If your kitten is showing signs of food aggression:
- Go to a veterinarian to rule out health concerns
- Stick to a feeding schedule if your kitten is over 4 months old
- Feed them in a room where you don’t eat, and leave them alone while eating
- Put your kitten in a different room while your family eats and prepares food if necessary
Mealtime for food-aggressive cats needs to be completely separate from human meals. This means no kids in your kitten’s face while they eat or reaching their hands into the bowl. Also keep your kitten away from human food and don’t allow them to sneak food from the counter or your plate.Below, we’ll look into some reasons behind kitten food aggression and how to train your kitten to behave at mealtimes.
What Does Food Aggression in Kittens Look Like?
Food aggression in kittens is just like it sounds: aggression that’s linked to human or pet food.
A food-aggressive kitten may chase an older cat away from their dish, aggressively stalk and steal food from the kitchen countertops, or hiss when someone else approaches their bowl.
Food aggression may display as:
- Pouncing aggressively
- Stealing others’ food
This all takes place when they are fed, or someone else is eating.
Food aggression is also commonly paired with Pica, which is when a cat obsessively eats non-food items such as plastic or fabric.
See Your Veterinarian First
Before you begin training your kitten, you should first bring them to a veterinarian to rule out any health problems.
For example, parasites can cause your kitten to be extra hungry, which might lead to food aggression. It’s standard practice to deworm kittens, but if yours hasn’t been to the veterinarian for regular check-ups, you may have missed this crucial step.
Several other health problems can also cause excess hunger or food aggression, and your veterinarian will need to rule these out before saying that it’s a behavioral problem (also known as Psychogenic Abnormal Feeding Behavior).
As I discussed above, Psychogenic Abnormal Feeding Behavior is often accompanied by Pica. This means that, alongside excessive begging, aggression, and food obsession, your cat may also obsess over eating non-food items.
If your kitten is on medication, their food aggression might be a side-effect. This is something to speak with your veterinarian about, as they may be able to switch medications or tell you how to better deal with your cat’s behavior.
Food aggression may also be caused by nutrient deficiencies. Let your veterinarian know what you feed your kitten, and in what quantity. It’s possible they’re missing a key nutrient or aren’t being fed enough.
Your veterinarian can also give you a good indicator of why your cat is being aggressive, if given the right information. For example, they might be able to tell you that you’ve trained your kitten poorly or that a kitten coming from the streets may have trauma from being food-deprived.
If over 4 Months Old, Stick to a Feeding Schedule
The first thing you should do to train your kitten out of their food aggression is to stick to a feeding schedule if they’re over 4 months old.
This allows your kitten to learn when they’ll be fed and that food will keep showing up in their bowl reliably.
If your kitten is younger than 4 months old, they should have access to as much food as they will eat. Don’t deprive your kitten of food during this time when they are constantly growing and playing! They need food to sustain their growth and energy.
Most people stick to 2-3 meals for their cat throughout the day. You may choose to feed less food more frequently if you’d like, but be sure to feed at least 2 meals. It’s unfair to expect your kitten to go 24 hours between meals, and it’s not healthy for them to do so.
Timing these to your own meals can be helpful as your cat won’t be so anxious to get to your food this way.
Eating at the same time as your cat can also help you to lock them in another room without making it feel like a punishment to them, as they get fed while there.
You’ll likely find that your cat gets used to eating on a schedule very quickly, and probably focuses more of their begging around mealtimes.
Of course, this doesn’t mean begging outside of mealtimes will cease or that their food aggression will end right away. Instead, it will take patience and time.
Leave Your Kitten Alone When Eating
It’s important to set boundaries when training your kitten, but those boundaries don’t only exist for them.
Imagine the stress you would feel if every time you sat for a meal, you were surrounded by others who you thought would steal your food right off your plate!
This is how your kitten feels when other household pets and family members crowd their dish watching them eat, stealing their food, or trying to pet them during mealtimes.
To make your kitten feel secure, make sure they are completely alone while eating. If you need to, put them in a room alone with the door closed until their food is gone.
Keep Your Kitten Out of the Dining and Kitchen Areas
Of course, the next step is setting boundaries for the kitten themselves. This will depend on the aggression they’re showing.
If your kitten is getting aggressive about human food, you may need to block off the areas where you eat and prepare food in your home.
It may be enough to close the kitchen door while preparing dinner and to keep food put away when not in use. For more obsessive cats, it might be best to keep them out of the kitchen entirely.
Feed Other Pets Separately
If your kitten is showing food aggression toward another household pet, feed them separately from your kitten as well.
For example, try feeding the dog in a closed room first, then filling the kitten’s dish and leaving them to eat afterward.
Or, if you have a big enough home, just close a door between the two animals while they eat.
Limit “Human Foods”
Lastly, you’ll want to limit any “human foods” you feed to your kitten.
Cats shouldn’t be fed most human food anyway, as it’s not good for them and can sometimes even be toxic, like in the case of chocolate or grapes.
However, unseasoned meats are good for cats. If you’d like to feed your cat this type of human food, do so the same way you feed them other meals: put it in their bowl and leave them alone to enjoy.
It’s extra important that cats with food aggression don’t get used to eating off people’s plates or receiving table scraps.
As you’re training your kitten, make sure to have patience.
Even after putting all of these things into practice, nothing will change overnight. Keep consistent, and your kitten should learn the boundaries and rules surrounding food.
It may also be that you have to treat your cat differently than most. Maybe the kitchen has to be off-limits at all times, or you have to strictly lock them away during every meal.
There’s nothing wrong with doing what works for your cat and your household.
The important thing is that you have boundaries in place to control food aggression so that it doesn’t get out of hand.
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