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Cats Waiting for Food: The 5 Stages of Anticipation

In my house, cats go from sheer confusion to "Wild Kingdom" wrestling in minutes.

 |  Jul 8th 2013  |   20 Contributions


My cats live for mealtimes. They get fed twice a day and have a pretty accurate alarm clock when it comes to knowing when the glorious grub is due to arrive. And their behavior is pretty predictable. My three have unique personalities, and they definitely shine through during the anticipation of chow o'clock, but they all generally progress through five stages of emotions in anticipation of food. 

It's food o'clock, y'all!

Here are those five stages in descriptions and photos: 

1. Confusion

If my cats happen to be snoozing when I'm starting the feeding process, their little heads pop up and they look around, clearly hearing a familiar sound, but still in a sleepy state. This is particularly true with Saffy, otherwise known as Large Marge. Honestly, the only thing that draws her out of her beloved naps is the promise of a full belly. When she hears the plink of the ceramic cat dishes on the kitchen counter, her giant grey head rises from her tightly tucked loaf like the head of Nessie slowly breaking the surface of the famed lake.

Whoa, Nessie! Saffy hears something!

Her eyes struggle to completely open and she scans the room, like she's trying to remember where she is and how she got there. You know that feeling you get when you wake up in a hotel room or someone else's house (and not just in that one-night-stand kind of way) and there's that moment of total confusion? That's Saffy.

2. Surprise

After a sleepy kitty has gathered her senses and realized food is afoot, she immediately transitions into the Surprise stage. Non-snoozing felines usually skip the Confusion portion and jump in right here. Even though cats know it's mealtime -- it happens at the same times every day -- they somehow manage to act genuinely surprised when the telltale sounds of popping lids or rattling kibble make the scene. No matter what they happen to be engaged in at the time, they physically freeze for just a moment -- just enough time for their pupils to dilate and their brains to fully comprehend the ambrosia that's about to be placed before them. 

Cosmo: "I've heard that sound a kajillion times, yet still can't seem to contain my surprise!"

3. Excitement

Once the cats are mentally onboard with the reality of impending food, the feline frenzy officially commences. My Cosmo runs in circles through the kitchen, dining room and living room. He's like a racehorse on the home stretch. Every once in a while, he'll stop and stare at me, and then take off again. Saffy races back and forth from the her feeding area to where I'm doling out the goods -- back and forth, back and forth. Phoebe sits and watches my every move from a dining room chair, but her excitement is palpable.

4. Aggression

As I'm putting the finishing touches on the meals, two of the cats begin a full-on Wild Kingdom show. I'll suddenly hear hisses and growls and look over to see an all-out wrestling match happening in the living room. Believe me, I totally get it. When I'm hungry, I become a cranky monster. I call it "hangry," a combination of hunger and PMS-style anger. I've never physically wrestled anyone when I'm in that state; however, I'm guilty of a verbal swat now and again. I always keep a stash of "hangry food" in my purse, just in case. I wouldn't want to go all Wild Kingdom on a rude cashier. 

"You want a piece of me?"

5. Elation

Finally! After what felt like hours -- but was actually just five minutes -- the bowls are on the floor and three kitty faces are buried deeply into their contents. My house, which was just abuzz with a chaotic symphony of hysteria, is now quiet, save for the three-part harmony of crunching and licking. After a few minutes, Saffy and Cosmo will switch bowls -- it happens every time. Because everyone knows that, even if your own food is delicious, someone else's food is always better. 

Saffy's finally in her happy place.

How does your cat react while you're preparing his food? Tell us about it in the comments!

About the Author: Angie Bailey is a goofy girl with freckles and giant smile who wants everyone to be her friend. Loves pre-adolescent boy humor, puns, making up parody songs, and thinking about cats doing people things. Wrote a ridiculous humor book about cats wheeling and dealing online. Partner in a production company and writes and acts in comedy web series that may or may not offend people. Mother to two humans and three cats, all of which want her to make them food.

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