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When a cat eats too quickly, it can lead to regurgitation – the expulsion of food from the esophagus before it enters the stomach for digestion. Eating too fast can also cause your cat to eat more than he needs to.
You’ve probably done it yourself – eaten so fast that your stomach can’t keep up. The fullness response becomes delayed, and you wind up feeling over-full later, having consumed far too much food. In cats, this can lead to obesity which may increase your cat’s risk for other serious health problems like diabetes and osteoarthritis.
Feeding your cat small meals can help curb speed eating behavior, but it could also leave your cat hungry and meowing for more. An alternative solution is to feed your cat using a slow feeder or puzzle feeder. These products can be used for meals or snacks, and they’re designed to make it just a little more difficult for your cat to get the food, forcing him to slow down as he eats.
We researched the options on the market, scoured customer reviews, then purchased and tested ten of the best cat slow feeders and puzzle feeders on the market to bring you this assessment.
At a Glance: Our Top Picks for Best Cat Slow Feeders & Puzzle Feeders
We highly recommend looking at the comparison table we have below where we highlighted the features of each product. You’ll also find more detailed information about each product later in the article.
- Two-in-one design for food and water
- Silicone materials are non-slip and easy to clean
- Comes with a stainless-steel bowl
Top Picks Explained
Why Should You Trust Us?
Over the last three years, we’ve spent a lot of time figuring out what makes a product safe, effective, and cat-friendly. We’ve researched and tested dozens of different cat bowls to learn what features to look for and which to avoid.
We spent hours researching how slow feeders and puzzle feeders work and the situations in which they might be necessary before making our selections.
How We Tested
After thoroughly researching cat slow feeders and puzzle feeders, I read customer reviews to narrow down the options to the 10 picks featured here. When making my selections, I looked for products that were appropriately sized for cats and designed with features to slow down a fast eater.
I chose slow feed bowls with obstacles of various shapes and sizes, both standard cat bowls and elevated cat bowls. I also selected products that incorporated a puzzle or toy element to encourage exercise during mealtime.
I spent 7 days testing the 10 products featured in this review with the help of my three cats Bagel, Biscuit, and Munchkin. I tested the slow feed bowls and mats with both dry food and wet food, where possible, and the puzzle feeders with both dry cat food and treats. I also tested how easy they were to assemble (where necessary) and disassemble for cleaning.
Our Top Picks for the Best Cat Slow Feeders & Puzzle Feeders
After hours of research and hands-on testing, the following are our top 10 recommendations for the best slow feeders and puzzle feeders you can buy.
5 Reasons Some Cats Eat Too Fast
Cats have learned to communicate with humans through various meows and yowls. You can probably replicate several of your cat’s favorite vocalizations off the top of your head – especially the one he uses in the morning when he’s hungry.
Some cats will beg for food even if the bowl isn’t empty while others inhale the entire meal within a matter of seconds. But why do some cats eat faster than others?
Here are the five most common reasons your cat might be eating too quickly:
1. He feels like he’s competing for resources with other household pets.
Though your cat may look very different from his wild ancestors, he still retains some of their natural instincts. Protection of resources is in your cat’s nature and this instinct might kick into high gear if your cat feels like he has to compete with other cats (or even the family dog) for his food.
Making sure each of your pets has their own bowl and separate feeding location can help reduce territorial eating. It may also generally help to ease tension in multi-cat households.
2. He has an underlying condition that affects his appetite.
As a species, cats are pretty good at regulating their own food intake. They tend to eat when they’re hungry and then only as much as needed to feel satiated. Certain health problems like hyperthyroidism and diabetes mellitus can impact your cat’s metabolism, causing him to burn through calories more quickly. Because he’s feeling hungrier than usual, he may be more prone to scarfing down his food.
If your cat starts to eat more quickly than usual or seems to have a stronger appetite, it’s wise to consult your veterinarian. A physical exam combined with blood panels or other testing can help diagnose (or rule out) underlying conditions that might be affecting your cat’s appetite.
3. He’s not getting enough calories or the right balance of nutrients.
Though he may not be conscious of it, your cat’s body knows what it needs. If your cat isn’t getting enough calories or essential nutrients, he may start eating more to compensate.
In the case of calorie deficiency, your cat may eat faster simply because he’s very hungry. If it’s a matter of nutrient deficiency, your cat might feel like he needs to consume food more quickly to obtain the necessary nutrition.
Also Read: The Complete Guide to Feline Nutrition
4. He isn’t getting enough exercise or mental stimulation.
When they aren’t a symptom of underlying disease, behavioral changes are often an indication that your cat isn’t getting enough physical or mental exercise. Your cat needs a stimulating environment that enables him to act out his natural instincts. He needs vertical spaces to climb, appropriate surfaces to scratch, and interactive toys to keep his mind sharp. Ten to fifteen minutes of active play per day is usually sufficient for a healthy adult cat.
5. He just loves to eat.
Sometimes speed eating isn’t an indication of a problem at all. It could, in fact, simply mean that your cat loves to eat. In the same way humans can become addicted to eating, some cats really enjoy their food and can’t wait to scarf it down.
If you suspect this to be the case with your cat, it’s worth taking a closer look at his diet. Cheap cat foods are often artificially flavored which is what makes them highly appealing to cats. They also tend to be loaded with unhealthy ingredients like meat by-products and plant-based fillers.
A Slow Feeder or Puzzle Feeder Extends The Length Of Your Cat’s Mealtime.
Slow feeders and puzzle feeders vary by size, material, design, and capacity. Some are designed for wet food or soft treats while others work exclusively for dry food and treats. Puzzle feeders turn mealtime into a game while still fulfilling the purpose of a slow feeder.
Slow feed bowls and puzzle feeders utilize different technologies and design elements to accomplish the goal of slowing your cat’s eating.
Many slow feed bowls have ridges or shaped pieces inside the bowl that distribute the food over a wider area. By simply making the food harder to get to, these bowls keep your cat from eating too fast. Some slow feed bowls are designed such that your cat can’t stick his face in the bowl to get the food – he has to use his paws to scoop it out.
Puzzle feeders and food-dispensing toys incorporate exercise and play into mealtime. Your cat still has to work to get the food but, depending on the product, he gets to exercise his natural predatorial instincts as he does it.
When choosing a slow feeder or puzzle toy for your cat, consider the goal you’re trying to achieve.
If you simply want to prevent your cat from eating too fast, a standard slow feed bowl might do the trick. To keep your cat from eating too much at once, a puzzle feeder or food-dispensing toy might be more appropriate.
Also Read: The 8 Best Cat Bowls (Purchased And Tested)
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it dangerous for cats to eat too fast?
Dogs who eat too quickly are at-risk for gastric dilation volvulus or bloat. This is a potentially life-threatening condition in which the stomach fills with food, gas, or fluid and then twists, reducing or cutting off blood flow. The problem is less common in cats but still possible.
Even if your cat doesn’t develop bloat from eating too quickly, he might end up regurgitating the food. This happens before the food enters the stomach for digestion, so your cat won’t get the calories and nutrients he needs unless the food he regurgitated is replaced. An elevated or anti-vomit cat bowl can help prevent regurgitation, though it won’t slow down your cat’s eating like a slow feeder will.
Cats who eat too quickly also tend to eat larger volumes of food than necessary which can put them at risk for obesity. Obesity is linked to a number of chronic diseases that can impact your cat’s overall health and reduce his lifespan.
Are automatic feeders good for cats who eat too fast?
If your cat has a habit of overeating or eating too quickly, you’ll want to avoid gravity feeders – the type of feeder that continuously refills the bowl from a hopper of food. Automatic cat feeders that enable you to customize your cat’s meal size are a better option. The options vary from feeder to feeder, but some models enable you to schedule up to 10 meals a day so you can space your cat’s food consumption out to keep him from eating too much at once.
Depending on the type of automatic feeder you choose, you might be able to use it in conjunction with one of the slow feed bowls recommended above. Some models like the Petlibro automatic feeder and the Feeder-Robot by Whisker have built-in bowls but if you can find a slow feed bowl similar in size and shape to the included bowl, you may be able to make the swap.
How do you clean a slow feed cat bowl?
Your cat’s food bowl should be washed at least once a day to prevent the accumulation of biofilm and the growth of bacteria. Washing a slow feed bowl can be tricky if the ridges inside the bowl are deep or irregularly shaped. Many slow feed bowls are dishwasher safe, but others need to be washed by hand. When hand washing a slow feed bowl, it helps to use a long-bristled dishwashing brush to get into all the crevices – a bottle brush might work as well.
You can soak the bowl in hot soapy water first to loosen any dried-on food and, as an added degree of caution, you can sanitize your cat’s bowl after washing. Soak the bowl in a solution of 2 teaspoons bleach in one gallon of water for 10 minutes then rinse well and air dry completely before using again.