A community food bowl for all your kitties to stick their faces in and scarf down some kibble might seem easier to deal with, but no feline is the same. Some have weird feeding needs that require special attention. Plus, individual food bowls mean you can avoid an all-out brawl.
Chances are at some point in your cats' lives, one of them is going to need specially formulated food or a food additive. Having only one bowl means your other cats will ingest the same food, and that's usually not a good thing to have happen. Imagine if one of your cats develops a food allergy. Unless she eats out of her own bowl, she'll never have any relief from those pesky allergens.
No two cats are the same, and one of your kitties may need more food than the others or vice versa. Whether one kitty is smaller, bigger, at a different life stage or dealing with a medical condition, each feline needs a certain amount of food and that amount can vary as time goes on. For example, a cat who's packing too many pounds and needs to shed the weight can't eat from a free-feeding bowl without causing even more health problems. Plus, some cats, especially strays, have a tendency to eat as fast as they can, throw up the food and then rinse and repeat. Separate bowls and timed feedings can prevent that annoying and nasty habit.
Although food aggression is often associated with canines, kitties are known to get quite angry and combative if they eat out of the same bowl. Mileage varies, because some cats eat just fine out of one bowl, but others let out deep growls and throw a fury of swipes at each other. It mostly comes down to food being one of their most basic survival needs. Your cats may view one another as a threat to that survival need, and so feline violence erupts.
Some kitties, such as Persians and Himalayans, have flat faces. While this feature might be adorable, it's not too easy to eat with. Unlike other cats, flat-faced felines often must stick their entire face into the bowl to scoop up some food. That means they have an easier time eating out of wider, flatter bowls. Even if your community bowl is wide and flat, a flat-faced cat may not have enough room to eat with all the other kitty faces and heads in the way.
Problems and Placement
Your kitties may not respect the individual bowl setup, and instead may feed out of each other's bowls, causing the same problems you'd have with one community bowl. Solve this little problem by feeding each cat in a separate room, multiple times a day. When their time limit is up, pick up the food and then feed them again at their next designated time. Your little furballs will quickly learn that they better eat while it's available. Sometimes placing the bowls far enough away from each other, but not in separate rooms, also solves this problem. Make sure you place the bowls in areas where there's little to no foot traffic and noise. A noisy dishwasher or annoyingly loud dryer can spook some kitties and make them reluctant to chow down.
Located in Pittsburgh, Chris Miksen has been writing instructional articles on a wide range of topics for online publications since 2007. He currently owns and operates a vending business. Miksen has written a variety of technical and business articles throughout his writing career. He studied journalism at the Community College of Allegheny County.