It is not really surprising that cats want to enjoy the food you have on your plate, as it will invariably be tastier and more exciting than their cat food. We can’t blame them for wanting to enjoy a tasty morsel or two, however this does not make it any less annoying when they beg for food, or even worse, jump up and start munching when your back is turned.
Their first plan of attack is usually making pitiful noises when you start to eat. Purring, meowing and kneading are also common moves cats have for making you feel sorry for them and enticing you to share your dinner. If this doesn’t work, often they will wait until you get up from the table or your back is turned and then make their attack on your dinner plate. This is unsanitary as well as hugely irritating, and furthermore, with the different digestive habits and dietary requirements that humans and cats have, often the food you are eating is not good for a cat and perhaps can even cause harm.
The good news is there are a few tricks and things you can do to ensure this behavior is stopped. It may take time and patience, but eventually your cat, being the intelligent creature that it is, will get the message and allow you to eat in peace.
So, how to stop a cat from begging for food. The first thing you can in your mission to stop your cat begging for food is to feed it at the same time as you are eating. Cats generally indulge in a nap after they eat, so by setting their dish of yummy cat food down as you are also about to sit down to eat, your cat is likely to eat until it is full, and then slope off to find a quiet place to rest. Because cats tend to eat only until they are full, as long as their portion of cat food is big enough, they won’t want to come and beg for any of your food. This will enable you to eat in peace.
It is vital that from the start you don’t feed your cat scraps from the table and totally ignore it when it is trying to encourage you to share your meal. This will only encourage begging for food and make it harder for yourself in the long run to break this annoying habit. As hard as it may be to ignore the meowing, purring and kneading, don’t give in to your cat’s soppy eyes. Consistency is vital if you are going to break this habit, as any caving in to the cat will allow your cat to think that begging achieves the desired outcome. Totally ignore your cat when it is begging mode. Don’t look at it or speak to it for the duration of the meal. Even if the attention you give your cat is bad attention such as you raise your voice of push it away, this is still attention and will continue to reinforce the begging habit.
Don’t throw anything on your plate to it, even if you have actually finished eating. If the meal has produced some leftovers, place them in a bowl in the fridge until it is time for your cat’s next feed. Remember however that cats have a totally different diet to humans and some common foods can be toxic for cats such as onions and garlic. Don’t assume that cats will benefit from every meal you eat. If you truly are consistent with this approach, eventually your cat will stop begging and waiting for food scraps, although you may have to be very patient.
If you have a very persistent cat and are becoming infuriated by its seemingly endless pursuit of your food, you may need to step up your own resistance. Wait until the begging starts and then take your cat gently by the nape of the neck and give it a shake whilst saying ‘No!’ very firmly. This works best with very young cats and kittens, but the shake and release method can work with older cats too as they will not enjoy this experience.
Another slightly firm way to discourage the habit is gently tapping the cat on the nose when it does it. Don’t hit the cat, but just tap the end of it’s nose whilst at the same time saying “No!” Eventually the cat will get the message and stop pestering you whilst you eat.
Some cat owners report that how to stop a cat from begging for food can be done using an automatic feeder because it enforces the idea to your cat that you are not its only source of food. The difficulty with feeders such as these though is that they can encourage overeating which can cause health problems in the long run. It can be difficult to see if a cat is gaining weight as they store it in their tummies, so only use one if you can monitor how much they are eating and cease use of it if your cat does start to gain weight. Don’t use one at all if your cat is already overweight.
If your cat does start to change and leaves you alone when you are eating, give it lots of praise and attention. Your cat will soon learn that demonstrating good behaviour will lead to good attention, and lots of it.
It is annoying when a cat continues to beg for food, and if the begging leads to jumping up to your plate to eat from it then it even becomes unhealthy. It is very important to break this habit, however you must be committed to it yourself as the owner. Time, patience and lots of attention given to your cat for good behavior are the key to how to stop your cat from begging for food. Your cat will understand that begging is not acceptable and will cease to do it.