Begging at the dinner table is not a behavior that’s limited only to dogs. Cats can be just as persistent in looking longingly up at you while you’re trying to enjoy your meal, rub up against your legs, and meow. And unlike dogs, cats may also jump on the table during mealtime. Begging behavior can have a number of different reasons, ranging from physical to behavioral. Identifying the cause of the behavior is the first step in preventing it.
Rule out a medical problem
Diseases such as hyperthyroidism or diabetes can cause voracious appetites in cats. If your cat suddenly seems to be hungrier than a normal, take her to the veterinarian for a thorough exam.
Hunger is instinct-driven
Former stray cats learn that food isn’t always available, and even once these cats live in a permanent home, they may remain fixated on food for the rest of their life. Their survival instinct drives them to always be on the lookout for food. Begging at the dinner table is simply an extension of their natural hunting behavior for these cats.
Feed a species-appropriatediet at the right time
Your first step in preventing cats from begging at the table is to feed them a high quality, species-appropriate diet high in protein and low in carbs. Cats are obligate carnivores who need protein to thrive. Your best choice is a grain-free canned or raw diet. Protein keeps cats satiated longer. Dry foods are too high in carbohydrates; carbs make cats hungry more quickly.
Don’t feed your cats while you’re preparing your meals in the kitchen, this will make them associate your meal time with their meal time. The best time to feed cats is just before you prepare your meals. With a full stomach, your meal will be far less appealing to your cat.
Don’t give your cat table scraps from the table
Giving your cats morsels from the dining table is like inviting her to join you at the table. All it takes is one time, and you will have established a habit that will be very difficult to break.
Avoid leaving food on the table between meals
Always clear your table after a meal to remove temptation, even if the food is covered or wrapped. All it takes is one successful caper for your cat to return to the scene of the crime again and again.
Consider getting a food puzzle toy. Give the treat filled toy to your cat before you sit down to your meal. This will keep her busy while you can eat undisturbed.
Confine your cat to a separate room while you eat
If your cat is a chronic beggar, you may need to confine her to a separate room while you eat your meals. Make it fun for her, make sure the room has toys, a window she can look out from, and even a few treats for her.
Place a mechanical device like the SSSCAT (affiliate link*) on your table between meals. These devices deliver a blast of compressed air and/or a loud sound when they sense a cat approaching. Your cat will quickly learn that your table is off limits.
Regardless of which approach you use to deter your cat from joining you at the dinner table, consistency is key. By ignoring your cat’s pleas, and not rewarding the undesired behavior, you can stop kitty from bothering you during your meal times.
This article was previously published on Answers.com and is republished with permission.
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