At first glance, the topic of “correct” food and water bowls for cats might seem strange. What’s the difference and don’t many owners purchase bowls based on their color and design preferences? While it is true that some customers select bowls that appeal to their aesthetic tastes and others simply choose them based on convenience and price, savvy retailers armed with basic knowledge about feline eating behavior are much better positioned to make educated recommendations. Not only can retailers suggest the best products, but also sharing a few tips with customers should increase the effectiveness of the product(s) they purchase. These suggestions can lead to increased consumer satisfaction and loyalty.
Let’s start with food bowls.
Tip 1. The depth of the food bowl can be important. Some cats don’t like deep bowls. Remember that felines have sensitive whiskers. Having to rub these whiskers on the sides of a deep, narrow bowl might be a non-starter for some. Cats that have to stick their entire face into a bowl can’t see the environment around them. This is something that can cause instinctive unease. Shallow, wider bowls may be a better choice.
Tip 2. Location, location location! The placement of the food bowl is important. Remind owners to avoid placing the bowl near litter boxes or heavily trafficked areas. As a rule, cats prefer to eat alone. This is important for owners with multiple pets to recognize. While it might be logistically easier for customers to feed two cats and a dog all in the same place, their kitties will appreciate a quiet place without distractions to dine.
Tip 3. Portion size. House cats are not binge eaters. At least not normally and it isn’t healthy for them to try. Owners who feed their cats three or four very small meals during the day generally find that their feline friends aren’t “finicky” and are less inclined to throw up when compared to those that consume large meals. The idea that cats are finicky has persisted for generations. Part of the reason for this is that owners often attribute dogs’ eating behaviors to cats. Dogs are binge feeders. They can eat tremendous amounts and are content to sleep afterwards. Not so with most house cats; they are much happier to eat small amounts multiple times per day.
Tip 4. Keep the food bowl clean. Cats have extremely sensitive noses. Stale food particles or oily residue are not usually appetite stimulants for cats. Also, be careful about the type of soap you use. Avoid harsh chemicals and be sure to wash the bowl after soaping. Bowls should be cleaned daily.
Tip 5. As a rule, I am not a fan of plastic bowls. While the prices are often great, and they are initially easy to maintain and far less fragile than ceramic products, they can develop scratches over time. These scratches act as a refuge for bacteria and dirt.
Now let’s move on to water bowls: The food bowl tips regarding size and location are also relevant for water bowls. Bigger isn’t always better and ceramic is usually healthier than plastic. Also relevant is the topic of cleanliness and type of cleaners used. Water bowls should be cleaned daily and the soap thoroughly washed off to prevent any residue from tainting the taste of the water.
Tip 6. If the cat paws at her water, try to keep the water levels consistent. Cats are creatures of habit and frequent water level changes can stimulate this behavior.
Tip 7. Some cats like running water. They find it stimulating. If a customer’s cat likes to drink from a hose or faucet, suggest a pet water fountain. Of course, a fountain might stimulate water play, which can be messy. This doesn’t mean a fountain should be ruled out, especially if it can be placed in a quiet spot that is easily cleaned and not damaged by splashing water.
In closing, please remind customers that not all bowls are the same, and by understanding some cat behavior basics, they can make educated selections.