Is your cat an uninvited guest at your Thanksgiving dinner table? Do they jump onto counters and tables just to get a nibble of turkey? Or do they meow constantly for food while you’re trying to eat? Here’s how to help curtail your cat’s begging at the dinner table this holiday season!
1. Determine why your cat may be begging.
Many cats beg because, plain and simple, they know it works. They’ve gotten a taste for human food, whether it’s thanks to cat parents wanting to share or a toddler who doesn’t want to finish their dinner.
Boredom can also be a cause of begging. Cats are intelligent little creatures that need physical and mental stimulation, just like us humans! If you think your cat is just eating because they’re bored, make sure they have plenty of engaging toys and activities. If they already have plenty of toys (my cats have must have a million by now) try rotating in some new toys. Try a different style of toy or play to re-engage their interest. Do they prefer a wand or teaser toy? Or are they more of a laser pointer fanatic?
Ideally, you'll want to find a toy that is fun for both you and your cat. The Mouse Hunt Toy is an interactive toy you control from your phone while your cat chases it through the house, keeping their mind off the food and giving them plenty of exercise at the same time!
However, if your cat seems to be constantly hungry and crying for food, there might be an underlying health condition. Diseases like feline diabetes, kidney disease, and hypothyroidism can cause cats to overeat. If your cat devours their food but doesn’t seem to gain weight, it can be a sign of a medical issue. Take your kitty to the vet for a checkup.
2. Establish Positive Feeding Patterns
Try feeding your cat immediately before you sit down to eat. They're less likely to beg if they're already full. Cats also typically groom or nap after a meal (digesting is hard work!), so feeding your cat before you eat will keep her busy while you can happily enjoy your meal without Mrs. Grabby Paws getting in the way.
Keep feeding times consistent. Always feed your cat in their own bowl, and in their own space. Don't allow your cat to eat while on the table, and don't feed them table scraps! It will only cause confusion and teach your kitty that it's ok to be on the table.
Designate the dinner table a permanent cat-free zone. Never allow your cat to get on the dinner table regardless of whether or not there is food on it. Firmly state “no,” while removing her from the dinner table every time your cat jumps on it. If your cat is a persistent table jumper, try placing saran wrap, tinfoil, or double-sided tape on the surfaces they jump on. When they land, it'll be an uncomfortable surprise for their paws and they're less likely to jump up again.
3. Don't Punish - Just Ignore
Instead of yelling at or shooing your cat away when they beg, simply ignore it. It can be difficult when they're meowing persistently, but even negative attention can reinforce unwanted behaviors in cats - because they learn that begging will get a reaction out of you, even if its not what they immediately want.
If your wakes you at 4 in the morning and you get up to fill the bowl, the cat has trained you, and will expect to be fed on demand. Do not give your cat any verbal or physical attention while she is begging, just continue eating, or sleeping, until they take the hint!
If your cat still persistently begs, it may be time to put them in a separate room when it comes to dinner time. You could feed them in a separate room and keep the door closed, or hide a few treats and toys in there so they learn that it's time to forage and play rather than to beg.
Above all, with cats consistency is key! It may take some time, but if you are patient and consistent with your strategy, and have ruled out any medical issues, your cat will hopefully stop their begging routines!
Have you had a cat that begs? What were your tips for dealing with them? Let us know in the comments!