Feeding cats in a multiple cat household

Millions of U.S. households include cats as pets, with a large majority home to two or more. As with most anything, multiple iterations can create challenges and one of the biggest with cats comes at feeding time. With multiple cats wandering the house, situations could arise that require they feed separately and this can be challenging, especially if they are used to “free choice” feeding—eating whenever and wherever they want.

Common reasons to feed cats separately

  • One (or more) of your cats has a medical condition requiring a special diet
  • An overweight cat that needs a special diet, takes medication with food or eats a specific amount of food
  • Your cats fight over food, or one of them is kept away from the food bowl by another
  • Your cats are different ages and need different life-stage foods

Transitioning from free choice feeding

The first step in deciding if you need to feed your cats separately is to provide meals at certain times instead of having food always available. Meal feeding can take some time (about a week or so) getting used to for your cats if they are accustomed to having food around all the time, but they adjust just fine.

When switching to meal feeding, choose times of day when you can provide routine meals. Choose a strategic feeding location, prepare their food dishes ahead of time, and serve.

How to Feed Cats Separately

To feed cats separately, follow these handy tips:

  • Feed them in separate rooms and close the doors between them during meal times
  • Feed the cats in the same room but at different times, while keeping other cats out until it’s their turn
  • Feed cats in the same room but divide it into separate sections during mealtimes.
  • Feed the cats on different levels. Sometimes a cat needing the special diet is older and can’t or is not keen on jumping. Put one cat’s food on a stable shelf or table and the other’s on the floor. This of course only works if the more agile cat respects the grounded cat’s food.


The key for you as a pet owner is patience with your cats and yourself during feeding style transition time. It will be frustrating but don’t give up in the first few hectic days. Stick to it; everything will smooth over fairly quickly, and your cats will accept the new routine as the new normal.