My Cat Eats Without Chewing
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Cats in the wild feed on small prey such as rodents, birds or lizards. As relatively small predators, they need to hunt and eat at regular intervals. As cats have become domesticated, they have adapted to having their food provided for them. It doesn't mean their hunting instinct has gone away, but they know they can rely on their human guardians to sustain them. Our responsibility doesn't end at providing food, we also need to be sure they are eating correctly.
If your cat eats without chewing, it may mean there is a problem. More than just being greedy, not chewing could be due to a range of causes, some of which seriously affect their health. AnimalWised explains the reasons a cat doesn't chew, as well as what we can do about it.
My cat is not chewing dry food
The type of food a cat is given will affect how they eat it. In the wild, cats use their canines to rip flesh from their prey and will chew tougher pieces when needed. After this they often swallow the meat in chunks. For this reason, it can be said that cats often don't need to chew. However, this will depend on the type of food.
With wet food, cats will often lick up the pieces of soft meat and then swallow it. They may chew, but the texture of the food means it won't always be necessary. There are even special cat ‘soups’ which are designed to not require chewing.
However, wet food is often expensive. We need to at least supplement their diet with dry food. For many cats they will have a dry food-only diet. Since dry kibble is harder, it needs to be broken down. If the cat swallows it whole, it can be a choking hazard. For this reason, cats will usually need to chew dry food, at least a little. If not, it will be much more difficult to digest it and may lead them to vomit it back up after eating.
Why does my cat eat without chewing?
Another factor which influences a cat's eating habits is how we give them the food. Some cat guardians will mete out the food throughout the day in small portions. Others will put the daily amount of food in the their bowl and let them eat as much as they like. In both cases, we might see that a cat eats their food without chewing. There are various reasons why this may be, both psychological and physical.
Changes in their routine
Cats are creatures of routine. Not only do they like to do the same things every day, but they are very sensitive any changes to said routine. The result is often stress in cats, which can have various symptoms and behavioral changes, not all of which are very obvious. Eating quickly may be one of them.
Routine makes cats feel secure, so a change can make them feel insecure. If we have moved house, brought another cat into the home or even change its layout, our cat may react in various ways. Eating without chewing may imply the cat fears they won't be cared for and eats faster to compensate.
Do not maintain separate areas
Cats need separate spaces to perform different tasks. They will need one area to rest, one to play, another to eat and at least one other place for their litter tray. If these areas are not sufficiently separated, the cat may react. When the litter tray is near the food, this can be particularly unpleasant for them. They may wolf their food down so they can be near it for as little time as possible.
For this reason, we need to be careful with where we place a cat's accessories. Make their eating area pleasant and give them peace. It may afford them more time to chew properly.
When a cat eats voraciously and doesn't seem to chew, they may worry they don't have enough food. Although we provide them with everything they need, for some reason their perception is off. This might be due to stress. We have already explained some reasons why a cat is stressed, but the truth is there are many possible underlying causes. Cats which have experienced trauma are particularly prone to stress, but so too are those with poor socialization or which live in a stressful environment.
Not only do stressed felines often eat without chewing, but you will often see the cat throwing up after eating. This is because the food cannot be digested as easily without chewing and the cat will regurgitate food that does not sit well in their digestive tract. When the cat is sufficiently stressed, they may not eat at all. We might see them develop anorexia, slow movements and other stress symptoms.
Coexistence between cats
One of the most common situations when we see a cat eat without chewing is when another cat is affecting their behavior. If we bring a new cat into the home, we will need to be very careful. The cat which already lives there will likely feel threatened, whether or not the new cat will do them any harm.
This can be very tricky and will depend on the individual cats. The problem is they fear the other cat will take their resources, something which is partly true if they have to share. They will eat quickly without chewing in fear it will be eaten by the other cat first. This can also happen if neighbor cats enter the home or threaten their security.
Physical reasons a cat is not chewing
While a cat not chewing when they eat is often due to psychological stress, there are some physical reasons why they will do this. Most often it is due to their teeth. If a cat has tooth or gum problems, then it may be difficult or uncomfortable for them to chew. There are various types of periodontal disease in cats which can result in decay of the teeth and an inability to eat properly.
Physical trauma can lead to the cat not being able to chew properly. For example, if the cat has been hit on the jaw, they might find it too painful to chew. However, we should likely see other signs of trauma. When a tumor develops in their mouth, it is possible the obstruction it causes prevents them from being able to chew.
Other diseases may make the cat too tired to chew properly. However, an inability to chew their food will usually be one of the last symptoms to present in such cases.
How to teach a cat to chew
The way to get a cat to chew is to address the underlying problem. For example, if the problem is a physical one, then we will need to address it. Periodontal disease can affect a cat's mouth to the point teeth fall out, but we can stop the disease from progressing and help their mouth to heal.
For psychological reasons why a cat isn't chewing, we need to address these problems. If a change has been made in the home, we need to find ways to help them adjust. Ensure they don't have a reason to feel insecure and give them more attention if they need it. If we have difficulty in addressing these problems, we may need to speak to an ethologist as they will be in the best position to provide practical advice on their care.
Even if we address these problems, it is still possible our cat will eat too fast and not chew properly. If this is something they have developed since they were young, it can be a difficult habit to break.
When a cat eats without chewing, it can lead to indigestion and other digestive problems. Since the food has not been broken down, there is a threat of obstruction. If they have something stuck in their throat, you may hear choking noises or similar. For this reason, we need to find practical ways to help slow their eating.
While meting out the food for a cat throughout the day means they will not eat as much in one sitting, it won't necessarily change how fast they eat. In fact, they may eat it even quicker if they think more will come. Anti-voracity feeding dishes are one of the best ways to slow down eating and encourage chewing. These work by making it more difficult for the cat to reach their food.
There are various types of these feeders which slow down eating. Some use uneven surfaces so the cat needs to work at removing the food. Some will require the cat to move the food down a tunnel or similar ‘maze’. Not only does this help the cat to eat more slowly, it helps to stimulate them cognitively. This can be good for stress and help their overall health.
These types of feeders, however, only work with dry food. If the cat still has trouble chewing, you may need to change their food. It could mean purchasing wet food, but we can also add some water to their dry feed to soften it.
Do I need to take my cat to the vet if they don't chew?
If you can work out the reason why your cat is chewing and it won't require veterinary medical intervention, you may not need to take them to a veterinarian. However, if you are at all unsure, then you will likely need to take them to a veterinarian for diagnosis.
We also need to be careful if we observe any other symptoms. We might see they vomit white foam or even produce some blood. In these cases, it is likely there is a serious underlying problem which will need to be addressed. Only a veterinarian will be able to diagnose the problem effectively.
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