There’s nothing more irritating than your cat constantly begging for food every time you sit down to eat. Fortunately, there are ways to stop the behavior. In this article, we’ll give you 12 tips that work to stop your cat from begging. We’ll also look at the reasons your cat might be begging and how to get to the root of the problem.
Make Sure It’s Not a Bigger Problem
First things first. Before addressing any behavioral issue in your cat, make sure it’s a behavioral issue and not a health issue. There are some health conditions that can cause cats to feel hungry all the time, which could be the reason they’re begging.
Gastrointestinal parasites, or worms, lead to chronic hunger in cats because the parasite is “eating” all the food your cat consumes. Instead of feeding your cat, you’re actually feeding the parasite. This condition can be resolved with a dewormer, which should be obtained from your vet.
Determining whether begging is new behavior or if you’ve always had a begging cat can help you determine the cause. If there have recently been changes in your cat’s life, these changes could be the cause. Have you recently changed foods? Has the cat’s living environment changed? Has a new person moved into the household? Most behavior changes that are related to changes in your cat’s environment will go away over time as your cat adjusts to the situation. Some cats are more sensitive to changes than others.
If your cat doesn’t have worms and there haven’t been any recent environmental changes, then your cat’s begging is most likely a behavioral issue.
Why Cats Beg for Food
There are essentially four reasons why your cat might beg for food:
The 12 Tips to Get Your Cat to Stop Begging for Food
Whatever the reason behind it, we’re going to give you 12 tips to stop your cat’s begging behavior. These do work, but not all of them will work for all cats, so you may have to perform some trial and error to correct the behavior. It’s also important to remember that behavior problems don’t develop overnight and won’t go away overnight either. Be patient and give your cat time to adjust to new habits.
1. Provide Your Cat with a Nutritionally Balanced Diet
Many cat owners don’t read the feeding guidelines on the back of their cat food, which can lead to nutritional deficiencies. Not all cat foods are created equal, so 1 cup of kibble in one brand could hold the same nutrition content as ½ cup of another brand.
The other reason for checking the label is to ensure you are feeding a complete food. Making sure your cat food has all the necessary vitamins and nutrients for optimal health will ensure your cat is getting what she needs.
A complete cat food fed in proper portions will ensure your cat isn’t begging for food because she’s nutritionally deficient or hungry.
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2. Put Water in Wet Food
Once you’ve implemented the following feeding guidelines on your cat food, another effective trick is to water down their wet food. Cats consume wet food very fast because they don’t have to take time to chew it. What happens is that they finish the food before their brain gets the message that they’re full, so they beg for more food. Mixing water in the wet food can “trick” your cat’s brain into thinking they are fuller than they are. It also provides extra hydration, which is never a bad thing.
Mixing water into cat food is also a very effective way to help an overweight cat lose weight.
3. Trick Your Cat Using Chicken Stock or Dried Tuna Flakes
Dried tuna flakes, like Bonita flakes, are low in calories but chock full of an amino acid called taurine. Mixing these flakes with water will smell like food to your cat. Leaving this healthy treat out gives your cat the opportunity to take a few nibbles when she feels hungry without worrying about overconsumption.
Chicken stock is another option to trick your cat into feeling like she’s eating. It smells good, and your cat will like the flavor. Leaving it out for your cat to take a sip when she’s compelled to beg can make your cat feel like she’s also getting a meal.
4. Feed Small, Frequent Meals Using an Automatic Feeder
Getting your cat to stop begging requires teaching her that the behavior doesn’t get her what she wants. Feeding your cat at unexpected intervals can help you do just this.
We recommend using an automatic feeder for this as it’s difficult to feed frequent meals by hand every day. There are several options for programmable feeders that will allow you to feed small meals at various times; some feeders will allow you to program up to 12 different meal times. Your cat still gets the same amount of food, but it’s spread out over a longer period.
5. Feed High-Fiber Food
High-fiber food will help your cat to feel fuller for longer. This constant feeling of satiation will often stop them from begging for food. It’s also great for cats with digestive issues, so you may solve two problems at once.
6. Time Outs
Much like a toddler, sometimes it’s necessary to remove your cat from the room when she’s exhibiting unwanted behavior. You have to be consistent with this and remove your cat every time she begs. If she doesn’t beg, she gets to stay. Over time, your cat will learn that if she wants to remain in your company, she can’t beg.
7. Food Dispenser Toys
Interactive food dispensers can be great for relieving boredom and delivering food slowly. Some have balls with holes in them with a tray on the bottom, so your cat has to “work” for food. Others are puzzle feeders where you put your cat’s food into maze-like bowls that slow down their eating.
The result of interactive dispensers is that instead of a meal being eaten in 5 minutes, it takes 10 or 15. This not only makes your cat realize she’s full before the meal is done but also engages her brain and keeps her busy. You can use these feeders for meals or for “treat meals” in between.
8. Running Water
Whether you want to try this trick out depends on how you feel about your cat being on the counter and drinking out of your faucet. It’s mostly a temporary distraction for begging behavior, but it does work. Any time your cat begs for food, turn on the faucet for them and allow them to drink.
This trick does double duty by keeping your cat hydrated and keeping them busy.
9. Secluded Feeding Areas
Moving your cat’s feeding area out of the kitchen may work to stop them from begging. If your cat gets fed in the same location that you do, she may get the impression that each time you prepare food for yourself, you’re also preparing food for her.
Keeping food and water bowls in an area you don’t frequent as often may help your cat realize that you’re not always getting up to feed her.
10. Counter-Condition Your Cat
Assuming your cat associates begging with receiving food, you can condition her to think it means something else. Let’s use hugs as an example. Each time your cat begs, give them a hug or a snuggle. Over time she will learn that begging behavior means snuggles, not food.
Developing a routine around feeding that your cat gets used to can help stop begging. If your cat knows exactly when food is coming, they will stop worrying about seeking it out. Try distracting your cat from begging by dangling a toy in front of her or moving a laser pointer on the floor. Often playtime is enough distraction to make your cat forget she was begging for food in the first place.
12. Fetch Treats
This trick is great for stopping begging behavior and for helping overweight cats lose weight. Use a small handful of dry food and teach your cat that she gets a piece when you call her name. Then throw treats across the room for your cat to run and fetch. This method is similar to distracting your cat with playtime but provides another incentive to stop begging because they get a treat.
The methods above will help you to stop your cat’s constant begging for food. First, make sure your cat is healthy. Then make sure they’re not hungry by ensuring they are receiving the right amount of complete, nutritionally balanced cat food. If they’re bored, several of the tips above can help you redirect the behavior. Remember to always be consistent and patient. Changing behavior takes time, but you can make it happen!
Featured Image Credit: OlegD, Shutterstock