My Pet World: Preventing fights when feeding dogs in a multi-dog household

March 11th, 2021

And more advice on living with and loving our pets

dog with food bowl on head for advice on pet issues

Dear Cathy: Beau is an 8-year-old male Pekingese/Chihuahua mix and until recently has been an “only child.” Beau now shares the household with Walter, a 7-year-old Chihuahua/Jack Russell mix. They get along great, except at feeding time. Beau becomes aggressive toward Walter when their meals are served. Both are served exactly the same dry dog food with a smattering of chicken or ground beef at the same time. It has reached the point where Beau and Walter are placed in separate rooms during mealtime. This is not a good long-term solution. Any suggestions?

– Paul and Beth, Henderson, Nevada

Dear Paul and Beth: It’s not uncommon for dogs to be protective over their food. I am not sure why feeding them in separate rooms is not sustainable as it is one of the two easiest solutions to this problem. The other is feeding them in their kennels if you have one for each of them.

Training is an option, but it can take a long time to do. Start by feeding them in separate rooms so they can’t see each other. After a few days or weeks, open the door so the dogs can see each other eating, but stand between them to ensure they don’t glare, growl, or go after each other. If they do, close the door and try again later.

Once they are used to eating and seeing each other, bring the bowls into the same room and feed them as far apart as possible. Stand in between them. If they glare or growl at each other, go back to step two and try again the next day. This training could take many weeks and is not always full-proof, but you may get them to eat in the same room as long as you are present.

Creating a pet-friendly home.

Crazy for catnip – or not?

cat on catnip for advice Dear Cathy: Is there any rhyme or reason why some cats go crazy over catnip and others do not? I know that kittens often don’t react, so I am talking about full-grown cats. Also, does catnip have a shelf life?

– Richard, Allentown, Pennsylvania

Dear Richard: Catnip is an herb, and just like other dried herbs, it does not necessarily go bad, but it can get stale and not be as potent. Will your cat enjoy stale catnip? Maybe, but not as much as fresh catnip or dried catnip you just purchased.

Catnip contains a strong minty oil that cats can detect in the air at saturations as low as one part per billion. Kittens and some cats don’t react to it at all. No one knows for sure why. Cats who react to it though may roll, rub, and flip their bodies in response. They also may meow or growl or get hyperactive or aggressive. The effects are different for every cat and typically only last about 10 minutes.

Ask Amy: Am I depriving my cat by not letting her outside?

A solution for getting cats to eat prescription food

Dear Cathy: I have two senior cats, 13 and 14 years old, who were both recently diagnosed with kidney disease. My veterinarian recommended a kidney diet for both. I lost a cat a few years ago to kidney disease when he refused to change foods no matter what I tried. I was determined to get them to eat their prescription kidney food, so I ordered every brand and flavor. My cats wouldn’t eat any of it consistently. Then I came across an article where a veterinarian suggested trying Gerber baby food stage 2 ham flavor for cats who wouldn’t eat. The vet said it was lower in phosphorus and protein than prescription feline kidney food, which are the two big triggers in cats with kidney disease. I spread a small amount of the baby food on their kidney diet wet food and my cats gobbled it up. I couldn’t believe it. I’m happy to say that my cats are going on five weeks now with this diet. I thought another reader might find this tip helpful.

– Katie, Western Springs, Illinois

Dear Katie: Thank you for sharing your tip. Kidney disease is fairly common in older cats, and changing their food can be challenging, so I am glad you found a solution to getting them to eat their prescription diet. Baby food doesn’t contain taurine, a necessary amino acid for cats, so I am glad you are only using it as a supplement and not a replacement to their diet. Also, please note that not all baby foods are created equal. It’s not safe for cats to eat baby foods with added sugars, salt, onion, garlic, or oils. To be safe, always talk to your veterinarian before introducing human food into their diet.

Cathy M. Rosenthal is a longtime animal advocate, author, columnist, and pet expert who has more than 25 years in the animal welfare field. Send your pet questions, stories, and tips to Please include your name, city, and state. You can follow her @cathymrosenthal.)

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