Should My Cat's Food Bowl Be Raised?
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You may have noticed that elevated cat feeders are becoming more popular in pet stores. When you observe your cat eating form a bowl on the floor, it may seem like there is little reason to have a raised feeder. Perhaps this is just another fad to make money selling feline accessories. Others may think raised cat food bowls are simply more aesthetically pleasing because they often have interesting designs. However, the trend for elevating your cat's food dish may be more important than we first think.
You may ask yourself, should my cat's food bowl be raised? AnimalWised answers that it should be elevated off the ground and explains why by revealing the benefits of raised cat feeders.
How to choose the best cat feeder
Although we are going to explain the reasons for raising your cat's feeder, we need to know it is not the only consideration we need to make. Each cat has their own characteristics, needs, personality and preferences, all of which can affect the accessories you buy for them. This is why it is important for feline guardians to get to know the personality and behaviors of their cat before choosing toys and accessories.
To choose the most suitable cat feeder for yours, keep in mind the following:
- Size and age of your cat: all accessories and toys should be appropriate for the size, stature and age of the cat. If you have a large and robust cat, such as the Maine Coon breed, their ideal food bowl will be larger than most, since cat feeders are usually designed for smaller animals. In terms of age, a kitten will need s smaller and shallower dish to eat from it happily. Essentially, the size and depth of the dish will correspond to the cat's physique and the amount of food and water they will need.
- Snout: some cat's are known for having a shorter snout, different types of Persian cats being just one example. With these cats, we recommend a shallow feeder, with a concave shape and a wider opening. Narrow food bowls are often very uncomfortable for these cat breeds as they can put pressure on the cat's head and the cat will often stain their face when eating.
- Cat diet: you should also consider the type of cat food when your cat will eat. Cat food is generally not very large in size and fits inside the bowl. However, if you decide to offer a BARF diet to your cat, a diet based on the consumption of raw animal-based food, you will likely need a larger bowl to contain the more voluminous food.
- Cat feeder material: we recommend giving your cat a food dish, bowl or feeder made out of rigid materials with impermeable surfaces. These products last longer, are easier to clean and have other benefits for the cat. Although plastic food bowls are cheaper and also easy to wash, they can absorb odors and cause irritation to the cat. If you notice your cat has black spots on their chin, this may be due to the material of their feeder. Glass and ceramic cat food and water dishes are hypoallergenic and avoid unpleasant odors, but they are also more fragile and can break easily. Stainless steel feeders are usually best since they are easy to maintain and shouldn't cause health problems for the cat.
What is the ideal height of a cat's feeder?
When raising the cat feeder it is essential to ensure the container is at the same height of the cat's ‘elbow’, i.e. the joints on their front legs. Otherwise, the cat will have to make unnecessary effort at feeding time. When this happens every time they eat or drink, it can slowly affect their spine and joints.
Regardless of whether you decide to purchase a raised feeder from a pet store, or decide to make your own, we recommend you take steps to ensure it does not affect the cat's welfare.
Apart from eating their regular daily cat food, treats are an important aspect of a cat's diet. This is because they can be used to help stimulate their cognitive ability, something you can see from this video on how to make a circuit toy for cats:
Advantages of raising a cat's feeder
After you have considered these basic tips, we are ready to discuss the benefits of raised feeders for cats. These are benefits which may not seem as obvious at the beginning, but once you consider the affect eating from a low position has on a cat's well-being, you can see why raising their feeder is beneficial. The two main benefits of elevating a cat's food and drink bowls are because it:
- Improves cat's posture when eating
- Prevents food from being contaminated
Below we discuss these benefits in more detail. We also highlight that how the cat eats their food is only one aspect of their well-being. What type of food they eat is also important, as can be seen in our article on whether cats needs wet or dry food.
Improves cat's posture when eating
Traditionally, cat food and water dishes have been placed on the ground. To eat or drink, the cat is then forced to acutely flex their spine and paws. The cat will then adopt a posture which causes their head to be kept down, stretching their necks as they tilt toward the bowls and flexing their front legs.
In these positions, the digestive tract of the animal is curved and will be exposed to different pressures. This can compress sections of their gastrointestinal tract, especially their esophagus and stomach. When food is in transit, this compression can impair the digestive process, increase the risk of indigestion, nausea and the development of digestive problems. The latter can include gas and vomiting, but also contribute to more serious issues.
When the cat's head and mouth are lower than their stomach because the food bowl is on the floor, the cat is more likely to have reflux or even choking issues. Cats with existing digestive problems or which eat too fast might be more prone to problems associated with the height of their feeders. To know more about digestive problems in cats, our article on the gurgling sound in a cat's stomach might be helpful.
The cat's joints and spine also suffers from adopting these postures. A cat which eats from a low position, is practically sitting, giving them a curved spine. The pressure exerted is especially forceful in the lumbar region and the joints of the neck and back.
Furthermore, the joints suffer additional wear and tear as they remain flexed when eating. This is because they are also bearing much of the animal's weight, adding to the strain of the awkward posture. In certain instances, especially when the cat suffers from obesity or underlying joint problems, this can cause permanent damage.
All of the above can be avoided by placing the feeder at the appropriate height, as we have indicated in the previous section. The raised feeder allows it to be placed at the same height as the cat's elbow. In this way, the cat does not need to bend down, lower their neck or twist their spine to eat or drink. Their digestive tract remains in the proper position so their stomach, esophagus, and mouth can be aligned.
One of the great advantages of raising the cat feeder is to improve the animal's posture during feeding, which helps prevent spinal problems and digestive disorders. This is also a very healthy alternative for your kitty's joints, as it prevents adding additional strain to the daily wear and tear they already receive.
While this benefits all cats, it is particularly important for older cats and those who have already been diagnosed with arthritis, osteoarthritis, or other conditions that directly affect the joints and/or spine.
Prevents food from being contaminated
While it may seem redundant at first, another key factor in raising the cat's feeder is that it keeps their food away from the ground. When the food or drink bowls are kept directly on the ground, they are more likely to come in contact with dust, foreign bodies, leftovers or anything which may be in the environment. This is another important reason why we keep the cat's litter box away from their food.
Keeping the cat's food and water raised prevents them from being in direct contact with dirt and other contaminating substances. Of course, this does not replace the need to maintain optimal hygiene and bad odors in the home. Without a doubt, it helps keep our cats healthy. Even if we are generally clean in the home and change the cat's litter regularly, there are other factors which can contaminate food. Raising it off the ground helps to reduce the effect.
The cat's environment is a very important factor in other aspects of their health and well-being. This is why it is important to consider how where they live impacts a cat, something we explain further in this article on feline environmental enrichment.
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