Common Cat Feeding Problems and Solutions

Free choice feeding is a popular option with many cat owners. Typically, a bowl of dry food is left available at all times and the cat eats on her own schedule. Some of the commercial foods available to manage urinary tract problems recommend this type of feeding schedule. A feeder designed to store and dispense both food and fresh water when the bowl is empty may be a good choice.

Cats who are fed from plastic dishes may develop eating problems. Plastic tends to retain the smell of past meals and cleaning detergents, discouraging your cat from eating. These dishes should be thoroughly rinsed and cleaned after each meal. Some cats even develop an allergy to plastic bowls. If you notice an acne-like rash on your cat’s chin, change to a ceramic or stainless steel bowl and have your cat examined by your veterinarian.

Avoid using strong detergents or bleaches when washing your cat’s food dish. These products are potentially toxic. If any of these substances remain in the food dish they can burn your cat’s nose or tongue.

Drinking Problems

To monitor for decreased water intake, watch for prolonged stress, heat, fever, vomiting, or diarrhea. A sick cat may fail to drink enough water to satisfy his body’s requirements and is therefore susceptible to dehydration. Another symptom of dehydration is a marked decrease in urine and saliva production.

Left untreated, dehydration can be fatal. While you may be able to force-feed your cat water with an eye dropper, take the cat to a vet for an examination to determine what health problem is causing the dehydration.

An average cat needs about six to seven ounces of water daily to maintain health.


A responsible cat owner should carefully monitor how much his or her pet consumes during and between mealtimes. Obesity is a major problem for domestic cats.

Your cat may try begging for food when it sees you at the dinner table, but it is best not to act on the temptation to give your cat table handouts.

Dry and semi-moist treats may also contribute to overfeeding. Most cats enjoy a snack, and small ones will not harm them, but don’t become too fond of giving your feline in-between-meal treats. Don’t rely solely on food to show affection for your cat, since she will then insist on a treat every time you pay attention to her.

Free choice feeding can become a problem for cats when they start overeating. Try a “meal feeding” schedule, rather than leaving food down at all times. Offer controlled amounts several times a day and put the food away after twenty minutes.

Some cats like to eat dog food. Aside from the danger of a confrontation between the two pets, dog food does not provide a balanced diet for your cat. Restrict your cat’s access to dog and other pet foods.

Feeding Exclusive Items

A common mistake made by owners is feeding only one food item. Meat and liver have very low calcium content and can cause cats to suffer skeletal deformities if provided in excess. Fish contains an enzyme that destroys vitamin B1, which may result in neurological problems. Cooking destroys this enzyme, but it is still unwise to feed fish-containing foods other than those from commercial pet manufacturers.

Feeding a Homemade Food Diet

Cats who are fed “homemade diets” may be at risk for problems unless the diet is balanced and complete. Without experience and knowledge, cooking a balanced diet for a cat on a daily basis is difficult and time-consuming. Most cat owners find it much more practical to purchase commercial diets that are proven to be balanced and complete.

A happy solution for many cat owners is to provide nutritionally balanced commercial cat food as the cat’s primary source of food, then occasionally supplement the cat’s diet with kitchen scraps. The cat will be happy because she thinks she’s getting a special treat, and you’ll be happy because you’ll feel that she is getting extra nutrients.