Cat That Steals Food
Cat stealing a salad! - photo by Vaguely Artistic (Flickr)
Do you have a cat that steals food? I got the idea to write this post from a short submission by a visitor that was too short to publish so I thought I would steal the idea :). This is what Mr. Anonymous said:
....one day i was sitting in bed eating some chicken strips and my cat Gracie came up next to me and looked at me. i said what do you want? and she grabs my chicken and pulls. i pull back and she growls so i let go. she ran off with my chicken.(dang cat):( i was hungry.
Well, it made me smile because this person gave way to their cat. The cat won. Who said we are the boss? And who says that this cat is stealing in the first place? Cats don't steal they just expect to share in the family food in the same way that a pride of lions share the carcass of a recently killed animal. But the male gets first pick even though he probably did no hunting!
I have been challenged, lets say, over a piece of chicken. It's old Timmy again, a stray cat that I feed about every other day. He comes in at different times of the day and on this occasion he came in while I was eating dinner (on a coffee table so the "prey" was low to the ground - very inviting).
It got to the point where he was trying to cart a good size piece of chicken off my plate before I said no. Of course I didn't shout or even speak loudly, just a gentle but firm no and a little bit of encouragement by gently lifting him away from the area worked fine.
And recently, Charlie, my three legged boy has used his size to good effect to lean over when I am eating and have a damn good look. He is tempted to steal just about anything. My lady cat has never tried this. She is too ladylike.
Of course our cat companions don't just "steal" food off our plate. There is a case of a girl whose cat preferred to steal her food while it was being prepared on the kitchen counter despite cat food being on the ground.
The commonplace reaction is to do things like:
-- punish your cat (wrong, very wrong)
-- train your cat (clicker training)
-- protect the food
The last is probably the most sensible but I firmly believe that if the cat "owner" has set the scene at the outset then there will be little problem. When I say "set the scene" I mean the person should have a demeanor that tells the cat in the nicest way that they are the alpha cat, the boss. This should result, I believe, in the cat(s) being more cautious about taking food that is for us.
Cats will always look for the best in food (don't we?) but if good quality cat food is set out and if the cat is feed good quality cat food from the outset (and not trained to eat human food by constantly giving them human food) plus we are alpha, I see little in the way of problems of a cat that steals food.
Which brings me back to Charlie. My mother, bless her, used to over feed him with human food. I think his diet was two thirds human food! This is wrong from the point of view of dietary requirements and it trains our cat to eat human food, which is one reason why he tried to steal it from my plate!
There is one last topic on this subject. Sometimes cats "steal" from fellow cats. That can be quite amusing to see. Here is a video:
This is what I am talking about when I say we should be alpha cat. The white Persian is the alpha and takes the bicolor's food but oh so gently. It is like Sumo wrestling - you have to dominate by presence. But always gently and lovingly. The two can go together. This shouldn't be difficult as we are much bigger.
Link to original Flickr photo Cat that steals food