Over the years I’ve noticed our cats have very different eating habits and with the newest addition of Kalista, I’ve stumbled on an eating habit that some may find very annoying.
While both Beau and Walker are happy to eat on their own, it seems like Kalista needs you to be sitting right beside her or she won’t eat. Not only that, Kalista will follow you all over the house and completely ignore her food, even if you know she’s starving.
We always knew Kalista was a picky eater, but at first, I didn’t realize that Kalista was also a kitty who needed you to be around while she was eating.
Now, it can get fairly frustrating to feed Kalista at points because sometimes she requires us to sit right next to her, pet her while she eats, or even spoon-feed her, but there are definitely days where she can eat on one side of the room while you sit on the other… so why does she do this?
Cats who want you to watch them while they eat are actually much more common than you think. While Kalista is my first cat out of 4 in my life to exhibit this behaviour I can confidently say at least 1-2 customers would come to me at the pet store with this problem a week.
While it’s easy to assume that your cat wants you to sit next to them while they eat because they are “needy” there are actually a number of reasons why they may have this behaviour.
So, let’s crack into some of the most common reasons cats feel the need to eat right next to their owners and some things you can do to help encourage them to become more independent.
IT’S A HABIT
Cats are creatures of habit and don’t like it when you change up their routine.
It’s actually a really big reason why we feed our cats at the same times every day, which has caused our little one, Beau, to march to the same spot each time he knows he’s supposed to get fed.
Not only do routines provide comfort for your cat by helping them understand that they are being taken care of, but wild cats have also been known to carry out the same routines. These habits include sleep schedules, eating/hunting times, grooming times, “playtime” and other habits that seem to carry on in our furry friends’ lives!
That being said, it can safely be assumed that housecats develop habits around their eating from when they are young kittens. So, maybe your cat wants you to always be around when they eat because you (or their foster parent) spent so much time petting them or sitting near them while they ate.
Although this could be a possibility for Kalista, we’re not completely certain it’s the reason. Kalista, similar to Beau, does exhibit some signs of habits forming (such as wanting to always be fed in my office, or wanting to scratch her scratching post right before she eats) they don’t seem to be as ingrained in her as the necessity to have someone sit with her while she eats.
How to break your cat out of the habit: Slowly try to separate your cat from you as you feed them. Move them further and further away from you daily until they begin to realize that they do not need to be around you to eat.
You can also try to use interactive toys such as the SlimCat Ball to help encourage them to walk around as they eat. If they end up liking the toy they may even bat the toy out of the room you’re sitting in.
THEY FEEL VULNERABLE
I feel like a broken record when I say it’s easy to forget that cats are so small, so they experience everything we do on a much larger scale.
If your cat is a “scardy cat” or experiences lots of stress or anxiety, they may want you around because eating makes them feel vulnerable. You may be wondering what I mean by that, right?
Well, cats being the small creatures they are, they have many predators. That being said if a cat takes some time to sit down and eat they may be at risk of being attacked or even killed. So, your cat may be carrying this evolutionary trait which is softened or eased by you being around them.
While it might be sweet to know that your cat loves you and feels safe to be around you, this quality can actually be fairly dangerous for your cat.
Cats who experience a great amount of stress or anxiety tend to become dependant on their owners and experience great deals of depression when their owners are not around. Stress can cause long-term health problems for your cat and may even shorten their lifespan, so if this is the reason why your cat doesn’t want to leave your side while they eat you’re going to want to try to help them find safety in another way.
Cats who experience separation anxiety or other forms of stress commonly experience an influx of acid in their stomachs causing them to vomit or even experience prolonged gastrointestinal problems. These usually stem from a stressed cat’s unwillingness to eat, although as mentioned other complications may occur.
That being said, we believe this is a big reason why Kalista doesn’t like to eat alone, though we’re also not certain it is fully true. It is true that Kalista is afraid of voices she doesn’t recognize and she tends to hide if she ever gets scared, but Kalista is also extremely curious and used to run out into the hallway any chance she could get (although we’ve trained her to stop).
How to help make your cat feel less vulnerable: This will depend on what exactly is making your cat feel vulnerable and you may have to try out multiple tactics.
If you notice that your cat is always stressed out or anxious try our some calming music to see if you can reduce their heart rate. This worked really well for both of our cats. [Click here for a Spotify Playlist for Calming Music for Feline Anxiety & Stress]
If your cat has separation anxiety make sure that there is always something to stimulate them when you are gone. Some ideas are passive toys such as springs, tower toys, slow feeders, or think about leaving a TV or radio on for extra noise.
If you are in a place where you can adopt a second cat… do it! Kalista has really helped change Beau for the better. They are inseparable and you can tell he is much happier running around playing with his sister.
Make sure you are introducing your cat to your friends and new people every so often. Socializing your cat is extremely important and will help your cat get used to new sounds and voices.
Try to make a space for your cat to eat that’s completely quiet. When Beau was recovering from his Perennial Urethrostomy we built him a “man cave” out of blankets and our dining room table. This made a quiet safe space for him to rest while he recovered. The same can be done for cats who are nervous or anxious.
THEY THINK YOU’RE THEIR MOMMY
Have you ever heard those stories of birds who think that a farmer is their mama? Well, the same thing can happen with cats!
Sometimes cats associate caregivers as their mothers, which tends to be one of the most adorable outcomes. Cats like this will commonly follow their caregivers around the house, will commonly sleep with their caregivers, will always mark their caregivers as their territory and will often knead their caregivers.
Cats who exhibit this behaviour will not always exhibit it and while they may want you around while they eat, they won’t always care. Basically, if you’re around they are happier, but they don’t absolutely need you.
This behaviour is fairly safe and does not need to be changed, though I would still try to encourage your cat to be more independent and let them know that food doesn’t necessarily mean an endless supply of being pet or you watching them.
YOUR CAT IS SIMPLY SOCIAL
Suprise! Cats don’t always like to be alone and who can blame them? Don’t pretend that there aren’t days you want to call up your friends so you can get some dinner together, because I know I have them!
Cats usually stay in small packs and share food communally and even though housecats have evolved, it doesn’t mean this behaviour hasn’t changed.
This is also a reason why some cats like sitting at the dinner table while you eat, even though you aren’t feeding them… well it’s that or they just want your food!
I will say, Kalista, will usually eat if we leave her alone in a room with Beau. She’ll do a bit of meowing at Beau and then will chow down!
That being said, sometimes if a noise is made on the other side of the apartment, Kalista will run to the other side to see what’s happening… which leads me to the next reason…
YOUR CAT IS TOO STIMULATED OR CURIOUS
Curiousity killed the cat… right? We’ve all heard that phrase!
Well, sometimes curiousity gets the better of your cat and makes them forget that they were hungry altogether.
We think that this is one of the main reasons why Kalista doesn’t like eating alone, because she is curious about what we’re doing and if there’s something else she needs to be focused on.
Kalista is one of those cats you can call for and she’ll come bouncing down the hallway all excited to see you. That carries on in her eating habits.
As I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, if Beau and Kalista are separated while eating, Beau will commonly cry until we open the door between the two. What I may not have mentioned is how Kalista will immediately stop eating if she hears Beau cry. Kalista will begin pawing at the door or crying back so we can let her brother in. Adorable right?
Well, there’s nothing you can really do about a cat who is “too curious” or stimulated by exterior noise. You will just have to accept the frustration of trying to get your cat to focus on the important thing… food!
Although there are a number of reasons why your cat may not want to leave your side while they eat, the reasons tend to be fairly simple to decipher.
Most of the time it’s your cat expressing that they feel safe at home with you, although this isn’t always the best way for your cat to express their love for you.
Always make sure to be aware of your cat’s stress levels as stress can be detrimental to your cat’s overall wellbeing.
Also, know that there are plenty of people who are experiencing the same thing with their cats and while it can sometimes feel frustrating to have a “needy cat” there commonly is a way to help train your cat out of the habit.
So I’m curious pet parents, how many of your cats need to eat right next to you? Were you able to train them out of it? What ended up being the problem for you and how did you fix it? Can’t wait to hear all about it in the comments below!