A solid decade ago, I repurposed a cabinet into a ‘dining room’ for our cats. The goal was to keep the curious toddler from playing with their food. Fast forward and I was ready to part ways with this piece of furniture until we adopted a new kitten. Suddenly, it was needed again. This time to keep our older cat from eating the kitten’s food.
The Cat Diet
Bertie had digestive issues early on. After trying different foods, visiting the vet to rule out health problems, etc, we finally realized that she has a sensitive stomach and overeats. The solution ended up being very simple. Basically, we put her on a diet. The shift to a specific dry food fed in measured portions twice a day made all the difference. I ended up purchasing an automatic feeder to manage it. Game changer all around.
Since buying the automatic feeder, her digestive issues have pretty much vanished (unless she sneaks something she shouldn’t eat) and she has maintained a healthy weight.
The New Kitten
When we decided to adopt a new kitten, I knew food was going to be an issue. We needed to keep Bertie out of it for her own health, but also needed to allow the kitten to have frequent access for hers. Initially it was easy to keep the food separate as we had Cami contained to our guest room the first few weeks while both cats adjusted. We were able to leave food out in that room for her to eat at her leisure.
The only problem occurred when I left the sealed bag of kitten food on the kitchen counter overnight. Apparently that temptation was too much for Bertie and she managed to break in for a treat. Without any details, let’s just say we all paid the price for that one. It was not a fun time.
I quickly found a plastic container in our kitchen to store the kitten food in. One problem solved – no more sneaking snacks. However, I realized we needed to come up with a plan of action before Cami could roam the house freely to keep her food safely out of Bertie’s reach. And the cabinet I was about to part ways with might be the perfect solution.
Cat Cabinet Take 2
In recent years, the cabinet once intended for our cats’ food was being used for a more normal cabinet purpose – storage. I first had to clear out the bottom to make space for a new feeding set up. Then make some small adjustments. Originally I cut a hole in the side to allow our cats to freely enter and exit. Now I needed it restricted to just one cat. If Bertie could get in, it would defeat the entire purpose. My sister clued me in about pet doors that unlock using a pet’s microchip. Genius!
I ordered a pet door by SureFlap from Amazon. It was just a little bit bigger than the hole I had previously cut into the side of the cabinet. I traced the door frame outline onto paper and cut it with my X-acto knife to make a template that I taped to the cabinet wall. Marking where I needed to increase the hole size.
I used a few basic tools to cut and sand away the extra material. Bertie was quite curious about the entire process and did a quick inspection as I checked to see that we had the opening large enough. After getting the right fit, I simply secured the pet door in place using the included screws.
I programed the pet door for Cami’s microchip only before installing. To me this was the easier way to test it, but you can program after installation if you prefer.
Finishing the Kitten Dining Space
To complete the kitten food cabinet, I added a few more small details. First a plastic mat for under her food bowl. I found a simple rectangular mat that fit the space with room for Cami to sit.
My sister suggested a motion sensor light. At first I rolled my eyes, but then found myself ordering some. Honestly, it’s been a good idea. It does help illuminate the space when filling her food bowl (I’m measuring Cami’s food too still for now to be sure she’s eating enough). We can also tell with a quick glance when she is in there as the light is visible around the edges of the cabinet doors.
Finally, on the outside I repurposed a small plastic step stool our kids previously needed in the bathroom. Both have long since outgrown and I was just about to get rid of it along with the cabinet. Thankfully, I procrastinated just long enough that I could grab it for here. It fits the space perfectly and helps Cami climb up to access her door.
The hardest part was just training Cami to use the pet door and find her food there. We were able to open the cabinet and show her her food. We could place her in, let her eat, and she quickly figured out how to exit.
Entering the cabinet was a different challenge. She wasn’t keen on going in. Maybe part was the newness and part the sound of the lock unlatching when she got close? It’s not super loud, but if she just passes by on the step stool, you will hear the click.
One of the tests to allow her to start to freely roam the house beyond one room was knowing she could access her food. I spent a bit of time one Saturday showing her door repeatedly when it hit me – the laser. What cat doesn’t love a laser toy and Cami is no different. She had already been having fun chasing one with us during play time. It took a few tries, but I managed to get her to follow the laser to the step stool. Then quickly shifted my hand inside the cabinet and aimed the laser onto the floor. She would see it through the door and learned to push her way in.
After a few practice runs with the laser, she master the pet door and was entering on her own to eat. Success!
While Cami continues to eat a little at different times during the day, she has definitely taken notice of Bertie’s feeding times. She perks up when the automatic feeder turns on and starts dispensing food. We often find her in her cabinet then eating as well. Eventually, they might be on the same schedule eating the same food. We may be able to switch at that point to a double feeder or just add a second one nearby. For now though, we have a design that works well to keep them both fed and happy.