If you have a cat, you know how eager it is to eat. Food time is an exciting time, and your cat is ready to dig into its food–but what if it doesn’t chew properly?
Let’s take a closer look at why this strange phenomenon occurs and what you can do about it.
Why Does This Happen?
At first blush, you might think this is a crazy question – of course cats have to bite into their food, that’s what all those sharp pointy teeth are for, right? Well, yes and no. Cats have those teeth because they are domesticated versions of big cats in the whole which, of course, really need those teeth to tear into prey while they hunt. When your cat uses its teeth to tear into a mouse or bird while hunting around your home, it’ll put its teeth to use as well.
However, chances are you aren’t letting your cat feast on mice and birds alone but are instead feeding it whatever kind of kibble or wet cat food it prefers. This changes the complexion of things entirely, since neither of these foods are actually things your cat may need to chew before it swallows. Kibble is small enough that it can potentially be lapped up and swallowed whole, and the same goes for wet food, which is nice and mushy.
However, there are potential problems associated with your cat inhaling its food without chewing. For one thing, your cat may not be chewing, not just because it thinks it doesn’t have to but because it is overeager and eating its food too fast. Why should this matter? Because it can cause your cat to vomit, which isn’t pleasant for you or your cat.
This happens because your cat eats so fast in this scenario that it also inhales a lot of air. When those food particles and air combine in its stomach, it can result in the cat vomiting everything back up.
On the other hand, there are also instances where cats may be eating their food without chewing for other reasons. For example, if your cat has weak teeth, it may not be able to chew its food properly and try to get around that by simply swallowing the food instead.
That being said, it’s also fair to note that your cats don’t have molars like we do, and so they don’t need to chew the same way as humans. Again, their teeth are for tearing, not grinding food the way molars do. The biggest problems with cats swallowing their food without chewing, therefore, come when they either try to do this with food that is too big to be swallowed in one gulp or do so because they are overeager eaters or are avoiding chewing with weak teeth.
What You Can Do About it?
Thankfully, if your cat is swallowing its food without chewing for any of these less-than-good reasons, there are strategies you can take to help it.
For example, you may want to consider changing the feeding bowl you’re using for another one. As mentioned, one of the biggest problems with cats swallowing without chewing is how they can eat too much food too quickly, resulting in them puking it back up. This in turn can be caused by their food dish being so densely packed that they are able to eat that much that quickly. By spreading the food out over a larger food dish, you should be able to allow your cat to eat its food at a healthier pace, thus ensuring that, however much it chews, it doesn’t eat too much too fast and thus doesn’t puke.
You might also want to try feeders that are raised up somewhat from the ground. This has the added benefit of allowing your cat to eat from a standing position that is more natural to it, rather than forcing it to hunch over and eat from a bowl that is lower to the ground. That improved posture can result in more natural digestion, which can also help avoid your cat puking problem.
One interesting solution is to place a ball or something similar in the middle of the feeding bowl and force your cat to eat around it, thus forcing it to slow down and not inhale its food.
Adding water to your cat’s food can also help, since this can make the food a lot more mushy and thus safer for it to eat without chewing. This can also be a good strategy if your cat has an upset stomach and can’t handle more solid foodstuffs right now. Of course, switching to another food altogether, such as wet food or other soft foods, may be preferable to continuing on with kibble, but if you don’t have anything else, this water solution can help. However, this also negates the dental benefits that come from having cats bite into crunchy food, as this can clean and strengthen their teeth, so those other food options should be explored if possible.
If you do switch to a new kind of pet food, make sure you do so gradually and do your homework ahead of time. Cats are quite particular about their food, and changing without a transition period can upset them. If you switch kibbles, go for something larger, since bigger pieces of kibble will force your cat to chew more – and if it can’t, then you should probably take your cat to the vet, as it may have weak teeth or another problem keeping it from eating normally.
There are many potential reasons why your cat may be eating its food without swallowing. If your cat is simply eating too quickly, you can use several strategies to try and get your cat to slow down so it doesn’t have stomach problems or puke the food back up. You may also want to try softer foods. If problems persist, or its teeth are too weak, take your cat to the vet immediately.
In most cases, however, you can thankfully resolve your cat’s non-chewing issues.