How can I make my cat less annoying?
January 26, 2013 3:09 AM   Subscribe

My five year old, tough outdoorsy cat has developed a really irritating behaviour- every time I go into the kitchen he begs for food- even if his bowl is full up...any better advice than kicking him?

So that's every time I make a meal, make a morning coffee, get the baby's 5am bottle he's under my feet, in my way, tripping me up and even biting my feet.

The strange thing is that if you put one biscuit in the already-full bowl he'll eat the whole thing. If you jiggle the food, or plonk him down in front of it, he'll also eat it. But then 3 minutes later he'll start begging again.

We've recently moved, and since then he's been reluctant to go out, so I definitely notice it more, but he's been doing that for years...The Order of the Boot has been suggested but dismissed...
posted by welovelife to Pets & Animals (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It could be that he's not really hungry, he's just being clingy because he's jealous of the time you're spending on the baby and he's weirded out by a new environment. There are also illnesses that can strongly increase a cat's appetite. It may be time for a visit to the vet.

No kicking.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 3:14 AM on January 26, 2013 [9 favorites]

If this is a regular thing, you might experiment with just deciding this is a weird quirk of your cat and accommodating it. Give them half of their daily food and then provide the other half when they beg.
posted by Blasdelb at 3:27 AM on January 26, 2013

Do you reinforce the behavior by giving him food? If so, stop reinforcing the behavior. Ignore him.
posted by HuronBob at 3:27 AM on January 26, 2013 [9 favorites]

Responding to the behavior is encouraging it. If his begging sets in motion a fairly predictable sequence of events with a payoff at the end, where you either feed him something special (and he eats) or put him in front of the food (and he eats) or jiggle his food (and he eats) then the begging gets reinforced. He bosses you around because you respond to it by participating in a routine that pays off for him.
posted by jon1270 at 3:29 AM on January 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

I should clarify I love him really, and I'd never kick him!
posted by welovelife at 3:39 AM on January 26, 2013 [10 favorites]

I asked Kinetic 2, my pre-vet daughter who said he's probably stressed from the changes in his life and she said the poor little baby just wants to be reassured you love him.

She suggested extra cuddle time, placing down his food when he's not around, NOT giving him food when he's begging for attention (he'll figure that one out quickly, she said), but also...

PLEASE DON'T LET YOUR CAT OUT ANYMORE. She's done far too many emergency surgeries, has had to euthanize cats, and had to hold hands and cry with cat owners whose cats just didn't look both ways before crossing the road or cats who have been mauled by fishercats, off-leash dogs, and other wild creatures of the outside. (In fact, we're the proud owner of Bobo, a one-eyed cat who used to be a happy outdoor kitteh until he was attacked and his owners didn't want him anymore.)

Keep him in.
posted by kinetic at 3:57 AM on January 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

My guess is kitty has learned, even accidentally, that the kitchen is the "really yummy food" room. Have you ever "dropped" bits of your food to him there as a treat at any time? You'd be amazed how even doing it one time will become imprinted on his little brain.

My cat has this behavior, too, and it's totally related to him getting rare special treats...bits of tuna or cooked chicken, and his absolute favorite...tiny pieces of Kraft singles (we call it "cat cheese")
posted by Thorzdad at 4:06 AM on January 26, 2013

When I get this I take my cat over to her bowl and make a point of showing her the food. She either goes "oh yes! That's where my food is!" and starts eating or she gives me a look to say "why do you keep giving me this crap while you eat steak" at which point we have to refresh the conversation about how she is a cat, life's not fair, and she can like it or lump it. Eye contact and a suitably stern tone are, I believe, important.

This approach largely works ok. Occasionally she'll drop a nugget on the floor, or make a point of cleaning her arse noisily in my sightline for the tv to show she isn't totally under the non-opposable thumb. But I think we have the makings of an understanding.
posted by MuffinMan at 4:28 AM on January 26, 2013 [9 favorites]

He might just want attention. One of my cats begs every chance he gets and I've found that if I pick him up for a couple of minutes he stops begging.
posted by fromageball at 4:31 AM on January 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

When my Lab was underfoot while I was trying to cook or put away groceries I'd tell her "get out of the kitchen". She would start to walk away, then turn her head and look at me reproachfully. I'd say "yes, I love you but I want you out". She would then lie in the doorway with the tips of her claws just over the edge into the room.
posted by brujita at 5:22 AM on January 26, 2013

Don't reinforce negative behaviours with positive outcomes. Don't feed him when he's asking for food if he asks for food in way you don't like or you'll train him to keep asking for food that way. This is how cats work, they are foragers. They will retry any approach that nets them food.

Do reinforce positive behaviours with positive outcomes. Give him some snuggles and love in some other room when you're done in the kitchen. Reinforce the idea that the kitchen is a busy room and not a great scene for cats to be hanging out and making a fuss. You might even make more of a bustle than usual if the cat comes in while you're working. Don't chase him out or shout at him, just make it a less pleasant room to be in -- a noisy room with tromping feet and loud people AND no food for cats will change his behaviour quickly.

It's really important not to intentionally startle or chase cats especially if the've been through a big change. All love and snuggles all the time. Get them comfortable and confident and bad behaviour will go away.

Please do not let your cat go outside. If you think he'll be bored, put some shelves up by the windowsills so he can look out, and/or make sure he has a companion all day, either another cat or a cat-friendly puppy or whatever.
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:58 AM on January 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

My cat used to do this. Meow! Mrow! Meow! Mrow! Meeeeoooooooowww! Every. single. time I went into the kitchen. I would get all annoyed about his food obsession, then I started pretending to be all obtuse about it. "Whats that, Jonah? You want some loving?" Then I would scoop him up and snorgle him for a few moments and he would purr like mad under my neck. I would give him an extra tight squeeze and put him back down and go about my kitchen business. He doesn't really beg for food from me anymore, just loving. Mr. oats, on the other hand, does not give him loving, just grumbles at his mrowing and begging. And he continues to mrow and beg from him. Your cat may vary. Because, you know, cats.
posted by fancyoats at 6:14 AM on January 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

The automated food timer machine has saved our lives. It goes off three times a day, with just a little bit of dry food. (For real meals, twice a day, they eat wet Weruva.)

At first it was the most exciting event in their lives, they'd go FLYING towards it whenever it went off. Now, they're like, "whatever." The fact that they know there will always be food coming has deescalated the importance of food in their lives. But the real success is: they *don't come begging to us*--except for some appropriate "ahem it's 7 p.m., this is when we get dinner" reminders.

Structure is helpful with smart cats. Some cats never respond to structure. But all cats DO respond to how they have successfully manipulated you previously.

I also agree that it's about attention, and food coming to equal love.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 6:22 AM on January 26, 2013

Cats need meat, not grains that are the filler in dry food. Are you feeding dry food exclusively? Maybe he's signaling that his nutrition needs aren't being met.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 6:59 AM on January 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Maybe I'm just a big jerk, but I find that a spray bottle of water is very effective for deterring unwanted pet behaviors.
posted by kamikazegopher at 7:10 AM on January 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

Of course, I never do this to my dog, but that's because she is a perfect angel.
posted by kamikazegopher at 7:11 AM on January 26, 2013 [3 favorites]

We love our two male cats to pieces, but they have some tendencies that are unacceptable to us. They were destroying our leather furniture. And they had a tendency to cry loudly outside the bedroom door at 4:30 a.m., because that's when they're ready to begin their day. A squirt gun stopped both behaviors immediately, and for good. They don't hold it against us. They continue to scratch at everything besides the expensive furniture. They continue to vocalize all day long. No psychological damage! Cats are territorial, and if you mark some territory off-limits by behaving with sufficient aggression, it makes perfect sense to them. Cats are fine with boundaries if they know what they are and you're willing to defend them.
posted by markcmyers at 9:29 AM on January 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

My mom's indoor cat bites the ends off the asterisk-shaped Friskies then meows for more no matter how many bits are still left in his bowl.

My diagnosis is, cats are weird.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 10:26 AM on January 26, 2013

When your cat is pesty in the kitchen, glare at him and stomp your foot. And/or, HISS. It's the language they understand. Do these things only for the kitchen pestiness, and the cat will soon learn that that behavior just doesn't get good results, rather than thinking that you've mysteriously become a mean jerk.

Or, you could use clicker training to train the cat to sit peacefully in a particular spot when he's with you in the kitchen. Sounds miraculous, but I've heard it can actually work.
posted by Corvid at 1:32 PM on January 26, 2013

« Older Learning to live with change   |   How to occupy little one in car trips? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.