When to know your cat is asking for food you don’t have

This is a little thought that might help one of two people. Nothing startling but it has just happened to me and I am sure that it happens to many other cat caregivers.

Cat meowing for food you don't have.
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Scenario – habits

You give your cat a treat at the same every day when the treat is available. In my case it is king prawns! When I return home after buying the newspaper in the early morning, I give him an early morning treat. It is early morning for me and late evening for him as his circadian rhythm is the opposite to mine (almost). So, the treat will be a late meal for him after his has been active most of the night. He might be a little peckish after all the activity in the summer especially.

That sets up the habit and the rhythm if you do it for long enough.

And so, he gets used to getting his treat at that time and learns to ask for it. He asks for food. But actually, it is more specific than that. He is asking for his treat.

If I then give him some standard, high quality cat food (50-gram sachet) he might take a bite and leave the rest. That’s waste as he will almost certainly not return to it.

I put it outside in the backyard for the foxes who I know are coming home around that time as I feed the foxes who live 2 houses down from me. They’ll bump into it. The waste is no longer cat food but money. I am not sure how much each sachet costs; perhaps around 40p.

Fix is prevention

Try and recognise when treat demand habits have been informally set up and in the scenario above I should (and normally do) politely refuse my cat’s meowing demands for this prawn treat. If I refuse it, he stops asking. He is not genuinely hungry sometimes. He wants to eat for pleasure as humans do. And this is another feeding issue: cats eating for pleasure because they are bored. It is an aspect of full-time indoor living which can lead to obesity. It is part of the so called ‘obesity epidemic‘ affecting domestic cats in the US and UK (and perhaps some other developed countries).


An interesting side-effect of this is that sometimes my cat will go outside and partly eat the cat food that he refused moments before inside the home. He feels that he has hunted down prey or successfully scavenged some food.

This is because his mentality outside is different to his mentality inside the home. Outside he is more the wild cat, reverting to his wildcat ancestor traits. Inside the home with me he is more the pliant domestic cat following his caregiver around as if a kitten following his mother.

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