Our cat and cat get on relatively well, with exception to one aspect, and that’s their meals. Our cat is British, and she has an insatiable appetite, stealing snacks at any opportunity… and that includes our food.
From a young age our cat made a habit of stealing our food whenever she got the chance to. We managed to stop her stealing our food with a few hacks and I will explain how below.
How to stop cat stealing human food in 5 steps
Food stealing is a common occurrence in multi-pet households. Cats are generally grazers – they eat a little bit of food off and on all day.
Cats, on the other hand, have been domesticated to eat all of their food at once. And most cats take full advantage of any food that’s left out, even if it’s meant for the cat. This is especially true if he now has a taste for it, if given human food in an emergency… like I had to do.
1. Put the cat’s food higher up
One of the simplest ways to stop your cat stealing the cat’s food is to elevate the cat’s bowl. Just put it in a place that your cat can’t reach. You can see how we did this at home in the photo below.
Cats love climbing things and they will have no trouble going up their cat tree or up a shelf during mealtimes.
Any elevated place in your home can be a potential cat feeding station. (Although feeding your cat on your kitchen or dining table isn’t recommended.)
This method keeps human food away from your cat and makes your cat work for their food, too – they like to do that.
Just be mindful of your cat’s abilities when picking their food perch. Some cats have trouble jumping too high when they’re of an advanced age.
2. Schedule feeding times
Free feeding (just leaving food out for your cat to nibble throughout the day) is a common method used by cat owners, but there are advantages to setting strict feeding times for cats.
You can control portions and lower the risk of obesity through scheduled feeding.
You can set your cat and cat feeding times separately and supervise both to make sure that they stick to their own food.
There’s also the option of scheduling your cat's daily exercise to coincide with your cat’s mealtime. There’s no risk of food theft when you keep your pet’s activities fully separate.
By the time you get back from your walk, your cat will be so excited to eat his own food that he wouldn’t even be thinking stealing from your cat’s bowl.
3. Use physical barriers
There are several ways to keep your cat physically separate from your cat’s food to reduce the chances of them stealing it.
Protective cat bowl
Cat-proof cat dishes come with plastic shrouds that have openings that will only accommodate small-headed creatures (like your cat). Your cat will not be able to reach the bowl no matter how hard he tries.
Of course, this will not work if you have a cat with a small or skinny head.
Designated feeding room
Move your cat’s food bowl to an entirely different room. Then you can use a door strap or doorstop to keep the door open just enough for your cat to get in and keep the cat out.
Make sure the door is fully cat-proof and he can’t figure out a clever way to get through!
Pet or baby gate
You can also keep your cat away from stealing human food by installing a pet gate. This way, your cat’s movement around the house will be limited, and your cat will be able to eat in peace.
If you don’t want to keep the gate up 24/7, you can combine this method with scheduled feeding. This way, you only use the gate when it’s time for the cat to eat.
4. Use an automatic pet feeder
If you want to go beyond simple physical barriers and go full high-tech, you can get an automatic pet feeder.
This feeder keeps food under lock and key until the pet with the assigned microchip/RFID tag approaches it.
Only then will the neoprene-sealed lid lift and the food will be available to eat. There are separate bowls for wet and dry food, as well as space for your pet’s medication.
This is the perfect solution to households experiencing food theft among their pets.
5. Teach your cat commands
You can instill discipline in your cat by teaching him the “leave it” command if he looks like he’s just about to steal the cat’s food. You can train him to keep away from not just human food, but anything that can be dangerous to his health.
It will take a lot of time and effort, but with patience and consistent training, you’ll have a very obedient cat that you won’t have to worry about getting into things that he shouldn’t.
When training, make sure to never yell or punish your cat when he doesn’t pick up commands as quickly as you’d like. You can keep your voice firm but never, ever shout.
Most importantly, make sure you dole out treats and over-the-top praise when he does something right. Positive reinforcement is far and away the most effective method when trying to change your cat’s behavior.
Your cat should never be afraid to do something wrong but instead do their very best to do something right.
Why you shouldn’t let your cat eat human food
While there’s nothing wrong with a cat eating human food every once in a while, there are several reasons why we should make sure that it doesn’t become a habit:
Cats don’t have the same nutritional needs, so while their food may look and smell similar, their components are very different. Cats are obligate carnivores so their food has more protein.
Human food tends to have a higher concentration of fiber and carbohydrates. Short-term effects of eating the wrong kind of food can be digestive problems such as gas, diarrhea, and vomiting. Long-term effects can be chronic conditions stemming from the lack of necessary nutrients.
Human food generally contains more type of fat which may lead to unhealthy weight gain if your cat eats it on a regular basis. Obesity in cats leads to other conditions such as joint disease, diabetes, respiratory disease, and liver disease.
Maintaining your pet at a healthy weight is crucial to lifelong wellness.
Indulging your cat’s bad habits may lead to more bad behavior over time. It’s worth the effort to train them out of these behaviors or at least find ways to prevent them from doing it.
Fighting between pets
Some pets are more possessive than others, and fights over food can lead to injuries as well as stress whenever they’re around each other.
Keeping your pets to their own food bowls means more harmony in your home.
Eating human food isn’t great for your cat, and you shouldn’t let your cat go undernourished either.
Thankfully, there are several ways to keep your cat from stealing human food which I’ve described above.
If you have any other tips to stop your cat stealing your food, please do share them with us on social media!
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