Cat Integration: Free Fed vs Meal Fed Cats

Much like real life, we are going to address our cat integration challenges and how we are tackling them one at a time here on the blog. Our kitties have very disparate lifestyles and we want to do our best to disrupt them as little as possible. The sudden introduction of new housemates is traumatic enough without everything else changing as well. Maintaining a familiar lifestyle for each pair of cats is still requiring us to make some adjustments, but we’re implementing early to make it the new norm by the time we hit the cohabitation stage. One of the first challenges we’re addressing is food.

Mika and Mochi’s food set up at my current house. The weights on top are to keep the girls from knocking their feeder over.

My girls, Mika and Mochi, are meal fed. Mika doesn’t have a problem regulating her food intake, but Mochi has a bit of an eating disorder. She is entirely too food driven and either overeats or eats too fast and then throws it back up. So lovely. Because of this, I’ve had my cats on a meal-based diet to keep her at a healthy weight and avoid finding a large portion of their cat food regurgitated in little mushy piles on the floor — not cost effective nor attractive.

I used to feed them manually three times a day, but since I moved to California I’ve had a longer, less predictable commute and more frequent trips back and forth between mine and DJ’s place. (Context for readers that don’t know — I moved here from Oregon last year primarily to be closer to DJ.) Because of this lifestyle shift, I decided to invest in an automatic feeder. After some research, I settled on this PetSafe Automatic Feeder with this splitter. It runs on battery, but I also use the power adapter for peace of mind. I still keep batteries in it in case of power outages (which have happened). I have a webcam in my kitchen that records and send me a video clip when there is movement, so I can always check and see if the girls’ meal has dropped as expected no matter where I am.

I’ve had it almost a year now and I can honestly say it’s been a great investment. So far my quibbles with the feeder are minor: without something heavy on top the girls can knock it over, the opaque lid means I cannot see at a glance when the food is getting low, and the clock runs a teeny bit slow so over time it drops food later than the original time set. When the girls start consistently telling me their food is dropping a few minutes late (which they do), I tend to take a moment to reset the clock.

I’m sitting by the food dispenser to take this pic, so that must mean food will appear at any second, right?

The feeder can be set to drop up to 12 meals a day with flexible meal portions from 1/8 cup up to 4 cups. It’s fantastic and I wish I had bought one years ago! The cats know exactly when their food is going to drop, so they don’t wake me up in the mornings anymore, and I don’t have to run my life around their meal schedule. I can also drop meals in smaller quantities more often, avoiding long gaps between feedings and further keeping Mochi from overeating. It’s less stressful for everyone.

DJ’s cats are free fed and have no problem regulating their intake, so we don’t want to take that freedom away from them. It also gets very hot here in the summer, so we don’t want to keep their food in the garage or outside (which may also attract unwanted pests). After some hunting around, we discovered this SureFeed microchip pet feeder. It has a cover over the food that can be programmed to only open to a cat with an authorized microchip. It also has a training mode to introduce the lid movement gradually so the cats can get adjusted to it.

Chaos modeling the microchip enabled feeder currently being used at DJ’s house.

The final level of training mode

Chaos and Calamity are on the final level of training mode with the feeder, and so far it seems to be working well. We don’t think there will be a food stealing problem with my girls’ auto feeder, since DJ’s cats have free access to their food already, but we’ll keep a close eye on it when we reach that point to make sure everyone is getting their fair share. Bon appétit, kitties!

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