Cats Obsessed with Food Phenomenon

The lazy western lifestyle is rubbing off on domestic cats. That sounds like a tabloid headline. It is an exaggeration but there is a modicum of truth. Over the past 40 years, people in the West have become less active and so have their cats. There are no obese wild cats, feral cats and barn cats. These cats are also obsessed with food  – finding it. They burn off the calories in exercise.

If you do a search for “my cat is obsessed with food” or Google these three words together with a space between them:

  • cat
  • food
  • obsessed

….you’ll see piles of webpages on the subject and lots of cat owners looking for reasons why their cat can’t self-regulate food intake. Why are their cats obsessed with food? These cat owners are almost desperate for help.

A cat that is supposedly obsessed about food will constantly ask for it. It would appear that domestic cats all over the Western World are pestering their humans to distraction for food.

It seems to be a cat food obsession phenomenon because a good 40%+ cats in the USA are obese, we are reliably told. In the UK the figure is lower but still way too high at 25%.

There are many reasons, some of which are very subtle and some are health related (i.e hyperthyroidism) as to why a cat wants to eat more than he needs. However, is there an underlying primary reason or reasons for this phenomenon?

As usual I believe the answer lies in the simple task of observing the wild cats. The domestic cat is, we know, very close to the wild cat in behavior and mentality.

As mentioned, there are no fat wild cats in the wild. Period, full stop. Unless they are in cages 😉 You’ll see some overweight tigers and other large cats including hybrid tiger/lions called ligers in captivity.

Cat domestication and all its ramifications sometimes fails the cat. It is essentially unnatural. It has become too refined. Commercial cat food is not natural enough. It is a shame that cats have got used to it. They don’t really have a appetite for raw food anymore.

The domestic cat lifestyle is unnatural and not challenging enough. The cat is provided for completely. When a cat is totally domesticated and has everything provided on a plate he becomes lazy and indolent…and fat.

Cats get bored because their life lacks the challenges they are so good at facing and overcoming. Boredom can lead to overeating. Commercial cat food is designed to be tasty (highly palatable) because it is commercial. The companies are competing for the cat’s custom. They have to please the cat; make it taste better even if the quality is questionable sometimes.

If cats like the taste and they are bored they’ll ask for more. People give in to the cat’s demands because it makes life easier.

When people are also overweight and less active it is even easier to allow their cats to be overweight and less active. The norms and standards have been shifted. People accept being overweight themselves. They are bound to let their cat become overweight.

The cat obsessed with food phenomenon is a product of the domestication of the cat. The underlying problem is a slightly unhealthy mix of human behavior, capitalism and an unnatural environment for the cat. It is another example of a little (or big?) failure in the domestication of the cat from the cat’s standpoint. The other example is the cat overpopulation problem. That is a human creation too.

To put things in context; there are lots of great cat caretakers and fit cat companions. I recognize and totally acknowledge that. There is, though, a cat obesity problem and it is due to a lifestyle problem. These are just my ideas. I respect the ideas of others.

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Cats Obsessed with Food Phenomenon — 5 Comments

  1. I think a lot of people think they are too busy nowadays to spend time with their cats, so the cat eats out of boredom and it becomes a habit wanting food all the time. Eating is something nice and pleasant to do. Also with more cats becoming indoor cats, they don’t get the fresh air and exercise they need, again they eat for something pleasant to do.
    If someone has to take away their cat’s freedom because of danger outside then they should make up for it by having lots for the cat to do indoors and should spend more time with their cat.
    Have they time to watch TV? Yes I’m sure they have, so they should have time to play with their cat, it’s much more relaxing and fun than hunching in front of ‘the box’ and probably over eating themselves, too.

    • Thank you Ruth. I’d like to wish you and your family a Happy Christmas. Thank you very much for your Christmas card. You are a fantastic advocate for the domestic cat. You speak for the cat and they need a voice.

      • Thank you Michael, a very happy Christmas to you too and I wish you the continuing success of this wonderful PoC website which I’m sure has improved the quality of life of many cats.

  2. The problem is having to keep them indoors. It is impossible for a cat to be 100% healthy if 100% indoors. There’s alot you can do to create a balance but it can never be perfect unless you can recreate the wind in the treesa inside your house, literally. Red loved to chase leaves. When I say loved it I mean he spent hours in the autumn playing with the leaves. He’d bring in leaves like gifts – inside the house. I kept some of his most favourite leaves to remember him. Nature and the outdoors are synonimous with health and well being, even with humans. Imagine never going outside. It’s also very hard to turn a cat down if you have him locked up. I find it hard to not give them anything they specifically ask for. But most of all I think Ruth is right. People have time to watch TV but not to play with their cat. If the cat is locked inside this becomes like a prison sentence. Poor cat must watch the human(s) watching TV and feel so lonely and lost and at a loss as to what to do. It must make them very anxious. Over-eating is clearly a side effect of mental ill health. It’s very sad actually. I have had some heartbreaking moments with peoples indoor cats who crave attention and love yet thier owners dont know what they are meowing for – food? It’s sad. I met one lovely cat called Jerry, my old neighbour in Canada’s cat. I tried hard to get them to adopt a friend for him with not success. Poor Jerry loved me so much when I came over. He would get all excited and my neighbour was all shocked how Jerry was coming out of his shell and being happy and not meowing unhappily. I wish I could have kidnapped Jerry and given him the good life. Ironically he is supposed to have the good life. In his situation I wonder how torturous it must be. Clean fancy minimal apartment too with nothing for Jerry to hide behind. They were a tidy couple which is even worse. I really loved Jerry and I think of him a lot. He is stuck on the 10th floor and probably never even gets much real outside air. Its hard not to wish he’s excape and maybe get run over but at least live and have lived if but only for one day in his life. For me this is a tragedy. They thought he was obsessed with food. They kept saying ‘what’ when he meowed and they had tried giving him all foods possible. I ask after him. Last I heard he was overweight and had a serious health issue needed dealing with. Dont remember what exactly. Sometimes you meet a cat and you wish you had broken every rule in the book to help that cat. Jerry is one of those cats for me. Another was the kitten who was the last to be adopted from Red’s 2 litters. His last playmate his age. She was taken as a gift to a screaming child by his Jetsetter mother. I should have taken that cat away and they would have simply thought she ran away. I even tried to get the address where they took her so I could go grab her if she was outside. No address 🙁 People who think and say they love an animal often do but only in a passive way. IF the animal get sick they jump up and start worrying but until then they don’t give it the attention it needs. I sometimes wonder if these kinds of people are capable of true love. The kind of people who only do something if they get something out of it. They are all around us, in relationships having huge problems with eachother and their poor cats. These people should not have children and yet they are always the ones who do.

    Jerry is a tabby boycat who is front declawed from the Toronto inHumane society. The couple didn’t say they had him declawed but I fear they did. They have that kind of apartment and style where clawing furniture might be a big issue for them. I didn’t know about declawing till they told me he was and I reacted in total shock that it was even possible. That’s why I think they then made a point of saying that he was already like that. Maybe he was. Maybe not. He loved my cat Gigi who came and wanted to play with him on the other side of the screen door. Until they moved to the 10th floor of a snazzy condo building in the city centre. I’ve gone on a bit of a tangent, sorry, but he was one of those cats who’s caretakers seem to think he is obsessed with food so it is related actually. It’s amazing how the ‘good life’ can actually really mean something quite different. A cat who is fed and watered and has humans who love him can feel so lost and unhappy and lonely and insecure. Jerry loved me very much. He would cry when I left to go back home and watch me out the door til I was out of sight.

    If I could have one perfect xmas present it would be to find out the Jerry has a new buddy and they are running and playing and licking each other and sleeping heavily from being so tired. To know that Jerry is ok, happy, secure and himself.

  3. I had another thought about this. A sad one. Many people’s cats meow at them and seem to want food but sometimes they then don’t eat it, sometimes they do. So its hard for them to know if they are meowing because they are hungry ornot and if not the human gets a bit annoyed afterputting food down to see the cat just staring at them expectantly as if they had not just put food down, leaving the human at a loss. I was thinking the following: If the cat gets no attention then the only attention he does get is when the human gives him food. Maybe that cat just craves attention and gets it the only way he can, by getting the human to give him food. Because for a few short moments the human responds to the cat and goes and puts down food. It’s sad but I think it could well be true. Otherwise the cat would have no reason asking for food when it’s not hungry – which is something cats are known to do by humans who don’t give them enough attention.

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