To start out simply, I am single and have four cats. Yes, four cats is too many…at least for me…but the story of how I acquired so many and why I don’t find another home for some is a story for another post. To summarize quickly though, two are 16 year old females I have had since kittens and two are males I got as kittens from a shelter, now ages 4 & 5. In this photo, one of the females is on the left and the two boys are on the right side of the couch. (Note that little green thing on Pablo’s collar…it will come in to the story in a bit.)
So to reiterate, I have four cats. Most of the time they do get along, too. Most of the time. The younger boys do have more energy and irritate the elderly girls, but this is probably no surprise to anyone with animals…or kids. With every species on the planet, I do believe there is an unspoken sport of “let’s see how much I can irritate them before they get mad.” My cats excel at this sport, and if it is not being practiced at each other then it is aimed at me.
Now, I’m not trying to say necessarily that they consiously do things to irritate me. It may just be more of a by-product. Because honestly, five mammals in the same small space every day will likely cause someone to be irritated on a regular basis even with everyone trying to get along. So alas, the other night, it was my turn to be irritated.
Here is a picture of Quince, the youngest of the pride. He is about four years old and was a rescue at the shelter. The only details I got about it when I adopted him was that it was an abuse situation. I don’t know what kind of abuse it was, but I am guessing there was some food related issues in there somewhere because he has the HORRIBLE habit of gorging his food down…and subsequently regurgitating it right back up (often looking identical to the food in the bowl which he then eats again).
So, this little practice of his is quite disgusting to me, and I have tried all kinds of ways to help him slow down. Including purchasing the spendy food dispenser there next to him in the picture. I don’t know if you can see it there, but it has little clear doors that open and close to either allow or block access to the food based on the allotted portion. The cool thing about this feeder is that it can have a different portion allotment for each cat based on recognition through an RFID tag I have on each of their collars. (Remember the green thing in the first photo? That’s Pablo’s tag.)
Now the girls really need no regulation on their food. For sixteen years, they have managed to remain at healthy weights with full access to food all day long. Once these boys came in to the picture, however, I had to start paying attention. Because Quince gorges and throws up, he gets hungry again very quickly (when he’s not eating what he threw up, anyway)…which he does under a certain amount of stress, then, and gorges again. So you see the downward spiral there. I end up with little piles to clean up either when I wake up in the morning or get home at the end of the day. Not to mention that his food stress now seems to be increasing because as he reaches his portion limit, the doors are closing on him and he can’t access more. The machine doesn’t know that he threw up his last portion and is still actually hungry. So this is strike two for this system!
Strike three came the other night when I discovered that my little tank, Pablo the 5 year old boy who weighs in at 20+ lbs., has figured out how to beat the portion control aspect. I have to give him points for ingenuity, though!
Here is a shot of Pablo beating the system. He reaches a paw in to collect a few pieces of food to himself. In this manner, he manages to not get his head close enough for the RFID chip to read his presence, thus not logging his time at the feeder. This way, he never reaches his portion limit and can eat all he wants, avoiding the mandated diet! Sigh.
As a result, I have concluded that technology didn’t really help me at all here. Strike #1 = purchase price at almost $200. Strike #2 = making Quince’s food anxiety worse, not better. Strike #3 = failure to put Pablo on a diet.
I know, I know…I can’t really blame technology. It isn’t any smarter than the operator, and there may be other feeders or other systems that might be better. But I’m TIRED! And I’m irritated! So, I have unplugged the smart feeder and it is now an approximately $200 bowl that does nothing but holds food. Double sigh.