Kittens can exhibit food aggression when they are separated from their mothers or abandoned at a young age without being properly weaned.
It is also observed in cats who are forced to live outdoors and forage for food, as well as in those who have lived in a shelter.
Being the new cat in a multi-cat household can bring out the feline instinct to defend territory, including food. Feeding only once per day can trigger a cat’s drive to protect food sources. In nature, cats hunt and eat many small meals throughout the day, so feeding them only once might upset this natural tendency.
Medical issues can also cause food aggression, so make sure that there are no medical issues driving the behavior.
If you are dealing with a food-aggressive kitten and want to learn how to fix the behavior, keep on reading.
What does food aggression in kittens look like?
Food aggression in kittens is just that: aggression that is associated with human or pet food.
A food-aggressive kitten will chase an older cat away from its dish, stalk and steal human food from tables and countertops, or hiss when a person or animal approaches its bowl.
Signs of food aggression include:
These actions take place when the kitten is being fed or if someone else is eating.
Food aggression is frequently observed with the condition Pica, which is when a cat eats non-food objects.
What can I do to stop my kitten’s food aggression?
1. See a veterinarian.
Prior to training the kitten, take him to a veterinarian to rule out any medical issues that may cause the aggression.
Parasites can make your kitten hungrier than normal, which might lead to food aggression. Your vet will make sure to deworm your cat to deter parasites. If the kitten is on medication, the food aggression might be a side-effect.
Nutrient deficiencies can also cause food aggression, so tell your vet what the kitten eats and how much. The vet will rule out other possible health problems that cause excess hunger and food aggression before considering a behavioral problem, known as Psychogenic Abnormal Feeding Behavior.
Psychogenic Abnormal Feeding Behavior is often accompanied by Pica. The cat may obsess over eating non-food objects as well as displaying food aggression.
The vet will give you expert advice on how to handle your kitten’s food aggression.
2. Stick to a feeding schedule.
The first thing you should do when training a kitten out of food aggression is to establish a feeding schedule if it is older than four months. This gives them a routine that they can expect.
If the kitten is younger than four months, feed him as much food as he wants to eat because he is still in a stage of constant growth. He will need food for energy.
Most cat owners stick to two to three meals per day for their kitten. Do not let your kitten go 24 hours between meals because it is unhealthy to do so.
Feed the kitten at the same time as your meals so he will not be anxious to get to your food. If you feel the need to lock him in another room while you eat your meal, that is fine. The kitten will be busy eating and not think he is being punished by being sent to another room.
Cats get used to eating on a schedule quickly, and begging will only occur around mealtimes.
3. Leave the kitten alone when it is eating.
Make your kitten feel secure while eating by making sure it is completely alone. This way the kitten does not have to worry about other pets or family members disturbing its meal.
If you need to, take them to a different room with the door closed until they finish eating.
4. Keep your kitten out of the kitchen and dining areas.
Set boundaries for the kitten. If he is getting aggressive around human food, block off the areas where food is prepared and eaten.
Keep the kitchen door closed while preparing food and put away food when the kitchen is not in use. For more food-obsessed cats, consider keeping them out of the kitchen completely.
5. Feed other pets separately.
If the presence of another pet is triggering the kitten’s food aggression, try feeding them separately. Feed the other pet in a closed room, then go back to the kitchen to feed the kitten.
6. Limit giving the kitten human food.
Cats should not be fed human food because several items are toxic to cats. However, fresh unseasoned meat is good for cats.
If you do plan on giving your kitten human food, put it in their food bowl and leave them alone. It is vital to not feed the kitten off of people’s plates to curb food aggression.
7. Be patient.
Make sure to have a lot of patience when training your kitten. Remember that this process will not be finished overnight. Be consistent and your kitten should learn all the rules regarding food. Be perceptive of which tricks work for your kitten. The important thing is that they respect boundaries and control their food aggression into adulthood.
Kitten food aggression can become a serious issue if not addressed early on. Take your kitten to the vet to make sure he does not have any medical issues that might have caused the food aggression.
If the kitten is healthy, train him to recognize a feeding schedule. Give the kitten privacy when eating. If necessary, Lock him in a room until he finishes the food. Feed your other pets separately. Refrain from giving the kitten human food to discourage him from stealing food off of people’s plates. Most importantly, be patient while training your kitty.
Image: istockphoto.com / Moostocker