they keep this up. We will try it for the rest of this week and decide if we should continue or not. I don’t miss the meowing and begging but I sure miss their happy little pre-dinner ritual of running around like maniacs while we prepared their food. 🙁