Feeding - food obsessions and your cat

Just like children, cats can be picky and may not always eat what is healthy for them. Whether your cat is an active kitten or a maturing cat, they require a diet that is balanced and suited to their lifestage and lifestyle. Cats require a diet high in protein and low in carbohydrates with the correct amount of fats, vitamins and minerals. When in balance, a cat's natural defence mechanism is boosted and they will be able to fight illness and infection.

Cat's in the wild - It all makes sense

In a natural wild environment cats are hunters, spending many hours of the day looking for and capturing food. With many more unsuccessful hunting attempts than successful, hunting is a very time and energy consuming activity.

Living as part of a household, cats become accustomed to eating twice a day. They enjoy the comfort of you doing the hunting on their behalf. As a result they experience less stimulation and activity normally associated with eating.

Additionally, a cat's digestive system is designed to take in multiple small meals throughout the day rather than two meals in twenty-four hours. Often cats learn to consume larger quantities in one or two sittings because they come to realise that food is not available at other times, but their natural instinct is to eat smaller amounts more often. 

Your cat is so obsessed with food he/she meows for a treat!

In many cases owners misinterpret a cat's attempts to elicit social interaction, through vocalisation or rubbing, as a demand for food and when he/she realises that food treats can be elicited in this way they will quickly learn to develop this "food soliciting behaviour". You can prevent this by increasing the frequency of feeding by spreading your cat's daily food intake between multiple small meals rather than two main sittings.

Combining activity with feeding

You can assist your obsessive eater by making feeding a more fun and challenging event that is spread out over the day. At the same time your pet will enjoy some exercise to help keep the waist line trim. Here are a few ideas for you to try:-

  • Play fetch the kibble (dry food biscuit) or treat with your cat. Instead of using a bowl to feed your cat all of his/her kibble at once, play a game of fetch, allowing your cat to chase and retrieve the kibble.
  • Play hide and seek with your cat's kibble - hide kibble around the house and encourage your cat to seek and eat. It's likely your cat may need a helping hand on the first few attempts, but if you persist and make this game a part of your cat's daily routine they will learn quickly.
  • Timed feeders - instead of feeding two meals a day, timed feeders can be used to feed your pet throughout the day. Place each feeder in a different area of the house to encourage your pet to move about.
  • Make your own food challenge toys - use plastic containers or bottles and make holes the plastic large enough for kibble or treats to pass through. A cat fascinated with food will spend hours rolling and pushing a container about retrieving their treats.
  • Buy or make your own cat activity board - activity boards or puzzles can provide mental stimulation as well as physical exercise. You can make your own using plastic containers and cardboard products from around the house, hiding pieces of kibble or treats in different shaped holders and encourage your cat to find their treats.

On another note, behavioural problems relating to food may not necessarily be a result of a food obsession. Any sudden or excessive weight loss or gain or a sudden increase or decrease in appetite should be discussed with a veterinarian.