One of your main responsibilities as the owner of an adorable feline friend is ensuring that she eats a balanced and nutritious diet that helps her to maintain a healthy and active lifestyle. It is also recommended that you monitor how much food she eats, so that you can be certain that she is eating enough to get the nutrition she needs, but not so much that she becomes overweight.
Feline obesity is a big problem in the U.S. with some studies estimating that as many as 50% of domestic cats are either overweight or obese. Just like humans, cats who are overweight are at a considerably greater risk of developing a wide range of painful, chronic and sometimes deadly health conditions, such as arthritis, diabetes, and diseases relating to the major organs that keep her alive.
Unfortunately, while some cats will automatically self-regulate their food intake, there are others who lack the capacity to register that they aren’t actually hungry, as well as get so much enjoyment out of eating that they persistently overeat anyway. Some even whine and beg for food between their regular mealtimes.
So, how do you know if your cat is obsessed with food and what can you do about it?
Signs that your cat is obsessed with food
Every cat is different, but some of the typical signs that your furbaby may be a little too obsessed with eating include:
Aggressiveness around the food bowl (if you have other pets)
Rubbing up against your legs while you are in the kitchen
Seeming impatient at mealtimes
Vocalizing louder than usual
Over-excited behavior at mealtimes
Seeming over-interested in your food – getting onto the counter tops when you prepare meals, trying to sniff and eat food you have left out
Generally pestering you for food
Bad behavior at his or your meal times
Is your cat hungry due to an underlying medical problem?
Not all food obsession is down to gluttony. In many cases, over-excitement at feeding time and an inability to leave their food bowl with even a scrap inside could be a sign of an underlying medical problem. Parasite infestations, diabetes, and thyroid conditions can all cause an animal to act like they are ravenous all the time.
If your cat’s behavior around food changes suddenly, it is definitely worth arranging an appointment with your veterinarian who can run tests to determine if there is a medical reason for your kitty’s voracious hunger.
Is your cat hungry because she isn’t getting the right nutrition?
There are hundreds of different feline foods on the market, and with so much choice it can be a little overwhelming. The nutritional requirements of your furbaby can change at different points during her life – for example, pregnant and nursing cats usually need greater amounts of food to sustain them, while kittens need different nutrition to adult cats to help them grow properly.
It is essential to make sure that you are providing the right nutrition and the right amounts of food for your cat based on her individual circumstances. Many specific foods are targeted towards specific demographics – such as kittens or geriatric pets. However, if you still aren’t sure if your beloved animal is getting the nutrition and quantity of food she needs, you should make an appointment with your veterinarian or a pet nutritionist for further advice.
Helping your cat to become less obsessed with food
If you have ruled out any medical or nutritional reasons for your kitty’s obsession with food, you may just have to help her break her obsession yourself. This will take time and you will almost certainly have to put up with her pleading eyes staring you down on a regular basis, but by standing firm in the amount of food that you provide, you will be doing her health a favor.
Some of the best ways to help break your cat’s obsession with food include:
Ensure that you feed only high-protein pet food, as this will help her to feel fuller for longer
Feed a combination of 80% dry and 20% wet food mixed for a while. The dry component of the meal will encourage your cat to drink, which will help keep her healthy, and will also make her feel fuller.
Feed your pet little and often throughout the day, but do not leave food unattended in the bowl all day long. Instead remove anything that hasn’t been eaten and your cat will have to wait for her next meal rather than expect to be able to graze constantly.
Follow any begging or undesirable behavior with a negative reaction. If your feline friend persistently begs for food, or makes a nuisance of herself at mealtimes, put her in a separate room for a while and close the door. If you do this every time she shows poor behavior, she will eventually realise that her actions will result in your displeasure.
Reinforce good behavior with lots of love, attention and praise.