Ask A Vet: Why Does My Cat Beg For Food Even When He Has Some?

| Published on September 7, 2016


We all know that cats seem to think that their bowl should be full all the time.  We make jokes and there are funny memes about it.  Captions declaring that we are trying to starve our cats above pictures of food bowls (with the bottom of the bowl barely showing) make us smile.  We stand up from the couch and head toward the kitchen with our cats at our heels, meowing.  Yet statistics show that many of our companion pets suffer from obesity.  If she is not hungry, why does she race you to her bowl?

It might be because when you feed her, she has your undivided attention.  You talk sweetly to her and probably stroke her as you filled the bowl.  The anticipation of what you are going to put in there triggers a rush of happy chemicals for her and when you couple that with all the positive vibes you give her when you talk to and pet her, it is a wonderful experience. One that she comes to crave, perhaps more than hunger.

John W.S. Bradshaw, in his book The Behaviour of the Domestic Cat, suggests that people confuse the cat’s desire for interaction with hunger and mistakenly offer food every time the cat seeks.


Do an experiment with your cat. The next time she seems to beg at a food bowl that is not empty, pick her up or stroke her without adding food.  Instigate a game of chase with her or entice her to follow a toy on a pole. Try to see if she is seeking attention instead of food. Make it an opportunity to bond with her and get her some much needed stimulation and exercise.  At the end of the game, she may eat some of the food that was already in her bowl or you can add more. Eating at the end of chase is natural for your cat’s metabolism and a daily play/chase/cuddle time will make your cat happier.

Remember, cats in the wild hunt small prey and make several tiny kills each day. They must expend energy and thought to do so. Having a full food bowl all the time is not something that you cat is wired for and his metabolism may not be able to be as healthy in this situation. If you can redirect some of his behavior away from food and onto what he is really seeking, you will increase his body and his brain while giving him what he really wanted, which was some quality time with you.

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