Is your cat begging for food? When this happen all the time, after eating, or only at specific times (like at night), it’s worth paying attention to.
This common cat behavior might be more than just a sign of hunger, and could indicate health issues, dietary deficiencies, behavioral habits, or simply boredom. That’s why it’s important to address the root cause and implement appropriate solutions.
In our comprehensive guide, we cover in more detail what’s behind your cat’s cries for food. We’ll then provide helpful and tested tips to curb this behavior, or if needed, escalate to next steps. Let’s go!
Why Is My Cat Begging for Food?
There are lots of reasons cat will beg for food, and the most common reasons have to do with behavioral issues, underlying health issues, medical conditions, or their current cat food situation.
Are They Eating Enough?
Ensure your cat is eating adequate calories.
If your cat is constantly begging for food at night, it might be a signal that they aren’t getting enough to eat during the day. Increase the quantity or quality of cat food!
On the other hand, if your cat is on a weight loss diet, then it’s having the intended effect, and the behavior needs to be tolerated.
It’s a Health Issue
Sometimes, your cat begging for more food right after eating can be a symptom of an underlying health condition. Hyperthyroidism and diabetes are two medical issues that can increase a cat’s appetite.
Begging for food after eating but not gaining weight or is losing weight means it’s time to consult with a vet. Regular vet check-ups can help identify and treat these conditions early.
Related to the above, parasitic worms can also cause a cat to be begging for food all day. This is because the worms are living in the cat’s digestive system and consuming the nutrients from the food the cat eats.
As a result, the cat may feel hungry more often because it’s not getting the nutrients it needs, even if it’s eating the same amount of food as before. If an older cat is constantly begging for food, I advise you to take them to the vet as possible for examination.
There are many types of worms that can infect cats, including roundworms, tapeworms, and hookworms. These parasites can cause a range of health problems, including weight loss, diarrhea, vomiting, and anemia. In severe cases, they can even be fatal.
Cats, like humans, can experience a range of psychological issues, including depression and anxiety. These mental health conditions can affect a cat’s behavior, including its eating habits.
Depression in cats can be caused by factors such as changes in their environment, loss of a companion, or chronic illness. A depressed cat may lose interest in activities it once enjoyed, including eating.
Or it may do the opposite and eat more as a form of comfort, leading to more frequent begging for food.
Anxiety can also lead to changes in a cat’s eating behavior. Cats with anxiety may eat more as a coping mechanism, leading to increased begging for food.
Someone – or Something – is Eating Their Food
If you’re a multi-cat household, there could be some food theft going on. One cat, might be stealing another’s food, leaving the latter hungry and begging for more. One obvious example is a younger, hungrier cat going into a more relaxed, older cat’s food dish. Or maybe you’re inadvertently feeding stray cats who dine and dash!
Monitor feeding times to ensure that each cat is eating their food. If necessary, feed them in separate rooms to prevent stealing.
Your Cat Spoiled
Yes, it’s true. Some cats can be a bit on the greedy side. They might beg for food simply because they’ve learned that begging often results in more food from the cat owner. Remember to resist those pleading eyes. Overfeeding can lead to obesity and other health problems.
They Don’t Like What You’re Feeding
Ever given a toddler a plate of broccoli?
Cats can be just as picky. If your cat is begging for food but not eating, it could be that they don’t like the food you’re providing. Experiment with different flavors or brands of cat food. But do this gradually to prevent upsetting their stomach.
Cats totally eat out of boredom, just like humans do. If your cat doesn’t have enough to do, they might turn to food for entertainment. Try providing more toys or playtime to keep them occupied.
Taught or Learned Habit
If you give your cat a treat every time they beg, they’ll learn to associate begging with receiving food. Another common situation that arises from this conditioning is your cat begging for food too early before normal meal times.
In this case, it’s become a begging habit. They have trained you, and not the other way around! It’s tough love, but try to resist giving in to the begging.
Tips to Get Your Cat to Stop Begging for Food
Here’s a varied list of practical strategies to stop your cat begging for food all the time.
Cat Food Tips
Inspect Your Cat’s Food and Diet: Stop your cat from begging for food at night by ensure their diet is nutritionally balanced. As obligate carnivores, cats require a protein-rich diet to feel satiated. If you’re feeding a diet high in carbohydrates with only dry kibble, my advise is to give more wet food. While kibble is crunchy and tasty, the carb content in them may simply be empty calories.
Integrate Liquids Into Food: Make their food more appealing by adding a little water or canned tuna juice to wet food, sprinkling dried tuna flakes, or using a bit of chicken stock. These enhancements can make meals more satisfying, quench unknown thirst, and reduce begging. And remember to keep their water bowl full with fresh water available always!
Feed High Fiber Cat Food: Cat food high in fiber can help your cat feel fuller for longer, reducing the need for frequent feeding and thus, the begging.
Stop Free Feeding: Having dry food out all day leads to bad habits and weight gain. Take away the food bowl after meals, this will signal to your cat that there are set periods of eating and no eating, and begging will not affect this.
Use an Automatic Feeder: An automatic feeder can ensure your gets regular meals even when you’re not at home or sleeping in. A microchip cat feeder is wonderful at managing your cat’s begging for food in the early morning.
Use Cat Slow Feeder or Puzzle Bowl: Food puzzles bowl can tap into your cat’s hunting instincts, and these interactive food dispensers making mealtime more engaging and fulfilling.
Avoid Giving Human Food or Table Scraps: Feeding your cat your table can encourage begging. Every time human food is given to them after begging, just increases positive reinforcement. Resist those pleading eyes and keep human food for humans – they’ll stop eventually!
Secluded Feeding Areas: In multi-cat or multi-pet households, having private feeding areas with their own food bowl can ensure that every cat gets their fair share of food. This can prevent food theft and reduce begging.
Playtime! Provide mental stimulation (I’m talking to you, indoor cat parents) and physically active. Engage them with interactive toys, scratchers, cat trees, laser pointers, or even a simple string. More play means less boredom, which could result in less begging.
Just Ignore It: This might be tough, but sometimes it’s necessary to stop unwanted behaviors. Cats are smart and creatures of habit. My Maine Coon can have a behavior reinforced on time and the next day, she is right there in the same time and place! So cats realize that begging gets them what they want, they’ll continue doing it. Your cat will live until the next day without extra food.
Re-condition Your Cat: You can stop a cat from begging for treats or food by replacing the begging reward with a more desirable one. If your cat begins to beg, try redirecting them to a different activity like playing with a toy. Eventually, they’ll learn to associate play time with begging instead. But realize it may take time for cats to change, so don’t get discouraged after day.
Call a Cat Behaviorist: If you and your cat are still struggling with abnormal feeding behaviors, consider consulting a behaviorist. They can provide customized strategies based on your cat’s specific needs.
Make Sure Your Cat is Getting Enough Attention From You: Sometimes, begging can be a cry for attention rather than food. Make sure you’re spending enough time with your cat, showering them with love and affection.
I’m Gary Hu, a proud cat dad to a 15 lb Maine Coon. Have taken care of outdoor and indoor cats for over 10 years, and learned tons on behavior, habits, health, and products. I help new Maine Coon (or any other cat) parents with common questions and issues based on real, practical experience.