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How do I prevent my cats from acting like lunatics at mealtime?

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!

  
Egon &- Astrid

Life is made for- loving.
 
 
Purred: Mon Feb 27, '12 3:52pm PST 
I'm getting annoyed. Astrid has always been annoying at mealtime, but a few weeks ago she amped it up: snorting, crying, reaching, trying to leap for the bowl, scratching. Now Egon is trying the same things, but he's bigger, so if he decides to launch at me, I am going to lose my balance and fall on my ass.

I am tired of this crap.

I increased their food slightly (I wanted to remove dry entirely, but instead they're still at 1/4 cup a day, with more canned food) but it doesn't seem to be helping. I don't free-feed. No one has any health issues, I'm sure it's purely behavioural. I was slacking on getting Astrid to sit still before I'd put her food down, so she escalated, and now Egon is mimicking her.

Today I was so fed up I closed the door so they couldn't run back and forth and cry, and then I snuck in (Awkwardly pushing them with my foot) and put the food down. I opened the door, grabbed them before they could shoot in, and made them wait on the bed until they were still before giving them the okay. When I was out of the way they both shot off and started inhaling their food like they'd never eaten before.

My dog eats the same schedule they do, but she's never that stupid about her food =/ She sits and waits for the okay to eat. Why can't my cats just wait nicely where their bowls go? Why do they act like morons?

;__________;
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Alexis

never stops- talking
 
 
Purred: Mon Feb 27, '12 4:56pm PST 
cause they probly hungry. and want their food. we are all up in mom's face and all over everything when we are hungry.
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Egon &- Astrid

Life is made for- loving.
 
 
Purred: Mon Feb 27, '12 6:03pm PST 
I know they're hungry, but they're starting to threaten to attack me over it, which is not cool.
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Pandora

go getter kitter
 
 
Purred: Mon Feb 27, '12 7:47pm PST 
How much canned food are you feeding? When you feed all or mostly canned, you might be surprised at how much it takes to maintain the correct weight, as it isn't near as calorie dense. IThere are 13 adult cats here, they only get wet twice a day, and not a one acts like what you describe. If it somehow is just a bad habit, I'd say instead of putting them in a room then entering with food, do the opposite, that is, put them out of the room where they eat, prepare and set out the food, then let them out.
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Ralphie & Randy

1201140
 
 
Purred: Mon Feb 27, '12 8:19pm PST 
It is obvious from your post that you are frustrated and angry, and it seems likely to me that your cats are picking up on your negative emotions at mealtime. Your cats are not "stupid" or "morons". They are emotional sponges who respond to the feelings and actions of their humans. If you become tense and preemptively defensive when it's time to eat, it may in turn cause them to be stressed and to act out, and you'll be caught in an endless cycle.

Try making a conscious effort to remain calm and happy when it's time to prepare their food, instead of assuming you're going to be under attack. Speak to them in a calm voice while you get their food ready. If one of them gets overexcited and claws or bites, try a short yelp of pain to let them know they've gone too far. I know you're upset, but take a few deep breaths and try to stay relaxed, and your cats may respond with a more relaxed attitude, too.
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Egon &- Astrid

Life is made for- loving.
 
 
Purred: Tue Feb 28, '12 4:49am PST 
Pandora, I'm sorry if I didn't make it clear. Their bowls are in our bedroom, and I prepare the food in the kitchen. I got the bowls from the bedroom, closed the door with the cats in the kitchen, prepared the food (They were a bit calmer without having the option of running back and forth. Astrid kept jumping into the window, but Egon mostly stayed near me and checked my progress from a chair) Then I went to the bedroom door, pushed the cats back, opened it, went inside, closed the door (On Astrid's foot, unfortunately) put the food down, opened the door, stopped the cats, tried to get them to sit still, and then let them eat. If I'd just let them shoot off, well, Astrid has knocked a bowl down before, and I'd rather she doesn't break this one, too.

Her behaviour started without any pre-emptive stress on my part. I'd prepare their food, go to feed them, and she'd be acting crazy. At first it was just lots of running back and forth, so I'd be calling her silly and telling her it wasn't there yet. It was only when Egon started to emulate her that I got stressed out, because he's big, and she's teaching him bad manners. The first day he did that, I stopped putting the food down while they sat there, and started closing the door. I doubt it's stress causing them to escalate, since I was not worried about it until Egon tried it out, and I immediately changed tactics.

Both cats are getting a can of wet food a day (6oz pate, which was recommended for Egon's body weight of just under 8lbs, where Astrid is 5.5-6lb) along with 1/4 cup of dry food split between each meal to slow them down a bit. Astrid will take a chunk of food the size of her face and try to swallow it whole. She's choked on bits of dry, gotten wet up her nose and been unable to breath, and started crying because she hurt herself while swallowing. Even if I squish it, it doesn't help, because parts of the wet food are still connected, so she just picks up a "splat" and tries to eat that whole. Egon puts his face down and munches up his food, I don't have to worry about him choking. He's an ex-food-guarder, so when he starts, he doesn't stop until he's done.

I don't think being calm will help the situation, since being calm was what got me here. I've never stood for dancing from the dog, she got nothing until she was calm. With Astrid, I've just waited until she stopped crying about it/jumping around, and then shoved her food at her before the next bout. She's been rewarded each time she got food. I'm not even sure why she escalated the behaviour, since she was getting what she wanted. She should have learned the opposite- to sit still and quiet on the dresser for food- since she got the food when she was still and quiet, not when she was crying and jumping. Behaviourally speaking, she makes no sense. Egon does, he's seen what works for his sister, and he's trying it out himself. The problem is, I can't train her the way I would a dog, who doesn't get her food until she is calm and quiet, even if that takes a few hours. Astrid will get increasingly hungry and more crazy, and the longer I try to wait her out, the more I increase her chances of getting sick from not eating. Also, the dog didn't try to launch her body into the bowl while I was holding it four feet in the air.
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Hunter- *Dreamboat- #82*

Master of- Disaster!
 
 
Purred: Tue Feb 28, '12 5:13am PST 
Okay, first of all, cats are different from dogs. Its much easier to train a dog not to do certain things. Whereas a cat thinks: "Who cares?" They are very different. If you want your cats to be calm, then train them to be, without food around. Don't let their reward be a bowl of food. You can clicker train them with treats. Google it, and there are also some Youtube videos of it. I trained Hunter 'Up' and 'Down'. Now I don't even use the clicker, I just say the word.

Ever see those discovery shows where a lion hunts a zebra and then eats? Think about it. They run like the wind (exercise), eat their prey, wash themselves (groom) and then nap. Try to mimick that. Play with your cats before you feed them. Make them run, jump, be crazy. Get that energy out. Then, they should be much more calm when they eat.

You say you want your cats to sit still until you put their food down. Cats are not dogs. Imagine you're really hungry, and someone wants you to sit still before giving you the food. But, you can't understand them. You have no idea what they want from you. So you get antsy, and jittery because you're so hungry and they have the food. Then you start to try and get the food yourself by trying to "attack" the person with the food bowl. Its a recipe for disaster.

If I were you, I'd play with them before feeding their meals. Prepare their meals in the kitchen and feed them in the kitchen. Why walk to a bedroom when you're just prolonging feeding them? Feed them in seperate corners of the kitchen. Make mealtime the same time everyday. Eventually they'll get the hang of it.

Good Luck!
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BooBoo

headed for the- light.
 
 
Purred: Tue Feb 28, '12 6:07am PST 
I used to live with Pandora but am at the Bridge now. We can learn! Look at the video on my page smile and see how nicely I sit there. Meowma didn't use a clicker, though. She is old and those weren't invented when she started working with animals, hee hee.
Pandora was just trying to get a clearer picture of the situation. It does sound to us like Egon is the biggest problem. I t6hink that it would be helpful to work on the little trick in my video using some treats, then when that behavior is firmly established, you can use the 'sit down' command at regular feeding times. Meowma's fewlla, who never even had cats until 5 years ago, even has his 2 cats doing the sit and raise up simultaneously, like little circus lions. It's very cute.
Alternately, for safety maybe you could try feeding them in their carriers.
Or, and I hate it but, Meowma really doesn't like punishing cats if at all possible, but this sounds like a situation where the spray bottle would be appropriate, since it's a behavior they can't sneak and go do when you aren't looking. Arm yourself with the water bottle and when the insanity starts, squirt them until they move however far from you you want them to be. If they keep coming before you get the bowls put down, spray again until they get the idea.
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Egon &- Astrid

Life is made for- loving.
 
 
Purred: Tue Feb 28, '12 9:35am PST 
Cats may not be dogs, but all animals learn via operant and classical conditioning. Looking at Astrid's behaviour through that lens, what she's doing doesn't make sense. A reward for being still does not encourage one to be crazy. A reward for being crazy would do that. Not getting anything for being crazy would cause the animal to escalate the behaviour in an effort to get the reward, until they extinguish themselves in an extinction burst. She's treating a reward for being still as not getting any reward for being still, which is entirely backwards.

She's also not interested in playing in the morning. Egon is, but Astrid sits around until she gets fed, then she has a zoomie, then she has a nap. I suppose she didn't get that memo about hunt-eat-sleep, because she eat-hunt-sleeps. I also can't feed them in the kitchen. We have no dining table (Not that I want them on it) No counter space (Ditto) and they will not eat on the floor. We feed them in the bedroom so that they can eat on our dresser. Their water dispenser is also there, too. Our bedroom door opens right into the kitchen, about 7 feet from where I prepare their food on my sewing desk (Which I also don't want them on)

Pandora and BooBoo, thanks for the suggestions =) Egon does like learning with a clicker, but Astrid always does the exact opposite of what is asked. She gets frustrated and gives up treats very easily, too, then tries to steal them from the other animals. I also can't spray bottle them... They like it! Egon's favourite games involve squirt bottles and Nerf darts. Astrid likes to catch and groom herself with water.

I tried to think objectively today, since just locking them out and trying to get them to sit still wasn't working. I prepared breakfast with the door closed and them in the room with me, and I also leashed Astrid to the sewing desk. I can't use a carrier, she's torn her claws off trying to get out when she wants food, since she we did feed her in one when Egon was a guarder. She was not impressed, but sat still. Egon walked around me chirping. I then went and opened the door, and Egon trotted in with me. He jumped on the dresser, chirped again, and let me slide the bowl under his belly, before he turned around and started eating. No fuss! I then took Astrid on a leash into the bedroom. She walked in nicely, saw her food was on the dresser, and looked up at me. I said, "It's okay!" and she jumped up, and went to eating... Without any crazy! I unhooked her and she was purring.

I think she may just be getting herself too worked up over the food. Being on the leash, something she couldn't dig at obsessively, gave her a chance to just sit down and look mad while I made breakfast, instead of building the food up to EPIC LEVELS. I'm not sure how long I'll have to do this, but it seems like the best option for us.

I was especially impressed because my boyfriend overslept, and breakfast was almost two hours late.
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Smithwick

Tigger is my- favorite!
 
 
Purred: Tue Feb 28, '12 12:22pm PST 
Another thought is they do have bowls with a ;ittle hump in the center for fast eaters at Drs. Foster & Smith. Or maybe put a bit of water in Astrids food to thin it so she won't choke so easy. It kind of seems like when a little kid has so many emotions they have a tantrum cause they don't know how to deal with their feelings. Seems like what you just tried worked pretty well. One day at a time! cheer
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