Behavior & Training > My two cats flip out at feeding time, but why?


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!)

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