Cats suddenly want human food for many reasons.
The top reasons a cat gets interested in eating human food are:
- Getting rewarded for begging as you give in to it
- Health problems
- Poor quality cat food is not giving them enough nutrition
- Psychogenic feeding disorders
- Food stress early in life from not having enough of it
- Older cats can have greater or different appetitives
This article will explain all of these top reasons a cat might start wanting human food and what you can do about it.
You will also learn what foods never to feed a cat and which human foods are okay for a cat once in a while.
1. Curiosity Makes Cats Interested in Human Food
You already know cats are naturally curious. They like to explore under furniture, look inside closets, and jump into laundry baskets simply to find out what’s there.
A cat’s curiosity can also extend to their eating habits. If your cat suddenly wants human food, it could be nothing more than a new interest.
Often, a cat is interested in sniffing a new food but then decides not to eat it.
However, a cat’s new curiosity about what’s on your dinner plate does not mean you should regularly give it human food.
By doing so, you might train your cat to want more and more of your food, and less cat food.
Let’s look at the problem of begging, leading to a cat wanting human food.
2. Rewarding a Cat for Begging
Cats know how to train their humans into doing what they want them to do.
You sit down to a nice fish dinner, and your cat looks at you so sweetly and says, “Meow!” So you give it a bit of fish.
Now your cat has learned how to get you to give it some of your food. You have rewarded the cat for begging, and it will keep up with this behavior unless you get tough and don’t give in.
If you suspect your cat is suddenly interested in human food because you rewarded it for begging, you must set down new rules and never make an exception.
- Always feed your cat in its own bowl on the floor.
- Never feed directly from your hand or the table.
- Say, “NO!” sharply when the cat begs.
- Use a water spray bottle to discourage begging.
The water spray bottle technique works great. I’ve used it on my cat multiple times. Cats really hate getting squirted with water, but it doesn’t harm them. So this is a perfect method for telling your cat “NO!” in a way it will understand.
3.Health Problems Can Make Cats Want Human Food
A variety of health problems can cause changes in a cat’s eating habits, including:
- Thyroid conditions
- Feline diabetes
A medication you are giving your cat could also increase eating and start a new interest in human food.
Also, as cats get older, they are more likely to develop an increase in appetite, leading to a desire for human food.
When a cat has an underlying health condition causing a change in appetite, you are also likely to see some of these symptoms:
- Weight loss
- Weight gain
- Vomiting or diarrhea
- Increased urination
- Increase in drinking water
If your cat has signs of a health problem, take it to a veterinarian for a complete check-up. Be sure to mention if the cat is suddenly interested in human food.
4. Poor-Quality Cat Food and Under-Nutrition
A cat with a sudden new interest in human food may not be getting enough or the right balance of nutrition from their cat food.
Cat food brands are not all the same. Less expensive brands may not have all the nutrients a cat needs, especially an older cat or a cat with an underlying health problem.
It’s also possible that there is nothing wrong with the cat food you are buying, but your cat has a unique nutritional need not being met by the food you give it.
Here’s a personal example:
My cat used to have a bowl of good-quality dry food available at all times, and this was the only commercial food she got.
However, I live in a rural area, and she is an outdoor cat. She loves hunting mice and gophers. Her hunting was providing her with a lot of extra nutrition.
Then she got older and stopped hunting as much. She was more reliant on dry food, and she started to want human foods more often.
I took her to the vet, and it turned out that the dry food I was giving her is too high in protein for her age.
The vet suggested giving her wet food with less protein. Now, she’s thrilled with getting canned food twice a day and has stopped begging for human food.
If your cat suddenly shows less interest in its own food and more interest in your food, take it to the veterinarian for a check-up.
While you are there, ask for a recommendation for cat food that is best for your cat’s age and health.
5. Psychogenic Feeding Disorders and Abnormal Eating
A Psychogenic feeding disorder means the cat has a mental health problem, leading to changes in eating habits. These changes can include a sudden interest in human food.
Cats with this condition show signs such as:
- Aggression around food
- Wanting more food right after eating
- Stealing food from humans
- Growling while eating
If a cat has a psychogenic feeding disorder, this means the cause of the unusual eating behavior is not a physical health problem. The problem is a behavioral issue or a learning problem.
If your cat shows the symptoms listed above, the first step is to take it to the veterinarian and have a full-check-up to rule out a health problem.
If the cat doesn’t have a physical health issue, the veterinarian may diagnose a psychogenic cause of the abnormal feeding behavior.
In this case, you may need to consult with the vet, an animal behaviorist, or an animal trainer on how to overcome the disorder.
6. Food-Stress in Early Life
Cats with an abnormal interest in human food often had a rough start in life. For example, when a person adopts a feral cat, it is more common that the animal wants to eat human food.
In the wild, the cat had to struggle to get enough to eat. A feral cat often scavenges human food from garbage cans to survive, leading to a preference for this type of food.
If you think your cat wants human food due to early life stress, try these solutions:
- Always feed the cat food in its own bowl.
- Put the cat’s bowl on the floor.
- Feed the cat away from areas where people eat.
- Feed the cat multiple times a day.
- Leave dry food for the cat to eat when it wants.
Changing a cat’s behavior takes time, so don’t expect fast results.
The main point is to establish a new routine and then stick with it without exception. It may take several months for the cat to start eating normally and stop being interested in human food. Be persistent.
7. Boredom May Cause a Cat to Want Human Food
Cats can get bored if they don’t have enough stimulation. Boredom can lead to a cat having a sudden interest in human food.
Boredom is more likely in an indoor cat than one that can get outside and explore.
If you think your cat is eating out of boredom, try some of these solutions:
- Provide a cat scratching post.
- Get a cat jungle gym.
- Buy your cat a food puzzle toy.
- Play with your cat more often.
- Give your cat multiple, small meals each day.
Human Foods You Should Never Feed a Cat
Sadly, a cat may like certain human foods that are not good for its health. Never feed your cat any of these foods, even if the cat begs for the food.
- Raisins and grapes
- Onions and garlic
- Salty foods
- Tomatoes and potatoes
- Sugar or artificial sweeteners
Many cats are allergic to milk and milk products. My cat loves milk, but it makes her sick, so I don’t give it to her.
If your cat shows an interest in any of these forbidden foods, make sure they are not accessible. Otherwise, the cat may eat them when you aren’t looking.
Human Foods that are Okay for Cats to Eat
If you want to feed your cat some human food occasionally, there is nothing wrong with that. Just don’t give it any of the forbidden foods from the list above, and don’t feed it people-food too often.
Always give the cat treats in its bowl on the floor. Don’t hand feed or let it eat from the table or a plate, or you will be training it in bad behavior.
Human foods many cats like which are okay:
- Cooked fish and meat
- Cooked eggs
- Cooked oats and corn
- Fruits and vegetables (except the ones listed in the previous list item.)
I had an Abyssinian cat that was crazy for cantaloupe. Cutting open a cantaloupe was like opening a bag of shrimp for that cat.
I had another cat that stole broccoli from the table and ate it. Once it came in from outside with a big chunk of broccoli, apparently stolen from a neighbor’s kitchen.
Cats are weird and mysterious, and that’s why we love them so much, even when they want to eat our food.