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ParaParaYukiko's avatar

Is it possible to curb my cats' fixation on food?

Asked by ParaParaYukiko (6111points) February 18th, 2011

I have two cats, aged 4 or so, brothers named Vasco and Nacho. They were born feral, but my family has been taking care of them since they were 3 weeks old (first as foster “parents” until we adopted them). They are pretty well-behaved and extremely social cats, but they have one major flaw that can be kind of maddening: they are obsessed with food.

Now I know it’s not unusual for cats to constantly want more food, but I feel like it’s quite excessive for Vasco and Nacho. They constantly act hungry, and every time someone walks anywhere near the kitchen they dash over and circle around them like piranhas. We can’t leave out food (cat food or otherwise) or they will gorge themselves until they get sick (Vasco is already overweight since he steals Nacho’s food).

In the morning, Vasco will scratch at my bedroom door incessantly starting at around 5:30 am until I feed them, and sometimes start at it again within the hour for more food. Vasco has started to get more and more aggressive when he wants food; he will get in your face and start chewing on your hair if he doesn’t get what he wants. It’s pretty gross.

Has anyone else had experience with such ravenous cats? What, if anything, can I do to make them more… normal?

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10 Answers

blueiiznh's avatar

What does your vet say? Sounds like they need some modification, but the vet is the place to start.

ParaParaYukiko's avatar

@blueiiznh Vet hasn’t said anything about it really to my knowledge other than reducing the amount of food we give them. We’ve tried reducing their meal sizes at home (they spend most of the time at my parent’s house, but right now I’m taking care of them at my small apartment), but here at my place I they just bully me into giving them more food. I think boredom has something to do with it; at my place they have less space to run around and they can’t go outside.

wilma's avatar

I have this same problem with my cat (maybe not quite as bad). My vet told me to only give her one 5.5 oz can of food a day. Half in the AM and half in the PM, and a very small sprinkling of dry weight control food as a snack in the middle of the day. My cat is not very happy with this arrangement but we try to stick to it. I had hoped that as she got further away from her kitten-hood that she would crave less food, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. I don’t want her to be obese and as of now she is not, but she isn’t skinny either.
None of the other cats that I have ever had behaved this way. I always left dry food out for them all the time and they never over-ate.

6rant6's avatar

How much time each day do you spend playing with them?

Coloma's avatar

This obsession is just another manifestation of pets becoming neurotic due to lives of confinement.

A bored and under stimulated creature of any kind ( humans included ) tend towards neurotic soothings such as food.

Since animals don’t have the smorgasbord of diversions humans do, food or other OCD traits arise dependent on availability.

Food is whats available to the cat, if she was a human she might be an alcoholic. lol

I wouldn’t stress over it too much, let her be and try to provide other stimulating activities for her.

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ParaParaYukiko's avatar

@Coloma You’re right, boredom does have a lot to do with it. I feel like they are better behaved when they have a more stimulating environment. However, this obsession is not new; Vasco and Nacho have had this fixation since they were kittens. Is it possible that it came about somehow due to their upbringing? With no mother, we had to bottle-feed and hand-raise them since they could barely walk.

Right now as a college student living alone I don’t think I can offer them the amount of mental stimulation they need. I will probably ask my parents to take them back when they can, instead of being cooped up in my apartment.

Thank you for your insight! Kind of weird to think that my cats could be the equivalents of junkies, though. Haha.

Buttonstc's avatar

I saw a documentary with an animal behaviorist and he described what he does with his own cat.

He has various hidey toys and smaller containers into which he divides up the daily food allotment.

He then puts them in all different places around the apt. Some on top of bookshelves others behind the couch, etc.

You get the idea. This way it mimics their natural hunting behaviors and gives them some exercise as well as stimulating them mentally.

It’s the same amount of food as would be placed in the dish. It’s just spread about and hidden a little so they have to hunt for it ( as they would do if in the wild).

Some zoos also do similar as part of their enrichment program to help prevent boredom and stress.

Check in the pet stores. I know they have them for dogs galore and would assume for cats also.

You may have to show them where to find some of the hidden “stashes” until they catch on to the new feeding method.

No more getting waited on hand and foot, Kitties. Now you gotta work for your food.

My guess is that once they catch on, they’ll like it.

Buttonstc's avatar

The other thing that I did with two of my previous large size cats (who have since passed over Rainbow Bridge) was to try a different brand of food which they were not as enthusiastic about.

I didn’t intend to do it, but I realized it by accident ( or just observation).

They would scarf down Iams like it was kitty crack. When I switched over to a Healthy Weight Formula of a different brand (equally nutritious) they just didn’t gobble it down as enthusiastically.

I soon realized that a bag of food lasted longer than it used to. After awhile of careful tracking, I realized that they were just naturally eating roughly 20% less.

That may sound like an awful method but it worked :)

They were still large cats (genetically) but not grossly overweight butterballs.

But my one cat Velvet was still a foodaholic and would watch every bite of food I ate. As long as it was “people food” she’d eat it.

This crazy cat would even eat little pieces of tomatoes, yet. It was people food and she wanted some :)

She was a dedicated beggar, but a polite one. She would simply park herself in my line of sight and follow, from plate to mouth, every single bite of food I ate trying to guilt me into giving her some.

So I never really “cured” her, per se.

:)

SABOTEUR's avatar

It might help if you describe what and how your cats are being fed.

I always have kibble available to my cat for free-feeding, and offer her premium wet food when she asks for it. My cat seems to metabolize more nutrients from premium brands causing her to eat less and have fewer bowel movements.

I never feed her scraps from the table or “people” food.

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