Make Mealtime Fun For Your Cat
Keeping your cat happy is pretty simple – make sure she’s fed and watered, provide a cozy bed for her incessant napping, and spend quality time playing with her when she deems you worthy. When problems arise at mealtime, though, Fluffy morphs from your sweet ball of fur to a lesson in exasperation. Try these tips to stop the power struggle and get her nose into her bowl, where it belongs.
A feline who refuses to eat her food can incite panic in those who know this is one of the first signs of illness. If kitty’s health has gotten a thumbs-up from her veterinarian, she may very well have you trained to present her with a smorgasbord. Many well-intentioned cat parents have tried to resolve the finicky eating problem by trying different foods in hopes of finding 'The One,' but doing so will either confuse or spoil her. Try the 20-minute method instead: Put her food down for 20 minutes and then take it away until her next feeding time. This will teach her that she better eat while it’s available and probably will make her finicky habits vanish.
Eating Non-Food Objects
Another common eating problem is kitties who like to eat things other than their food. Plastic bags especially can bring on a licking frenzy (who knew they were so tasty?) with bite-size pieces torn off and ingested. Rubber bands and twisty ties seem to be regarded as treats and disappear down the hatch. One of my cats actually ate the cord off the venetian blinds and thought he got away with it until it was hanging out of his rear end. Eating non-food items can be dangerous and should be discouraged from an early age. Despite their delight in batting them around or hearing the crinkle from their pounces, discourage using these things as play toys and be vigilant about keeping them off the floor or out of kitty’s reach. Take the items away with a firm “No!” and plunk Fluffy down in front of her food instead.
Carrying On At Mealtime
Cats who use their parents’ legs as scratching posts or meow pitifully at mealtime are a nuisance and can cause annoying food spillage, stepping on tails, and tripping over furry bodies. Owners’ first instinct is to put the food bowl down to make Kitty stop, at which point she now has you trained. As difficult as it may be, you must resist her pleas and change your timing. Make a point of feeding your feline before she starts her antics or, better yet, spend some play time with Fluffy to focus her energy in a positive direction. By not putting her food down in response to her behavior, you are teaching your cat that unacceptable behavior will only keep her hungry longer.
Being Your Dinner Guest
Who can blame Kitty for wanting your filet mignon instead of a bowl of dry kibble? While it seems like a natural reaction, a cat pestering her hungry owner while he’s trying to eat himself can be exasperating. “Dinner guest” behavior is when your cat sits nearby and stares at you with a plaintively accusing look, tries to climb on the table and stick her nose in your food, swipes her paw at your meal or worse, samples it herself. Stop rationalizing that she’s complimenting your good cooking and make her stop so you can eat. Sync up your mealtimes with your cat by putting her food bowl down a few minutes before you sit down to dinner to make your own plate seem less appealing. If this doesn’t work, bring out the big guns – foil. Cats hate how foil feels when they walk on it, so cover your dinner table with a shiny tin tablecloth and watch her walk away in disgust. Feel free to extend your roll of foil to other surfaces you want her to stay off of, like counter tops or couches.
Now that you’re wise to her mealtime tricks, you can look forward to stress-free mealtimes with you – not her – in charge.
Image: Slava / via Flickr