My two cats flip out at feeding time, but why?

This is a place to gain some understanding of cat behavior and to assist people in training their cats and dealing with common behavior problems, regardless of the method(s) used. Keep in mind that you may be receiving advice from other cat owners and lovers...not professionals. If you have a major problem, always seek the advice of a trainer or behaviorist!


Purred: Thu Jan 26, '12 1:17pm PST 
I have two 11-month old cats (brothers) who act completely insane when it's feeding time. As soon as they hear the can of food being opened, smell it, or see their food dishes in my or my husband's hands, they start leaping at us, trying to climb our legs, and generally acting like they've never had food in their lives. They wolf their food down more quickly than any cat I've ever seen, but once they're finished, they're back to normal.

Additionally, one of them will chew through any packaging he can get his paws on to get to the food inside. If he finds a crinkly plastic bag - even if it's not food! - he'll either chew holes in it right there or will try to drag it behind the couch to open it in private.

Some background: These boys are half Abyssinian, and show a lot of that breed's behaviors. We adopted them as rescue cats when they were about 3 months old, and this has been their "normal" behavior since day one. Initially, we thought we weren't feeding them enough; giving them extra food toned down the craziness a bit, but they started getting pudgy, so our vet suggested we go back to the recommended amount of food for their weight. (They've now lost their pudge and have stabilized at the "right" weight for the last 4 months.) Otherwise, their health is perfect, and outside of feeding time, they're very friendly, affectionate, happy guys who don't show any signs of aggression, fear, or anxiety.

My suspicion is that they may have been starved as kittens - they were dropped off anonymously at a shelter before we adopted them, so there's no way to know their history - but we had hoped that after more than 6 months of regular feedings twice a day and lots of treats and love, they would settle down.

We feed them together, but they each have their own bowl, and I've never witnessed one of them taking food from the other, so I don't think it's an issue of competition. We've tried teaching them with positive reinforcement (not putting their bowls on the ground until they're calmed down), negative reinforcement (spritzing them with a water bottle when they jump or try to climb), feeding them in different parts of the house and at different times, etc. Nothing seems to help.

Any ideas or suggestions? We love our boys but are pretty frustrated with their crazy feeding habits (and I feel awful that they keep injuring our pet-sitters when we're out of town!)


Ambassador at- the Kitty U.N.
Purred: Fri Jan 27, '12 7:40am PST 
I just replied to a similar post in the Food forum but it may have to do with the quality of food you're feeding? If they're not getting a high quality protein that you get in certain grain-free canned food, or a raw diet, they may not feel satisfied and get crazy around mealtimes. You didn't mention what you feed, but I wonder if it's a nutritional issue rather than a behavioral one.


Purred: Fri Jan 27, '12 9:09pm PST 
My cats are the same way; one was a kitten from the tornadoes that ravaged Alabama last spring, and the other was a stray. They go aggressively insane every feeding time despite being a great body condition and getting a combination of Orijen, grain-free canned, and supplemental raw. They have beautiful coats and perfect body condition, but they are just psycho about food and also steal and eat ANY food they can find - not just meat, but bread, bird seed, fruit, you name it. It is driving me insane, so I'm interested to see if anyone has answers.


Purred: Sat Feb 4, '12 11:29am PST 
If there wasn't enough food for them when they were young, the panic behavior could stay with them forever. Kovu, one of our old cats who has since passed, was an indoor/outdoor cat before we adopted him from Craigslist. The guy we got him from stated that he refused to feed him anything and that it was the cat's job to feed himself. When we got him home and started feeding him, he would gorge and then regurgitate, and this would go on and on and on. It was non-stop for months. We finally had to start free feeding (we were feeding kibble at the time) at the suggestion of our vet since he was actually beginning to do damage to his esophagus. He gained weight, but eventually, once he realized the food wasn't going anywhere, he began to self regulate and lost the weight.

I now feed nothing but raw/wet, and I do the same thing with wet food. We have a cat, Kira, who panics if there's not food always available. I leave wet down for Mocha, and Kira will constantly go over to check that it's there. She may take a nibble or two, but for the most part eats just raw. If, for some reason, there's no food down, she panics when it gets there and gorges herself and then begins to regurgitate.

It may be that they just need to be reassured that the food will always be there.

With Corbin, we're allowing him to eat as much as he wants, when he wants. He's about 10 weeks old now, and at first he would everything in the bowl when it was put down, but now he eats when he wants and there's no rush. He's not fat,in fact, he completely lacks the kitten pudge people see all the time. However, he's very vocal and lets me know if his bowl is empty... even if he doesn't eat it, he wants the food there. winkeekeekeekeekeekeekeekeekeek


I\\\'m A Dallas- Cowboy Fan Too!
Purred: Sat Feb 4, '12 3:22pm PST 
Smokey, what do you feed, how much, and how often? You want to be real careful, with letting the brothers get to any, plastic, weather it be the bag of food, or the plastic bags. You need to find a place, where they can't get to them. My Smokey, ate a hole, in the bread, plastic and all, and had liver issues, she almost died.

3 months and $800 later, she was fine. I have to put her in the carrier, when I bring in groceries, and make sure, the bread is not left out, and all plastic bags are not in her reach.

waveway to gohug


Purred: Tue Feb 28, '12 5:15pm PST 
A few of my cats respond in similar ways with the plastic eating and food gorging. We used to free feed until two of our five were over weight. They would eat non-stop. We switched over to an all wet diet with some kibble here and there.

For one of my cats, Elvis, he becomes aggressive during meal times (he will go after one cat in particular and will bite, swing his paw at, awful meow/growl thing). We tried separating him from the others, feeding him first, etc but nothing really helped. We started spraying him with air following aggression towards another cat which his aggression has decreased. His growling while eating- that remains the same.

A few of our other kitties will snack on plastic bags if they are laying around. Our lovely Goo will eat any food that is not airtight packaged. We had to get child locks to help keep our cabinets closed. He always finds some way to pull stuff down. Usually we can hear him and catch him but that's not always.

I would try either giving a squirt of water when they jump or a squirt of air somewhere on the body (not near the face). or you can try clicker training for a desired behavior. The cats seem less jumpy after we started using the canned air and will now lean up against the counter where we will rub there head.