Tiger and Buttercup share a food dish and a water dish. When Baby was younger, we had to hide the dishes or she would crawl toward them and upend the water dish or attempt to eat the cat food. Now that Baby is older, (20 months!) we have the cat dishes on the floor in a corner of the kitchen. Baby now knows that Tiger and Buttercup have their own food.
I have a system where I feed the cats when I come home from work. I pick up their bowl and bring it to the plastic container, full of their cat food, that stays in the pantry. Then I open the container, use their bowl (it's really a regular kitchen bowl from our dish set, but it works), scoop up the food, and return everything to its proper location.
Baby has watched me do this countless time. The last couple of weeks she has been helping. I will say that Tiger needs more food, and she will go get the food dish and bring it to me. I'll scoop more food into it, hand it back to her, and using both of her hands and walking as carefully as she can she will return the bowl to its proper place. Then she will run after Tiger and yell at him ("Tiger! Tiger!") to go eat. She will also click her tongue together like she has heard me do to get him to come.
Today Baby took feeding the cats one step further. I told her Tiger needed more food, so she went and got the food dish. Then, instead of giving it to me to fill, she pushed me aside and grasped the bowl towards herself. "You want to do it?" I asked. "Yeah," she answered.
I opened the food container for her and let her try to scoop up the food. She had a harder time with this than she thought she would. She tried a few times, but wasn't really getting anything into the bowl. Then she changed tactics and started scooping the food with her hands to put into the bowl. Then she realized how fun it was to play in the cat food and stayed there for a good twenty minutes scooping and dumping cat food. Tiger, who was waiting expectantly for his food, even tried to poke his head in there to get a few pieces. Baby yelled at him, "Tiger! No!" Eventually I snuck in there, filled the cat dish, and told her to give it to Tiger. (Which she did once I bribed her by telling her we could go outside after she fed Tiger.)
I then realized that by feeding the cats, I've been teaching Baby to do chores. I can't wait until I can teach her how to cook...