Today I received a question in my inbox that made me immediately want to rush to think of solutions to help out with.
You see, Avery used to be quite a noisy cat about his breakfast, even used to get me out of bed in the morning for a feeding, until I finally stopped giving him food in the morning. Thing is – until you know what to do about your cat problem, times are tough. Cats sure do know how to whine – and this can cause one heck of a lot of pain to cat owners who are just trying to give their pets nice, cushy lives.
So anyway, while I have one cat who’s still sometimes a little naughty to deal with, Ramona has two, who seem to be in cahoots for more chow! Gotta hand it to them, they seem to be effective at their mission to drive their humans crazy for meals – unfortunate for their pet owners. Let’s take a look at the question Ramona’s sent me, and then I’ll get to answering it as best I can!
Ramona’s Question: How Do I Keep My Cats from Whining All Day?
My two cats have turned into whiny, demanding, unfun food beggars! They have turned into total drags as all they want is FOOD, FOOD, FOOD! I cannot take one step without both of them running to the kitchen, meowing loudly the entire time.
They are fed on a fairly regular schedule: once upon rising in the morning; about 4-5 hours later for lunch; about 4-5 hours later for dinner; and then a very small “night-night” snack before bed.
Is that too much feeding? They bother me all day if I am home, and it is a total drag….
Please help – we are all unhappy!
My Response: 5 Tips You Can Try to Help Your Cats Quit Nagging!
The following tips are what I recommend trying. You can try any of these in isolation, or all of these at once. Your choice. If you’re fed up completely, I’d recommend implementing all of them ASAP. If you’re okay testing for some time to see which combinations work best, feel free to do that, too!
Tip 1: Feed your cats no more than twice daily.
I’d say feeding your cat twice a day is probably the ideal. I used to feed Avery once a day, and I know people who just can’t stand to see their cats go without food for long, so they split meals up into three – this is probably the limit of what I’d approve of, however, because I feel like after that, it seems to me you’re feeding your cats less “meals” and more “snacks,” and I do believe cats should be eating a couple meals throughout the day rather than a large number of small snacks throughout the day. Not because it’s unhealthy for them to eat small snacks all the time (though some have argued that their stomachs do need rest from always digesting – you never know what’s true, however, because there’s not enough research done), but because it’s a lot easier to train cats and make sure they’re not going to become overweight if you don’t space out a million feeding times a day, and instead stick to 2 or 3 fuller ones.
So my first recommendation for you is to stop feeding your cats 4 times a day and stick to just two pretty evenly sized meals. Make these literally 10-12 hours apart.
I feed Avery at:
- 9:30 AM – I wake up at 8:30 and don’t want him to associate me waking up with food enough that he starts waking me up to be fed (like he used to). An hour or two after you wake up is ideal for feeding the cats if you’re not a rush-out-of-the-house kind of person. If you are, try to wait a good half hour after waking up before feeding them.
- & 10:00 PM – A minimum of one or two hours before I go to bed. I don’t want to feed him and then head off to sleep right away, though I don’t really have an explanation as to why. It wouldn’t be an issue to feed right before bed if you’d like to do it, especially since the whining happens before the feeding and not after.
You might expect your cats to keep whining for two weeks throughout the day on this technique, expecting you’re going to keep feeding them and being so annoyed when you haven’t stuck to your traditional 4 feedings a day, but I’ve changed my cat’s mealtime from twice a day to once a day before, and advised my mother to do the same with her cat, and quite honestly, it only took each cat about 2 days to get used to the change. All this to say, the whining will cut down much more quickly than you think if you use this technique. If you’re in for a desperate fix that will take only a couple days to implement, this is where it’s at.
Again – there’s really no harm in feeding your cats twice daily. At all. They definitely don’t need to be fed more often, and as I’ve said, I’d actually recommend it as the best number of times a day to feed your cat.
Tip 2: Stop giving your cats people food.
Sounds to me like your cats know magical things go on in the kitchen – and this may not just be because that’s where you serve them their grub. If you’re feeding your cats people food, now might be the time to stop. Not because I think it’s unhealthy (honestly, I fed my cat people food all the time back when he would eat it: cooked chicken, a bit of pork, some small pieces of the steak we cooked for ourselves), the issue is that in some cases, cats begin to associate you cooking and you eating with them eating – and that’s when the whining never ever stops. You may even have accidentally trained your cat to beg for food!
So if you’ve got a habit of feeding your cats a little here and there of your own food, stop to substantially reduce the amount of whining you’re going to end up hearing throughout the day. They’ll be just fine on their own cat food alone anyway.
Tip 3: Set up a feeding alarm.
This one is so easy to do, you might as well implement it. Set up a feeding alarm on your phone, one that’s got a different ringtone than your regular get-me-up-in-the-morning alarm. Make sure it’s something calming and nice to hear, and does not in any way resemble the one you use to wake up in the morning (or else you’ll end up with a chorus of cats who are excited to eat waking you up in the morning, too!).
Once you set up your alarm, make sure you wait until the alarm starts going off before you rush into the kitchen to feed your cats. In fact, here’s how things should go when the feeding alarm goes off:
- Alarm goes off. Wait about 4-5 seconds to make sure the cats hear it.
- Look directly at your cats and become visibly excited. Say things like, “Yes!!,” “Dinner time?,” “You know what that means?,” “Come on!!” or whatever else you might like to say to make sure your cats get the picture: that alarm is the new god telling them when the magical food time will be literally seconds away.
- Once you’ve made your cats as excited as you are, turn off the alarm and immediately give them food.
Do not stray from this routine. Don’t let your cats eat before they hear the alarm, before you make them get excited about hearing it. Eventually they’ll make the association, and while they may never stop whining a little before meal times, this should really help reduce the panic they have about you forgetting to feed them. They’ll know they get fed when the magical music starts, and so they’ll be a little fussy waiting for the music, but they’ll know the universe now dictates when they eat and nagging before that music starts does not mean you will feed them sooner.
Tip 4: Feed your cats with a cat toy.
Whether you feed your cat kibble or wet food, try grabbing a cat toy for each of your cats and feeding them exclusively out of those cat toys. It helps slow their eating down, making it so they physically can’t gobble every bite up in only a couple minutes, and this really helps, in my opinion, with helping your cats to enjoy their food and not just down it right away and start immediately looking forward to the next feeding time.
Not sure which cat toy to try? For those who feed kibble, I’d recommend the Catit Senses Food Maze. It’s amazing; I’ve been using it for years and have actually gone so far as to buy one each for my mother’s and brother’s cats, too – check my review of it here if you’d like to see it in action.
For those who feed wet food, I’d recommend the Hyper Pet Lickimat Feeding Plate. While it’s not technically made for cats, based on reviews, it seems to work just as well for them as the dogs the slow feeder was initially created for. How does it work? As I discussed in my article about how to slow down cats who eat too fast, basically it combines patting the wet food down (which is an excellent trick to helping cats eat slower – try it!) with obstacles that make eating tricky and thus slower for cats to do.
This technique won’t stop your cats from whining for food completely, but it’ll help them occupy more of their time with the food they’ve got, which should increase the amount of time it takes before they begin to whine again. Eating slower will also help reduce begging for food right after being fed, as – in the same way as we humans don’t feel full until some time after we’ve eaten – cats take a while to register the meal they’ve eaten. If it takes them 20 minutes to clue in, and 20 minutes to finish their meal, by the time they’re done, they should just about begin to register the fact that they are not super hungry anymore. Which is great.
I’d still recommend only feeding two meals, but with a cat toy, feeding cats only twice daily is no issue at all, especially since the main reason I’ve found people feed their cats small amounts throughout the day is because they don’t want their cats eating large amounts of grub in one go. Taking 20 minutes to finish a meal because it’s given in a toy really helps with that, and any indigestion problems will be essentially gone because of the impossibility of eating food too fast!
Tip 5: Make sure your cats are entertained.
I cannot stress this enough: humans are not the only ones who eat just because they’re bored. Cats do it too, all the time. Try to make sure your cats aren’t bored all day. How? Here are some options:
- Hang suction bird feeders outside the window.
- Get a cat-proof fish tank.
- Make sure to yourself play with your cats for a solid 15 minutes a day minimum. I’d recommend using a feather teaser cat toy to do so, and have been liking the Interpet Cat Tikkler Wand lately for play time (you can read my review of the toy here).
- Try investing in a good cat tree or two if you haven’t already. Make sure your cats have plenty of things to jump on.
- Add loads of hiding spots to your house for your cats to chill in. Cardboard boxes do just fine for this!
- Try out some interactive cat toys that hopefully your cats might enjoy.
Need more tips with regards to keeping kitties entertained? Check out this article.
Tip 6: Play with your cats before you feed them.
Now, I put this as last on the list, not because it’s not effective and so good for your cat (exercise always is!), but because my cat will not play before he eats. He likes playing at one specific time: right after he eats (used to like to eat, nap for an hour, then be played with, but now he’s not into that hour nap and just wants to play immediately after eating in the morning).
If you can get your cats to play before feeding time, that will save you the effort of having to listen to whining before feeding time, so you might as well get the chore out of the way if you can while your cats are already taking up your time by making you listen to their chorus. If you can’t, well make sure you play with them some other time and that’s perfectly okay.
More Tips to Help Cats Whine Less for Food Throughout the Day?
Really hope these tips help Ramona – and anyone else who may be dealing with this issue! Like I said before, I really empathize, I am no fan of cat whining having gone through so much of it myself in the past!
If anyone else has any tips for Ramona, please leave them in the comments section! And if you’ve ever tried any of these techniques, do let us know what did or didn’t work for you in the comments as well!