How Can I Break My Cat’s Treat Addiction?


Pamela left a question (more of a statement, really) in the comments section of an old Vet Blog post on cats and treats.

My cat Harley is addicted to treats, period. He drives me nuts. He is 3 years old and 19.7 lbs.

Pamela didn’t ask for advice, but her comment really caught my eye. Unless Harley is a Savannah Cat, at 19.7 pounds he is obese. This puts him at risk of diabetes, early kidney disease, arthritis, possibly urinary obstruction, and a host of other potential problems.

Cats make remarkably good masters, and humans make very good and pliable companions. Your cat has done an excellent job of training you to do his bidding, which unfortunately is now putting his life at risk. You will need to break the treat cycle with Harley.

When cats pester their owners incessantly for food, the key is to take the owner out of the feeding equation. Harley demands treats and receives them. This teaches him that being demanding is a rewarding activity.

The road ahead will be a rough one, at least in the short term. From now on, never give Harley treats when he asks for them. Instead, only give him treats and food when he is behaving the way you’d like him to behave. Ignore him when he demands treats, and offer food and treats only when he isn’t demanding them. Or, better yet, buy an automatic feeder.

Many people have reported to me that automatic cat feeders work wonders in this type of situation. The feeder can be set to deliver food at set intervals. The cat eventually learns that the human is not a food source, and that pestering the human is a waste of time.

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